A college admissions officer recently asked us about a service that would allow them to send text messages to prospective students. Our first reaction—are you crazy?
To paraphrase the observations of Seth Godin…once there were door-to-door sales persons—people installed doorbells and now video-doorbells. Then there were was direct mail—people put their names on “do not send” lists. Then there were telemarketers—we all got answering machines, caller ID and then ditched our landlines. Pop-ups and banner ads took up squatter’s rights on computer screen’s real-estate, so we demanded browsers with pop-up blocking built in. We demanded mute buttons on remotes because we hated the ads. We paid for premium channels to avoid commercial interruptions. We stopped listening so much to commercial radio in preference for paid radio, public radio, Spotify or Apple Music, or internet radio. We pay extra for apps to be ad-free. We fought for anti-spam legislation and the unsubscribe buttons on unsolicited email. We block unknown callers on our cell phones and won’t click on at mobile ads. We turn off location settings when we figure it out and we mark ads as “annoying” when we see them on Facebook.
The more you pester, interrupt, annoy, or nag people when they are doing other things, the more they want to run away from you, the more they will pay not to have anything to do with you, the more they will see you in a negative light. Texting chirpy reminders about your college or school will be as welcome as the messages our phone carriers send us at 2 a.m. letting us know that we have exceeded our data limits.
We get it. It’s an ever-changing and highly competitive market. Many colleges feel trapped. They don’t think they can cut down on the amount of paper or email they send, the visits they make, the Facebook posts they make, the Tweets they fire off, the Instagram photos they take, the live streams and Snaps, the ads they run, or the fairs they attend, even though many doubt the impact of some of these activities and suspect the return on investment might not be that great. They think they will lose ground. They think they are locked in an arms race. Certainly, some families have come to believe that the flood of mail and email and even phone calls and texts means that you want them, and badly.
That is the convention that traditional educational marketing has created, after all.
It’s time for a transition. Time to think about reaching your next and greatest students in a different way.