How We Boosted Student Enrollment for a Higher Education B2C Customer

November 1, 2023

Advocacy Maven transformed a basic referral scheme into a thriving advocacy program for a study abroad organization—driving community engagement, brand awareness, and sales conversion rates. Through strategic planning, technical support, and gamification, we pioneered a program that facilitated the seamless onboarding of new members and the creation of compelling advocacy content. The program’s successful launch ahead of schedule led to a major increase in referrals and empowered the organization with a dedicated advocate community to fuel future growth.

Our customer is a higher education organization, with programs designed for students wishing to go abroad for a summer, semester, or academic year to gain credit toward their undergraduate degrees. The organization partners with universities across the globe and facilitates student placements by recommending educational institutions and providing travel, accommodation, cultural, and personal assistance.

Transforming an ineffective referral program into a powerful enrollment driver.

To increase registrations for its overseas study programs, our customer initiated a basic referral scheme to financially reward its alumni for recommendations leading to successful student enrollments. The referral program was fairly archaic, managed through a form on the organization’s website, and had not been adequately publicized or maintained. As a result, the program was not well-known among the student community and was not gaining the traction that the company needed.

To boost uptake, the study abroad organization wanted to create a compelling advocacy program for its student ambassadors. The aim was to increase engagement and drive referrals by highlighting the personal and academic successes of its alumni.

Our customer’s marketing team had a highly enthusiastic and committed sponsor for the venture, but it was new to the concept of advocacy programs. This led it to seek out the experience and expertise of Advocacy Maven.

Conceptualizing a student advocacy program.

Our team sprang immediately into action, closely engaging with the customer’s project team to assess the organization’s vision for its future advocacy business model. We then set up a series of comprehensive strategy sessions with the company’s marketing director and administrative project lead to identify and address their goals and aspirations.

The organization wanted above all to formalize and streamline the existing referral program, and to build its advocacy program by first targeting two core groups—its alumni and student ambassadors—before expanding to the wider student community. The program also needed to be tested and in place a full month before the beginning of the school year in order to maximize impact on the target population.

Our consultants supported the customer in refining and strengthening its legacy referral process through the new advocacy program. We highlighted the importance of the value proposition, and how it should be developed according to the target personas identified. We provided advice on how to drive use cases, metrics, and gamification to meet key objectives such as ensuring continuous engagement with students and raising awareness of the organization’s content via social media.

Additionally, our advocacy experts assisted the organization in identifying the right look and feel for the advocacy technology hub, and in designing the member experience to achieve the best outcomes.

Our specialists also devised strategies for securing testimonials from current and former students, which would play a key role in converting prospects to sign up for overseas study programs. The challenge here was gaining commitments from the customer’s student demographic—a young community in their late teens and early twenties, often with little time or interest in making an advocacy program a part of their student lives.

Sophisticated advocacy program drives student enrollment

Driving advocacy program implementation with continual process and technical support.

With the optimal strategies defined and agreed upon, it was time to move to the implementation phase of the project. We used our expert knowledge to design a seamless member onboarding journey through the customer’s selected advocacy technology platform, which would also capture critical data on each new member to maximize future engagement.

Our team furthermore provided valuable guidance on creating the most appropriate type and style of content to drive the program’s value proposition, boost metrics, and foster engaging interactions on the member discussion forum.

Making best use of the organization’s advocacy technology was going to be a key factor in ensuring the program’s success. Our IT experts helped set up all technical aspects of the advocacy software, including system design and branding, user management, custom domain creation, and member sign-in.

The customization of the complex referral process led to integration challenges between the advocacy hub and the customer’s sales and marketing application. Here, we played a critical liaising role, identifying and bringing together the right engineering and support teams from the respective technology vendors to resolve system bugs and connectivity issues.

We also implemented gamification processes on the engagement platform to maximize member participation and loyalty, introducing different badges and member levels, as well as a reward catalog. Additionally, we set up the customer’s advocate communication emails and took care of all legal matters relating to the technology, data, and processes.

When the platform setup was finalized, our consultants led the testing phase for the entire platform and member journey through a comprehensive pre-launch review, which was conducted to the customer’s complete satisfaction. 

Successful program launch enhances community engagement, raises company profile, and boosts the bottom line.

Thanks to the close cooperation with the customer’s project team, the advocacy program saw a successful launch a full two weeks ahead of schedule. This gave the organization’s program manager and administrators plenty of time to hone their skills on the new advocacy platform and processes, enabling them to hit the ground running. It also gave the company’s active student ambassadors a full month to familiarize themselves with the new program before the start of the academic year.

The program successfully targeted the pilot member group with a captivating recruitment process and seamless onboarding experience. It ensured the creation of compelling content and high levels of engagement among the young audience, generating a buzz throughout the organization and beyond. Student testimonials flooded in, driving marketing campaign success, and significantly increasing brand awareness on social media.

Two weeks after go-live, we conducted a thorough post-launch review to ensure that our customer’s objectives were being met, and offered further tips to improve advocacy management as the organization prepares to extend the program to its wider student network.

The implementation of the advocacy program has led to a surge in referrals for the customer’s study abroad programs, boosting prospect conversion rates, and empowering the organization to expand its business with a continuously engaged and fully committed advocate community.