This Winter, YouthSight is launching a new specialist insight product aimed squarely at university marketing, insight and recruitment teams. Designed after a detailed discussion with open days teams at universities and identifying real knowledge gaps, Open Day Success will boost your event conversion and provide benchmarking to show best in class performance.
We’re offering a 10% discount to everyone who registers interest in November and purchases within 30 days of launch. No obligation. So read on, and register your interest at the end of this piece.
Rethink your open day goals
Here's the argument: open days are powerful conversion events, so if you get more people attending yours, you will get more students applying to your university and more accepting your offers.
It sounds logical enough, but we think it's not quite so straightforward. While the raw number attending events is important, chasing the big crowd shouldn't necessarily be a primary goal. In our view, open day success is about how attendees come away feeling after an event (the event's impact). Some open days are great; some are pretty disastrous. Having a huge audience attending a disastrous open day will help no one!
Our new insight tool, Open Day Success is all about measuring open day impact. It shows university marketing teams how effective their events are and how they can improve them to increase application and conversion. It shows how each university fares against its prospective students' expectations and, vitally, how it compares against its competitors. It pinpoints which events are most impactful and effective – and how yours could become even more effective. It identifies the best and worst practice in the sector (see Table 1). Applying the lessons learnt in our Open Day Success product will help you convert more students than merely focusing on getting more bums on seats.
How influential are open days?
As competition in the HE sector has increased and there are more and more ways to consume education on offer, open days have become increasingly important marketing events. They provide a true opportunity for experiential brand building and they provide an opportunity to validate the uniquely visceral and tangible experience that going to university offers. In a virtual world, ‘going to uni’ feels particularly real. Real people, real buildings, in a real place. So, it stands to reason that, as one of the few ‘real life’ encounters between prospective students and the institutions they’re considering, open days provide a key method of sampling the experience ahead. As a result, open days are increasingly in vogue both with universities and students, and both are investing more in them.
Open days have become much more influential over the last ten years. In 2007/08, a little over a third (37 per cent) of prospective students rated “the open day” as “very important” in their decision on where to study. By 2017/18, this had reached almost half (45 per cent). Over the same time period, the proportion of young people attending open days with one or both parents has significantly increased. They are becoming more of a family event as the financial implications of student debt make university feel like a 'high stakes' choice. When asked to tell us in their own words why they rejected universities who’d made them offers, 12% complained that they might have been more interested in attending had the open day been “better”.
The investment made by universities is also going up. Open days are inherently costly exercises. They frequently involve over 150 staff and scores of student ambassadors running back-to-back events on precious, otherwise free, Saturdays. They normally include vice chancellor talks, subject talks by deans, app-powered self-guided tours, co-ordination of student ambassadors leading tours of the campus, the accommodation, the city, meet and greets, showcases of student work, new signage, special transport links, the list goes on...
Five Russell Group universities put on some of the worst-performing open days
No university sets out to deliver a poor event. But our research shows that some events miss the mark and have very low (or even negative) ROIs. If open days are worth doing at all, they are surely worth doing well.
So, what does a good ROI look like for universities? Using a classic marketing funnel (a modified AIDA model below) the ideal open day would move a prospective applicant from the “Interest” that got them to the open day in the first place, through “Conviction” to “Desire”, toward “Action” (conversion). That’s a lot of work for a single event, and many open days are falling short. As many as five Russell Group universities feature in the worst performing open day group, four large modern universities record extremely poor results and one HEP even has a higher proportion of prospective applicants leaving their open day, confident in their conviction that they don't want to attend the university than confident that they do want to attend the university.
Our Open Day Success insight tracker will be available via a one-year subscription to an online dashboard allowing unlimited analysis. Although largely quantitative, it will include a powerful qualitative resource that can easily be mined and analysed. Open Day Success is based on 4,500 detailed interviews conducted with open day attendees in 2017/2018, rating around 11,000 events (see Table 2). It employs sophisticated analytical techniques including key driver analysis and Max Diff. And it will allow users to filter and compare the data to zoom in on prospective students who are relevant to your university.
Boost your conversion
Bench marking/best in class
For your 10% discount – no obligation – register now (in November 2018) and purchase within 60 days of launch.