Higher Ed Marketers: Don’t Neglect Your Thank-You Page

Andy Shaw

I’m writing this from beyond the grave.

Cause of death: Looking at the landing page students see after they fill out a Request for Information form on our college website.

The result was grim. There was more content on our 404 error page.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone.

It’s amazing how marketers will spend hours, nay, YEARS doing everything possible to convince a stranger to fill out a form just like the one we readily offer throughout our website for our medium-sized private college … and then those same marketers, myself included, won’t remember to check and see what actually happens after that form is filled.

That’s like spending all year courting, holding a wedding, and then taking off after “I do.”

“I do” want to find out more about your college, people are saying. And all you have to say to them is “Thank you for asking about us”? I wonder what my wife would have said if she said “I do,” and I said “I appreciate your interest! Check back in  a few days for more about me.”

So there I sat in the middle of a conference, staring at my phone (the speaker told us to!) after filling out the form.

We just had a simple, one-sentence thank you.

Thank you

The email itself that gets sent to those requesters? I’m proud of it. It’s colorful but not overwhelming. There’s a bulleted list of potential links to visit that would be of high interest. There’s a call to action to visit. And there’s every effort made to make sure they know they can reply and get a real person to respond. I feel good about that one.

But, geez, would it have killed you to make sure that before they even check that email, they are getting that same warm and cozy feeling?

I was DOA right there in the folding chair wearing my conference badge. Here’s the good news if you, like me, have also died of shame from this oft-overlooked area of your digital presence.

How do you fix it?

It’s easy-peasy, as my toddler would say. All you have to think of is what you would want to see in that exact situation.

  • Don’t assume they will check that beautiful email anytime soon. It’s OK to use some of those same useful links! That could even lower your bounce rate and keep them clicking a bit longer.
  • If they are requesting info, that’s a hot prospect. You really want them to check out your social media channels, because that’s one of the easiest ways for you to keep your school top-of-mind in the coming days. They are more likely to follow you. Maybe you can even embed an Instagram profile! Heavens!
  • Remember that all kinds of people fill out these forms. Do you have a way for transfers, parents, or even guidance counselors to get more information right away, or is it just freshmen?
  • Why not add a photo? Even something a little cheeky, like using a mascot, can add some personality. You’re going for unexpected smiles. They expect nothing. Anything you offer is value-added.

This can be a rabbit hole, for sure. What other forms do you have, and what happens after you fill one out? This is a great exercise for interns.

Have them fill out any form you can think of, including your application, and then screen shot what they see next. You can also figure out what buttons aren’t working properly, what confusing instructions you might have, and what possible gaps in communication you have that can be easily addressed.

Don’t leave it to chance. They are your forms.

Death by unattended landing page is an awful way to go. Trust me.

Andy Shaw is the director of enrollment communications and operations at York College of Pennslyvania, a private four-year residential school. He also is a speaker, columnist, comedian, and father of three toddlers.