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Excited Woman

How Handwritten Cards Increased Inquiry Conversion Rates by 180%

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Samantha Cornmesser

Increasing conversion rates is one of the biggest challenges for any marketing campaign to achieve. Your ad or promo piece may be trendy and colorful, but unless your prospect responds, it’s not effective. What may surprise you is – a simple handwritten note can help increase your student conversions.

Seems like old school advice to recommend handwritten notes when it comes to engaging with the younger generations. College bound students rarely rely on pen and paper, so how could a simple handwritten card increase inquiry conversion by 180%? Let’s find out, starting with the why.

Causing Disruption Increases Engagement

The younger generations, Millennials and Gen Z, have been engrossed in social media for as long as they can remember. And as digital natives, we just expect to meet them where they spend most of their time – online.

So why would something offline like a handwritten card be of any interest to them? Simple, it’s a novelty. It’s something outside their usual day to day interactions with the world and one that connects with them on a human level. These tangible messages show a highly personal touch that invites response and can apply to the parental audience as well.

A study done by the USPS Office of Inspector General found that 75% of Millennials say receiving mail makes them feel special.

With the exception of a birthday card from Grandma, a handwritten note is not something most people receive in the mail causing a disruption. That disruption is key to increasing engagement because it stops the target audience from glazing over the information. Psychologists call it a “pattern interrupt” when our thoughts are suddenly redirected from what we expected. This disruption in the routine of daily life increases the odds your prospective student will take action.

Instead of getting deep in the weeds of sales psychology, let’s look at what a simple handwritten marketing piece did for a Florida based college when added to their current outreach campaigns.

Testing and Measuring to See Success

Peter Drucker said it best, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

With that thought firmly embraced, an east coast based college sought out a solution to their most impactful marketing challenge, increasing student enrollments. They landed upon the idea of a direct mail campaign that would use simple branded postcards with a revolutionary new technology that simulates a handwritten message.

The Florida based college, along with the help of MDT Marketing, set up a simple split test to 10,000 plus new inquiries. The incoming inquiries, regardless of channel, would be split into two groups. The first group would be the controlled group and would not receive a postcard. The second group would receive the unique personalized handwritten postcard.

After a 3 month span the results were in.

The control group that didn’t receive the handwritten postcard had a 2.86% enrollment rate. The other half that received the handwritten postcard had a 3.13% response rate. That 9% increase in student enrollment generated a 180% increase in inquiry to student conversions.

To further test the idea that handwritten cards can increase conversion rates a national college with an allied health program conducted a similar test campaign. With nearly 50,000 records split into two groups the results showed a lift from 11 to 15% in enrollment rates from those prospective students that received the handwritten card.

Cost and Effort Required for Results

While the increase shown in the tests are notable, at what cost and effort does this increase require? Great question.

Like many marketing campaigns the monetary cost is derived from the number of inquiries or the number of records a college or university includes in the campaign.

If an institution is already running a direct mail campaign, they may find that adding the handwritten font won’t add any additional printing costs. The college in the first test was already running a direct mail campaign and simply upgraded it to include the handwritten font at no additional cost.

But isn’t the process time consuming and complicated?

While the handwritten font looks as if someone took extra time to write it out, with the right technology, there is no hand cramping or laborious hours of someone actually putting pen to paper. The process is as easy as submitting a mailing list and creative like any other printing job. The process works for one-off or custom campaigns as easily as integrating it into an automated sequence for small highlighted notes or for the entire body of the postcard text.

Any institution with a mailing list can expand their marketing channels outside the overcrowded digital world with a handwritten card campaign. It’s really that simple.

Making Handwritten Cards Work for You

An eye-catching, attention-getting direct mail element delivers a lot of bang for the buck. So how do you get started and make it work for you? First understand that the handwritten element is key to the results laid out in the previous section. Do not be fooled by the mass-market fonts labeled as “handwritten”.

Face it, most people can tell a typical handwritten font from actual handwriting. Those typical fonts won’t add the “wow” factor that produced a 180% increase in enrollments.

Think about when you write, do all of your letters go the same direction? Does each one of your e’s come out exactly like the first one you wrote? The answer is probably no.

What is needed is the right vendor to partner with (because the technology can be pricey to bring in house), and be sure to ask for samples. Analyze the writing, paying close attention to the same letter over and over again, is it the same each time? Look at how it is justified. Unlike computers, most of us still don’t keep to a standard margin when writing.

If the sample passes those critical aspects that mimic real-life handwriting then the next question will be if that partner can integrate with a CRM or SIS systems to offer the automation of the campaign in real-time.

Speed to lead has never been more crucial with a world that has become accustom to instant gratification at their fingertips.

Worried about the security of your data? With the right partner, your data can be securely transferred and stored for only the purpose it was intended for. This should be well-defined in the agreement and should never be assumed. But where do you start to find the right partner?

Partnering for Success

Over the last few years, the team at MDT Marketing has been perfecting such technology exclusively for the higher education sector. The vision has been to help colleges and universities connect with prospective students on a human level.

The life-like handwritten font produced by MDT Marketing helps inform while offering a tangible personal touch.

Now, we don’t want to give away all our secrets. With the assistance of some state of the art technology and volunteers from our staff, we created two distinctive life-like fonts which produce a handwritten font that is completely unique every time.

Each font has variations to all the letters and a slight variation to the lineup of the text along the margin so the font appears more realistic than typical desktop computer fonts.

Combine the unique font, the variable data printing software, the ability to integrate with your CRM or SIS system, and you have a real-time solution that is proven to increase engagement and lift your inquiry-to-student conversion rates.

Using Handwritten Cards to Maximize all Marketing Channels

Coming full circle back to those digital natives who live with computers never more than an arm length away means meeting them there too.

With a simple update to the design of a handwritten postcard, the messaging can be transformed from paper to digital by means of a simple SnapCode or a QR code. This additional augmented reality element gives the potential student the means to connect with an institution in a medium that is unique to their generation. But what about all the other channels?

By integrating handwritten notes fully into your marketing and admission efforts in conjunction with email, text, phone calls, and social media retargeting you establish an Omni-channel campaign.

An Omni-channel campaign meets your potential students everywhere they are, keeping your college or university top of mind. According to a survey done by CMO Council, 88% of Gen Z are feeling overloaded with emails and prefer Omni-channel branded experiences.

You’re also not limited to student recruitment either. This handwritten element works well for all departments from admissions to financial aid. It can be used as a touchpoint to keep students on track and minimize the “summer melt” or deadline reminders for billings.

Avoiding an onslaught of emails and sending personal mail as part of your marketing strategy can make a marked difference in response and engagement.

Take Advantage of Proven Marketing Strategies

Handwritten postcards are just one element of a highly effective marketing campaign. As a busy marketing manager there’s a lot on your plate, (and a lot of people to keep happy.) This is your opportunity to expand your messaging and branding that will not only boost engagement but build relationships that ultimately increase student retention.

After all, how good will it feel to tell your Admissions Department to expect to get busier once you’ve added this unique element to your marketing campaign?

Like this scenario with the handwritten personalized notes, there are many more marketing strategies that have shown positive results for institution of higher education.

Get the inside scoop on the best marketing practices. Download the 2021 Marketing Strategies Guide today and find more multi-channel marketing methods with real-world results. Click here for a copy of our 2021 Marketing Strategies Guide.

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