Clearing is a date in the diary that every student marketer thinks about all year round, but throw a pandemic and global lockdown in the mix, and the competition goes into overdrive - this year’s Clearing is going to be big.

We’ve been getting ready for Clearing 2020 since, well the last one, and we’re now in the final stretch. We always say, ‘plan early’, and most of you will have your strategy in place, but this Clearing is like no other, and we’ve spotted some unmissable insights from our big data that you’re going to want to know about now and take action. 

We are expecting for there to be the same spike in activity on A-level Results Day that makes it such an exciting/stressful/exhilarating (delete as applicable) day for students and marketers alike, however, the increase in the activity compared to previous years is a lot harder to predict due to COVID-19. 

Our insights and analysis, combined with original research from the Covid Tracker indicate that a higher proportion of students are aware of what grade they will get and are therefore researching earlier than ever before, with our data showing a 70% increase in search activity than in 2019. That’s right, if Clearing is integral to your 2020 recruitment goals, you need to invest in increasing your advertising campaigns to be in the market now. You can bet your competitor down the road will be. 

Understanding where your market opportunity is, which regions to target your ads, and where to invest your budgets to maximise ROI is key (and you can speak to us, or your Planner if you are unsure). 

Institutions that are holding back on their campaigns and spending for the big day itself are missing a trick and a significant opportunity.

Other than getting in market earlier, there’s still time to take some actions that will make sure you’re at the top of your game come the big day.

1. Research, research, research 

First things first, use what's already out there to prepare yourself and get ready. Student insight should always be your best friend so downloading the National Clearing Survey and studying the personas should be your first port of call (there’s still time to take part in this year’s survey). This year also requires some extra homework; have you been keeping up with the Covid Tracker? Giving you a head start on the changes in Clearing we are expecting this year based on insights gleaned from 500,000+ data-points.

2. Think smart

The biggest budget doesn’t mean the most successful campaign, but those who use data, insights, audience understanding, and are prepared to be agile on the day, may be able to steal a march. Here at Natives, our paid media specialists are already on it, combining their expertise and experience, deep knowledge of all the major platforms and their algorithms, with some super clever proprietary scripts, to ensure that every campaign we are running will be optimised and successful.

So if you’re still worried about getting your institution into the market later than others, and you are worried about how effective your budget can be, you may be inspired by what we’ve seen in recent years, where some of the most impactful advertising came from those who were smart with their budgets.

Think outside the box, and don’t do something because everyone else is (spoiler: that would be expensive bidding!). Check out what Snapchat has just released, and with 66% of students on the app daily, it could be one that makes you stand out. 

It’s not too late to book in an effective advertising campaign for 2020 Clearing. Those that are using an award-winning AI, blended with human expertise, will be the ones that get ahead of the competition, and with Akero, you can plug guaranteed advertising performance straight into your CRM, giving you more time to be creative and strategic this summer. 

It’s not too late to book in an effective advertising campaign for 2020 Clearing. Those that are using an award-winning AI to improve their campaigns by 60% will be the ones that get ahead of the competition and with Akero, you can plug guaranteed advertising performance straight into your CRM, giving you more time to be creative and strategic this summer. 

3. What’s the contingency?

You may think if you have a strong, solid plan for Clearing, you’ll be okay. You’d be wrong. You need a plan A, plan B and while you’re at it, put together a plan C too. Clearing is the extreme sport of education marketing, and you don’t want to be caught out by any more unpredictables this year during the moments that matter. Have contingency plans for if phone lines go down, websites crash or the volume of enquiries exceeds all your wildest predictions (we’ve seen all of these in recent years so it can happen!).

We’ve already strongly recommended that you get your activity live, like now (you got that message right?!), but you may also get great results from your advertising with post-A-level-Results-Day campaigns when all those who were spending big on one day fall away. We know that times are hard and budgets are stretched, which is why it's so important to track every click through to an enrolled student and be able to demonstrate the true ROI of your campaign activity. If you have that, you can present a solid business case to take to your leadership team for further investment if you need to extend your campaign.

Luckily, we’re here to help, with every lead captured by our proprietary technology Akero, which plugs straight into every major education CRM in the world, so you can attribute true ROI and quickly and easily visualise your efforts into a dashboard for reporting. 

4. Get personal

Many students are already going into Results Day feeling confused, alone and stressed, and while not every answer can be answered right now, support can be given. This week the Student Hut Covid Tracker found four in 10 students are concerned about their university going bust, and while you can’t relieve all those concerns around financial strain, you can be honest, and empathetic to the fact that students are scared too. Strive for that personal touch, in a world where we’ve all been forced apart.

Another tip: 

“A good way to do this is on your Clearing landing page - rather than having a phone number that won’t be live until the day itself, put a form in there with a call-to-action around booking a call to discuss the prospect’s options. Building that personal relationship. You could use a date and time picker for the student to select a time for a callback, or even a tool that integrates into your enquiries team’s calendars so the time can be scheduled directly with the relevant team member!” - Alex Calder, Head of Technology Solutions.

5. Own your TOV and make yourselves heard

Before you go off into the frenzy that is Results Day, establish and agree on a TOV that will be used across all social media channels. And have fun with it. Be brave. While the conventional ‘we’re here for you during this stressful time’ works for some, we know Gen Z relishes authenticity and realness from brands. Get behind the scenes, make it personal, use Edurank to identify the whitespace and find out what your competitor is up to. A

And don’t be afraid to boost these human conversations with paid promotion, to get your brand’s voice and positioning out there. There won’t be very many in-person photos of students at their school receiving their results, but that doesn’t mean there are no personalised, meaningful celebrations to be had online. Get creative, and be bold.

And there you go. Five things you can do in between now and the start of the next academic year to ensure you’ll be hitting those recruitment targets. If you haven't already booked in your summer campaign, or want more information on any of what we’ve covered, contact Natives today.

Article by

Eleana Davidson Native Author

Eleana Davidson

Senior Marketing Executive