Using QR codes to level-up how you capture student inquiries.
Here at GeckoEngage, we’re in the business of helping HigherEd institutions use technology to create better processes for recruiting students.
If you’re familiar with our work, you’ll know that we’re big fans of digitizing the process of capturing inquiries from students at recruitment events.
But even after you’ve ditched the paper and moved your forms to mobile devices and tablets, there are other methods you can use to better engage students — and one of those involves QR codes…
Utilizing QR codes at recruitment events can help in a number of ways. You can:
- Increase the number of inquiries you capture concurrently.
- Capture inquiries from a larger audience.
- Give yourself options for how you capture information.
- Stand out from the crowd.
But before we dive into that, how can QR codes be used at recruitment events?
Our partner schools use QR codes in one specific way. Here are the steps:
- QR codes are scanned by students using their own mobile phone.
- The scanned code redirects the student to a mobile-friendly inquiry form.
- The student then completes the form on their own device.
The biggest difference is that students are not inserting their information on a central tablet, one-at-a-time. Instead, they each load the form on their own device, and are inserting their information there.
This opens up some interesting opportunities.
Increase the number of inquiries you capture concurrently
When our partner institutions start capturing inquires using QR codes, the biggest difference they notice is that they can process multiple inquiries — from multiple students — simultaneously.
Because each student is accessing the inquiry form on their own device, there’s no waiting around to use a form that’s hosted on a single tablet. This way, dozens of students can complete the form in the time it would take one student to access the single (shared) tablet.
Now, if we’re evaluating this method purely on the efficiency of capturing inquiries at a busy event, that’s a definite win. Sure, not all events are so busy that you’d require a way of capturing multiple inquiries concurrently — perhaps a single tablet device is enough for quieter events. But when you’re busy, and there’s a growing line of students waiting to talk with you, it’s great to have an option to capture information quickly.
Capture inquiries from a larger audience
Thus far, we’ve focused on capturing inquiries at traditional college fairs (where every institution has the same table, and you’re all trying to stand-out — more on that later).
But using QR codes can help you capture information from students in other environments too (if you’re willing to vary your approach a little).
Let’s imagine you’re on a high school visit, and you’re making a presentation to a group of students. Before your slides begin (and again after they’ve ended), you could have a super-sized version of your QR code towering 6ft high on the screen in the classroom. While you have all the kids’ attention, you ask them to take out their phones and snap the QR code. If, during the course of the presentation, they’re intrigued to learn more about your school, then they can complete the form that loads on their device and you’ll follow-up with them afterwards. Granted, it’s not as personal as having a conversation with someone at a table — but you’re adapting your approach to suit the environment.
An alternative to this method involves printing your QR code within your institution’s hand-out literature. Or printing a specific card that’s passed around during the presentation (see the bottom image for our version). Or even adding your QR code on your business cards! As long as you have a way for kids to scan the code, the options are endless!
Give yourself options for how you capture information
Quick aside: when using a tablet at recruitment events, many of our partner schools use a shortened version of their online inquiry form. They recognize that, in the hustle and bustle of a college fair, they can’t have students taking 20 minutes to complete a form. They have to find a balance between capturing as much actionable data as they’re likely to need, whilst keeping their forms as short as they can. So schools will generally sacrifice capturing every last morsel of information about a student in a trade-off for capturing a greater number of inquiries.
Now, given that a QR code is just a shortcut to a mobile-optimized version of a form, it’s natural to assume that you would just link the QR code to the same form as you’re using on your tablet device. As we’ve discussed, you’ve already optimized that form for capturing data at events, so it makes sense. And often, that is the best option. But it’s not the only option.
As we’ve mentioned, you’re using QR codes to get your forms into the hands of more students. Often, if these students are part of a large audience or they are waiting in a line, then you’re not standing next to them when they’re filling-in their information (as you would be if they’re using your tablet device). As such, you’re less able to influence how — or whether — they complete the form.
Therefore, isn’t there an argument for making the form even easier to complete on the student’s own mobile device?
To do so, what if you only asked students for the absolute minimum amount of information needed to continue a dialogue with them after the event? Say, name, email, cell number and perhaps estimated year of enrollment and course of interest?
Sure, this probably wouldn’t satisfy all their fields your CRM needs from an online form. But if the goal is to get students into an enrollment funnel — where you can communicate with them and learn more about their preferences over time — wouldn’t you rather just capture the required information about them? What if the alternative was not capturing the inquiry at all, because the student got bored completing a super-long form?
You’ve already made the decision to sacrifice extraneous information when optimizing your forms for at-event use. This is just taking it a step further. Obviously you’d have to run the numbers to estimate how sacrificing thoroughness of data for more inquiries could impact your event performance, but it’s a worthwhile thought-exercise.
Interestingly, there’s a parallel in the corporate world. Many businesses now vary the length of their website inquiry forms based on where the form is being hosted, and based on the likely mindset of the prospect when they encounter the form.
When a prospect explicitly navigates to a ‘contact sales’ page because they’re interested in purchasing a product, their motivation is generally high and therefore the business knows they can ask for more information from the visitor. Conversely, if the prospect is only reading a blog post, the business just wants to get them into a sales funnel any way they can. As such, they’re happy to capture only an email address — which is simultaneously the lowest-friction and the most-actionable data point they can ask for.
The prospect isn’t going to give them all the information at that point, so the business takes what they can get, and works with it. In short, they’ll take more info when it’s available. But at the same time, they’d rather have an email address than nothing.
Stand out from the crowd
Here’s two other ways QR codes can differentiate your school in the eyes of students you meet at events.
Snapchat is the favoured social platform for US teens, according to research from Piper Jaffray. And the Snapchat mobile application has a built-in QR code reader, which will allow students to “snap” your QR code, linking them through to your inquiry form.
At the recruitment events you attend, have you seen any other schools using Snapchat as part of their recruitment process? It could be a differentiator for you.
But there’s another way to take Snapchat usage to the next level.
If you really feel like jumping on the Snapchat bandwagon, you can use Snapcodes (Snapchat’s proprietary QR code-like functionality) as part of your inquiry capture process. To do so, just head here, insert the URL of your mobile-optimized form, and Snapchat will return a unique Snapcode. This can then be used alongside regular QR codes in the ways we’ve discussed.
Here’s how it looks from the student’s perspective:
(Oh, and if you’re wondering, this doesn’t access any of the student’s Snapchat data. You can put them at ease — the images they share with their friends won’t find their way into the hands of university recruiters!)
2. Opting for a personal approach (rather than leading with the institution brand)
We all know that the best recruiters form connections with prospective students within their territories. They often remember individual students from recruitment events, and thereafter there’s frequently a level of one-to-one communication between counselor and student.
So if the one-to-one connection works so well, why not leverage it further?
Instead of having all your messaging focused around “inquiring at ABC University”, why not put the counselor front-and-center?
It’s the counselor who has enthused the student with their own personal story and it’s the counselor who has answered the student’s questions. So why not explicitly incorporate the counselor into the inquiry capture process?
By alluding to the fact that the counselor will help them through the process, you could increase the likelihood that a student will complete an inquiry form. Rather than have the student assume that they’re making contact with a huge, faceless institution, if there’s a personal angle to their expected interaction, it could help your school stand out in the crowd.
QR codes have been given a bum rap in their first few years of existence (mostly caused by over-inflated expectations). But as a simple mechanism to join the offline and online worlds, they’re highly effective. Hopefully we’ve provided some ideas for how you can incorporate them into your events strategy.