99% open rate, 40%+ response rate: WhatsApp for Business tailored to universities

A student just signed up on your website to request a brochure. He receives the canned answer, maybe some reminder mails, but still he was never heard of afterwards. If you do not want to put the student simply away, by saying that she was not interested enough, read on:

  1. Do you know that i.e. in Gmail all marketing mails (which is almost all automatic mails) end up in the “promotions” inbox, which is as visible as the spam folder?
  2. How many students decided to study in another country without having had any personal recommendations or contacts through students, alumni or staff?

Both lead to the need for personal attention for the enquiry, which leads us to the usage of WhatsApp in the communication with prospective students. While email is more like a modern letter WhatsApp is somewhere in between a call, an answering machine and a telegram: Quick short information, available even when I am away.

End of January WhatsApp rolled out its new “WhatsApp Business” app (so far only for Android phone – iPhone app announced, but not there yet) and it allows a more professional approach of talking to prospects than using personal WhatsApp accounts. The additional features on top of the standard WhatsApp ones (i.e. WhatsApp web, Copy&Paste) are:

  • Office hours and automatic answers outside of them
  • Automatic welcome messages
  • Shortcuts for unlimited prepared answers, as different students tend to have similar questions
  • And statistics (e.g. out of my 50 messages to prospects 49 were read)

The main missing features are still the ability to use one account by different people and the integration into existing CRM systems, but we have requested it.

Applying it to the university world

With the new app out the question is, how to make the most of it from a university perspective. We have rolled it out for a small business programme and share here the good practices gathered so far:

  • Test it for yourself first: We have set up a landing page, where you can enter your information and then receive an automatic welcome message, so you see some of the features from the perspective of a prospect. You can also see the out-of-office message and if you write something you will also receive an answer which is based on a shortcut.
  • Plan your WhatsApp communication: Even though it is new, which means there will be trials and errors, some thoughts in advance are helpful:
    • Who do you want to contact? E.g. do you simply publish your number and wait for questions or do you want to use it only for reaching to prospects from e.g. the Ivy League? Somewhere in between you can position yourself and from there you can answer the following questions:
    • What will be my welcome message and what should my away message say?
  • Get an Android phone: Any device will do (recommend above Android version 4.0 or less than 4 years old)
  • Setup Google Account: We recommend a separate Google account for the phone, as it will ease the importing of synchronising of contacts. If you have a Google account, which you do not use for sending emails or so (e.g. just for your Google Analytics or AdWords), you can use this one as well.
  • Setup a number for WhatsApp: Depending on the country of your university, you can use your regular fixed line number (recommended). If you cannot use your existing office number, we recommend using a virtual mobile number, as it gives you most flexibility and allows for multiple alternating users (you can also use it with two people simultaneously with one using the web interface and one the phone).
  • Start communicating as you planned and build up your quick responses.

Hear more on it, at the StudyPortals Academy next week in Amsterdam – I’ve heard there are still some places available, otherwise drop me a line.

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