In countries outside of the U.S., Europe, Australia, etc., it’s common for students to take a gap year between high school and college. While there are, of course, students who take that path in the U.S., it’s not nearly as commonplace.
There are a number of companies out there that provide these guided, pseudo-educational travel programs for young adults — folks like Rustic Pathways being at the forefront. In fact, the founding team at Verto, an education startup in The San Francisco Bay Area, came from various facets of this space.
Verto is not a “me too” gap year travel company. They’ve gutted that model and pioneered a seamless path for students to integrate that travel and experiential learning without derailing their 4-year graduation timeline — a critical puzzle piece to reaching a broader American audience.
In a nutshell, they’ve partnered with a large and growing network of colleges & universities around the world to develop a series of credit-earning, in-the-field curriculums that fully transfer within that network (and often outside of it).
As examples, Verto students can learn Business & Ethics in China, Ecology in Costa Rica, Humanities & Indigenous Studies in Fiji, New Zealand & Austraila. They then enter their university of choice as a second-semester freshman or first-semester sophomore depending on the length of the Verto program they choose.
They’ve partnered with a huge variety of colleges, from large state schools like The University of Oregon, smaller institutions such as Butler and Bucknell, and schools abroad such as University of Auckland and University College Dublin.
How We Contributed
“In other words, they’re not another "me too" gap year program sending their students on a $15K vacation”
Working through the discovery process, the biggest challenge was that they had pioneered this model that would have a huge potential audience, but were pulling marketing assets and content from their experience in gap year travel. The messaging wasn’t clear and was getting lost in the sea of noise of the broader gap year industry. We needed to cut through that noise and make sure their value proposition was spot on.
Compounding that challenge, they have a double sell requirement. First, they have to reach the “student” — showing what an absolutely amazing experience they offer. Then, they have to reach the parents and show that their program is a legitimately great path (if less traditional) for many students coming out of high school. In other words, they’re not another “me too” gap year program sending their students on a $15K vacation.
“We needed to cut through that noise and make sure their value proposition was spot on.”
How We Got There
This was a multi-faceted project. A fresh new website provided the anchor for the rest of the initiatives to come together – both marketing & technical.
We started by really digging into the 3 audiences that they needed to target. Students & parents we’ve mentioned already. The third audience is admissions teams at universities across the U.S. and globally.
We worked through all of the core content on the site – creating tone & voice consistent messaging throughout their content for those three audiences. We built out their semester overviews in ways that balanced both the “fun” and “education” pieces of their semesters — as often as possible concurrently.
We developed partner college snapshots meant to help the user experience when exploring school options and exactly how their credit-earning process works, while also instilling legitimacy to the admissions teams that would be fact-finding.
We worked through a variety of design elements through the site, their social media channels, as well as some offline print pieces used by their in-the-field admissions representatives attending college fairs and on-campus events.
We mapped and created a variety of lead generation funnels — integrating those pieces into the Hubspot platform. Also using Hubspot and a smart selection of other tools, we worked with them to streamline a number of their back-end processes — things like helping to automate lead flows between their admissions advisors, completely digitizing their application process and faciliting deposit transactions.