According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), around 20 million people attend a college or university each year. Almost 70 percent of students enrolling in college will be recent high school graduates. Higher learning institutions now depend on strategic marketing tactics to attract the best students, staff and supporters. Here are 11 things that you should be doing with your higher education marketing program.
1. Use a Student’s Perspective
When prospective students visit the admissions web page, they shouldn’t read about campus, degree and school information that is designed for the general public. The most engaging sources for this information are current students and past alumni. Solicit testimonials, experiences, and personal stories from successful students. Ask them to express genuine impressions of campus life, degree difficulty, faculty support, dorm conditions, and extracurricular opportunities.
2. Don’t Forget about Parents
Although the student perspective is critical, don’t forget about all decision makers involved in the college selection process. There are many people, such as parents, teachers, and guidance counselors, who will have a lot of sway in the decision-making process. Therefore, it makes sense to target two audiences by marketing to them through separate landing pages. There should be content on your website that appeals to each of these different audiences.
3. Offer Online Tours
Simply posting pictures and descriptions of programs, departments, facilities and student life is not enough. Consider using immersive online tours that provide intimate views of the campus and classrooms. Online tours are one of the most effective ways to show your school off to prospective students from different states and foreign countries.
This valuable recruitment tool can be presented through the eyes of an average student. For example, have a student guide the viewer through arriving at school, getting settled in the dorm, and visiting the student services office.
4. Use Clear Calls-to-Action
Websites, social media, promotional handouts, newspaper advertisements, and TV commercials all need to have clear calls-to-action. It is surprising how many websites bury these at the bottom of the web page.
When it comes to increasing enrollment, the only thing that truly matters is the admittance rate of students who visit the campus. While not all students choose to attend, having them visit will enhance community outreach and word-of-mouth marketing activities.
5. Optimize Your Website
According to Forbes magazine, more people now use their mobile devices to access the Internet than traditional desktops. Many prospects are busy and on-the-go with their tablets and smart phones; it is imperative that your higher ed website is mobile and optimized for their viewing and accessing.
Many of these people also use their mobile devices to read online reviews in forums, rating websites and social media platforms. Higher education organizations that still don’t offer fully functional websites for mobile users will miss out on countless prospective students.
6. Differentiate Content
Don’t make the mistake of posting identical content across all online and traditional platforms. Each marketing channel provides unique advantages and audiences. For example, use LinkedIn to post thoughtful articles on helpful career related information. Use Twitter to provide quick tips and easy-to-read tidbits.
Regularly posting customized content in different social channels will allow you to interact with segmented demographic groups. It will be a challenge to manage all of these different platforms, but it will pay off in the end.
7. Design a Student Platform
Even if your college or university doesn’t offer distance education programs, you should still offer a private website for admitted students. These virtual platforms may offer a variety of guides, resources, and other online services.
Ideally, students will be able to access their college email, register for courses, check their grades, request transcripts, pay for classes, and manage financial aid. There can be useful links to academic programs, class schedules, student handbooks, and safety reporting forms.
8. Enhance Your Pictures
A surprising amount of colleges like to show images of beautiful and well-kept campuses that are devoid of students. Most people enjoy seeing nice landscapes, but what they really want to see is inside the dorms, buildings, and classrooms.
Prospective students want to know what the campus life, cafeteria, and socializing scene are really like. Offer prospective students lively images and realistic pictures of students chatting, hanging out, having fun, and studying in the classroom.
9. Focus on All Prospective Students
Many colleges make the mistake of writing off and ignoring students who drop out, fail to show up for interviews, or do not complete applications. There are many factors that contribute to a student's readiness for school.
There are always mitigating circumstances, such as limited finances, family needs, and plain old anxiety, that will affect the application process and outcome. Be patient with students who are testing the waters, and use occasional email reminders to gently help them to apply for admission.
10. Expand Your Appeal
It’s understandable that many colleges want to focus on certain students, such as STEM majors for research grants and working adults for online programs. Remember this when creating content, because it will make meaningful and effective connections with prospective students.
Sending out identical ads and messages will save time and money, but it is not an effective way to get the attention of the widest range of audience. For example, create an official YouTube channel that contains various videos that will appeal to different students.
11. Implement Email Campaigns
Almost all prospective students will be comfortable sharing their email address with the college. An email address provides a key opportunity to develop and expand a prospective email distribution list. This can be used to nurture individual leads, offer rewards for referrals, and build connections with community partners.
Email campaigns allow you to provide people with general information, deadline reminders, status updates, and campus life news. Providing educational content at the top of the email will catch the attention of the right audience.
In the end, higher education marketers must embrace mobile-friendly websites, take advantage of social media, and create inviting admissions processes. All of this will build positive relationships, trust, and credibility.