This guest post was written by Sadie Aram for Silverbrook Marketing.
The United States is home to over 4,000 higher education institutions, and each one is competing for the attention of prospective students. If that doesn’t produce enough stress already, college enrollment numbers have been on a decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, it’s important for higher education marketing teams to implement engaging and effective campaigns to reach future attendees. If you’re struggling to spread the word about what your school has to offer, make sure you have these four strategies in your marketing plan.
1. Personalize the experience.
Use emotional marketing to connect with potential students. They will be better able to see themselves at a school that recognizes and addresses their unique needs. Tailor your message to specific groups based on marketing personas developed from existing demographic data. A persona is a semi-fictional description of your ideal candidate that can help you envision the audience you’re appealing to. It can look something like this:
“Alexis is a 19-year-old high school senior. She is a section leader for the marching band and excels in her honors classes. She hopes to pursue a career in engineering when she is older. Alexis values a strong community and hopes to have security in her adult life.”
Each student has a different motive for pursuing higher education, so your institution should develop multiple personas appealing to small groups with like interests. For example, you wouldn’t market to a high school student the same way you would market to a mother looking to further her education.
2. Spotlight success.
College is no small commitment to make, so students want to get a glimpse of what’s waiting for them. Showcase student, faculty, and alumni achievement to demonstrate to prospective students the influence that their education could have on their future.
Showcasing success doesn’t require someone to be the next Albert Einstein or Brad Pitt. Are professors conducting innovative research? Are alumni holding impressive positions at high-profile companies? Are student organizations making an impact on the world? These are all feats to celebrate, and they could be strong factors in someone’s decision to choose your school.
And don’t stop at academic success! Any achievement—whether in athletics, art, entertainment, etc.—is a great way to spotlight your institution in a positive way.
3. Highlight the numbers.
When making critical decisions, we tend to rely on data evidence to inform our choices. Numbers help prove the effectiveness of your institution in a tangible way. Data reinforces your school’s success, and numbers are easier to consume than a chunk of text that portrays the same information.
Does your college have an impressive selection of majors and minors? A high freshman retention rate? A small student-to-professor ratio? Don’t be afraid to brag and show them off! Have general facts and figures easily accessible as well, such as total number of students, price of tuition, and average test scores of admitted students.
4. Adopt a digital-focused approach.
Most of today’s students belong to Generation Z, a group characterized by more digital media usage than ever before. Establishing a space for your institution in the digital world is a foolproof strategy for grabbing your audience’s attention. Here are a few ways to do so:
- Build a responsive website: Your website is often the first place students will look for more information about your school. Additionally, over half of internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Because of this, be sure that your website is well-organized and mobile-friendly. Make requesting more information easy and use your website as a gateway for your other digital platforms.
- Improve SEO: Most people rely on search engines like Google to find the information they need. However, 75% of Google users don’t click past the first page of results, so search engine optimization (SEO) is crucial to your digital success. You can bolster your SEO rankings by producing a variety of content and researching the best keywords to incorporate, but this is a highly technical field. The best results often come from the help of an expert.
- Email with intention: Students prefer email over direct mail, but you don’t want to end up in their spam folder. Remember to personalize your messages to peak your reader’s interest. You can streamline this process by using email automation software like Constant Contact or Mailchimp.
- Stay active on social media: A recent study showed that 94% of Gen Z use social media, so it’s a no-brainer that you should, too. Be sure you’re frequently posting consistent content to entice your audience. Consider posting various formats and subjects, including photos of campus, infographics, videos, and live streams.
- Leverage user-generated content: Amplifying images, videos, reviews, and other assets created by your followers is a great way to influence potential students. Having many different viewpoints from your connections gives your brand an authentic presence and gives students an exclusive look into the university lifestyle.
What do you think? Have you tried these strategies? Are there any that I missed? We’d love to hear from you!