Higher Education Marketing Challenges
Today in the United States there are approximately 5,300 colleges and universities. With such a large number of schools, todays higher education market has become as competitive and challenging to navigate as ever. Traditional marketing techniques are no longer sufficient to attract new students. It is now crucial for colleges and universities to understand and market the importance of innovation, social responsibility, and new technologies to attract the current college-bound generation.
Who is a prospective student?
To effectively attract new students, it’s important to first identify prospective students. There are two types of prospective students– those who are aware of your school and those who are not. Initially the goal is for both types to choose your college/university. And even if the goal is the same, the approach should be slightly different.
What are prospective students looking for?
1. Students aware of your institution most likely have a list of schools and programs they are interested in. The first place they will seek more information is the school’s website. To remain effective, Higher Education website should be:
- Mobile friendly – most of the times the first interactions with the website happens from mobile devices. Having an easy to navigate mobile friendly website is a key not only for a user, but also for search engines.
- Easy to navigate – colleges and universities websites usually are quite large and complex. By making sure the website has a clear navigation system with the most important pages no further than 3 clicks away from the home page a search box, and a request form on the homepage provides an easier flow through the website and a better user experience.
- Informative – when creating content, schools should not forget who they are trying to reach. The content should focus on the reader and provide insightful information, tips, and best practice guides, news and other. In other words, always consider what a student wants to know rather than what an institution wants to inform a student.
2. The next group of students to consider are those who haven’t decided on their top 10 schools and still are looking around. To increase brand and program awareness there are a few things colleges and universities should do.
- It’s not a secret that Pay-per-click (PPC) is a great channel to use in order to introduce new prospective students with schools and their programs. It works exactly the same way when new brands and businesses want to be found by customers. Google Adwords, Bing, Linkedin, Facebook and Instagram are main channels to go for. By creating a strategic lead generating PPC campaign, universities can increase the number of students signing up for programs or seeking more information.The only drawback of using these channels is the cost.
- Higher education institutions should also make sure their websites are optimized for on-page SEO.
New ways to attract prospective students
There are many ways to reach future students. Traditional methods such as high schools visits, educational fairs and print material are still very useful way to market colleges and universities. However, these methods might not be enough to make a university stand out among competitors. To reach prospective students where it will make an impact requires a tailored approach to the incoming students media habits.
- Snapchat – not merely a popular social app, Millennials are now using Snapchat as a form of news or following beloved brands. According to Lendedu, an online student loan marketplace, 58% of college students are checking Snapchat first, Instagram second and Facebook last. Snapchat reached a high interest and popularity not only among users, but also brands and colleges. For example, in July 2017, The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay sent the acceptance announcement to the student via Snapchat with animated video confetti.
Schools can create their own geofilter that allows students to use it when they are on the campus or at specific events. These type of filters appear on the user’s display allowing them to get a closer look at the real life of that school. It promotes brand awareness, as well as serves as a great advertising for school. Snapchat opens a door to promote the schools the best way possible. It can show the unique personality of the school and create a connection with current students, as well as help them keep in touch with alumni.
- Live Videos – Blogs and other written content are still relevant and very important for digital marketing. Schools should use as many ways to interact and connect with millennials. Live videos are a great way to do so. It allows viewers immediately engage with current events. A lot of higher education institutions already publish various content to Youtube, but live streaming that functions similar as Snapchat could support the interaction with potential students and alumni right here and right now by showing schools’ events, lectures and other creative content.
Influencers – From the recent study millennials rely on word of mouth more than other adults when researching consumer goods. This study could identify millennials trusting only honest and true opinions by the people they respect and look up to. Today there are so many influencers in various areas starting from entrepreneurs to style blogs. Higher education institutions should keep relationships with alumni and try to follow their journey after the graduation. By keeping close relationships with influencers is a way to attract their followers to the school. Schools should organize panel style meetings with influencers where they could share their experiences with audience and answer their questions. This type of relationship would promote different school programs and brand awareness.
Millennials tend to choose brands that have a clear voice, character and are creative. With today’s technologies, social media platforms and apps there are endless ways colleges and universities could promote their school and program, as well as show their personality to prospective students.
Martyna is a graduate from Vilnius University in Vilnius, Lithuania. With 2 years experience in digital marketing industry, Martyna adds in-depth understanding of on-page and local SEO to the Circa team. Her passion and continual education in SEO initiatives help contribute to Circa’s expanding higher education digital marketing presence.