Best Practices for Higher Education Marketing: A Roadmap to Success
Nov 14, 2023
Higher education marketing is a challenge, no matter how you look at it. Today’s educational landscape is a competitive one and prospective students can be a tough nut to crack. Marketing plays a pivotal role in attracting students, retaining them, and building a strong brand for higher education institutions but younger generations are especially wary of overt marketing efforts and budgets are increasingly strapped. To stand out in this crowded market, institutions need to employ effective marketing strategies tailored to their unique strengths and goals. In this blog post, we’ll explore some best practices for marketing in higher education that can help colleges and universities thrive in an ever-evolving educational environment.
Define Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
If you’ve been around here before, you may think we sound like a broken record but every organization, regardless of industry, needs to go through this exercise. A Unique Selling Proposition is the foundation for every marketing step you take. Every higher education institution is unique, whether it’s through academic programs, campus culture, location, or faculty expertise. To create a compelling marketing strategy, you must identify and highlight your institution’s Unique Selling Proposition. What makes your institution special? What sets you apart from the competition? Once you know your USP, you can build your marketing efforts around it. To further complicate this effort, it’s likely that your institution has an overarching USP and individual schools or programs within the university may also have their own USP, which falls beneath the overarching institutional USP.
Create a Comprehensive Content Strategy
Content is king in the digital age. Develop a content strategy that encompasses blog posts, social media, videos, and other forms of media to engage your target audience. Content should not only showcase your institution’s academic excellence but also provide valuable information to prospective students, parents, and even current students. Share success stories, campus news, and useful resources to build a sense of community and trust. Depending on the size of the school, there may be many social media accounts to consider. For example, the university may have an instagram account but what about the schools within the university? And what about the individual programs within those schools? A holistic look at content strategy may seem straightforward on the surface but when you begin to drill down into it, will require a surprising amount of planning. Ideally, all efforts will have a unified tone and aesthetic approach but this will require quite a bit of coordination and communication between multiple parties.
Optimize Your Website
Your website is often the first point of contact for prospective students. It should provide easy access to information about programs, admissions, financial aid, and campus life. We hate to say it but to attract young people, it will also need some “cool factor” (for lack of a better term). A dated site is not going to be a fantastic marketing tool for attracting prospective students. Implement search engine optimization (SEO) to make your site discoverable on search engines, and regularly update content to keep it fresh and relevant.
Embrace Social Media
Social media platforms are powerful tools for connecting with students and building your institution’s brand. That said, be careful. You don’t want a misstep on social media to make prospective students raise an eyebrow at your attempts. Take a good look at where prospective students might be (Instagram, TikTok, etc.) and where their influencers may be (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn) and make sure that you are developing content suitable for those targets and the social media environment of each platform. Paid advertising on social media is a must and can also help target specific demographics effectively.
Utilize Smart Email Marketing
Email marketing remains an essential component of higher education marketing. Create segmented email lists for prospective students, current students, alumni, and other key audiences. Send regular newsletters, event invitations, and relevant updates to keep your audience engaged and informed. This is an excellent place to take a look at customer journey mapping in an effort to ensure that you’re email content is appropriate for the stage in the journey your target happens to be experiencing.
Develop Targeted Paid Advertising Campaigns
Leverage online advertising to reach potential students where they spend their time. Platforms like Google Ads, Facebook Ads, and LinkedIn Ads allow you to target specific demographics, interests, and geographical locations. Be sure to craft compelling ad copy and design engaging visuals to capture attention. Not to nag but this is where you really should be reviewing your USP carefully and making sure that your messaging rings true.
Emphasize Alumni Success Stories
Alumni can be your best ambassadors. Highlight their achievements and contributions to society. Sharing success stories not only instills pride in current students and alumni but also demonstrates the value of your institution.
Implement Data Analytics
Use analytics to measure the effectiveness of your marketing efforts. Track website traffic, email open rates, social media engagement, and other key performance indicators. Analyze the data to identify areas for improvement and refine your marketing strategy accordingly.
Leverage Video Marketing
Video content is a highly engaging medium. Make it your best friend. Create campus tours, faculty interviews, student testimonials, and other video content to showcase your institution’s personality and culture. Share these videos on your website and social media platforms and use them in your paid campaigns.
Foster a Strong Online Presence
Online reputation matters. Monitor and actively manage your institution’s online reputation by addressing negative reviews and comments promptly. Encourage satisfied students and alumni to leave positive reviews on platforms like Google, Facebook, and review sites dedicated to higher education.
In today’s competitive higher education landscape, marketing is a vital tool for attracting and retaining students and building a strong institutional brand. By defining your unique selling proposition, creating engaging content, optimizing your website, embracing social media, and utilizing various marketing channels effectively, your institution can stay ahead of the curve and achieve marketing success in higher education. Remember to adapt and refine your strategy as the educational landscape evolves to ensure your institution’s continued growth and success.