So you’re drafting a marketing plan for your college. But with such a diverse pool of potential students, how do you know where to target your efforts? It’s true that not every approach will reach every student, but combining several approaches will widen your reach. The key idea is to layer different advertising and marketing strategies. This will improve your odds of connecting with your target audience, increasing brand awareness and, ultimately, enrollments.
In this article, we explore 5 different marketing strategies you can use to build a successful college marketing plan.
What NOT To Do
A common mistake made by novice marketers is only focusing on one marketing tactic. For example, you can design a fabulous billboard advertisement, but as a standalone strategy, it probably won’t convince a potential student to apply to your college or university. But if a student sees your billboard, then hears an ad on the radio or sees an ad on Instagram before meeting with an admissions counselor from your school, they’re primed to take action.
“It’s important that a marketing strategy is developed based on specific goals of the institution,” says Jeremy Pittman, CEO of Premier Enrollment Solutions. “Once that marketing strategy is developed, be it short term 1-2 years or long term 3-5 years, the marketing initiatives should align back to the overall university strategic plan.”
Where to Focus Marketing for the Best ROI
As a university, where should you be focusing your marketing efforts? Here are my top recommendations for the best ROI:
1. Social Media
Social media is where your students and their parents spend much of their time. Therefore, it makes sense to focus much of your marketing messages on Facebook and Instagram. For best results, keep your brand awareness ads clean cut and brief. The attention span of the average social media user is between two and three seconds. Yes, seconds. To capture attention, your ads need to have crystal clear branding and extremely brief messaging.
2. Video Marketing
Video marketing is one of the most powerful tools in a marketer’s toolkit. It allows you to tell your institution’s story in a visually appealing medium that’s used daily by 85% of Internet users. Whether you’ve created an emotional ad or a compelling testimonial, video connects prospective students with your college effectively and quickly. And as an added bonus, video ranks higher in Google!
To maximize your college marketing plan’s use of video advertising, consider creating videos that focus on a frequently asked question, testimonials from students, and be sure to focus your videos on a single compelling message. Too much content is confusing and overwhelming. You only have a few seconds to capture someone’s attention – make them count!
3. Your Website
If done correctly, your college marketing plan should easily funnel prospective students from social media, video, or a digital ad to your website–your #1 marketing tool. This cannot be emphasized enough. If your website is outdated, cluttered, confusing, or unclear, there’s a very good chance the student will assume your university is the same and quickly leave without taking the next step.
According to the National Association for College Admissions Counseling, 36 percent of freshmen apply to seven or more colleges. When researching colleges, prospective students will make snap decisions in paring down their initial list of institutions to consider. Your website is the public face of your university’s brand. It has to shout professionalism while maintaining a welcoming, warm demeanor. If your prospect senses the tiniest bit of unprofessionalism in your online branding, they’re very unlikely to continue considering your school.
4. Email Strategy
A comprehensive email marketing strategy can keep students moving through your admissions funnel. But what exactly does that look like?
- Consistency: My favorite Donald Miller (author of Storybrand and Marketing Made Simple) quote is, “People buy when they are ready, but only if you are still around.” This is why staying consistent with how often you send emails is so important! Whether they open them or not, emails are like teeny tiny billboards each time they land in someone’s inbox. It helps so much with top of mind awareness.
- Concise content: The old days of sending the never ending email newsletters are over. Especially to students!
- Speak to where they are in the journey: This speaks to segmenting your lists to who is a prospective student, applicant, accepted, and incoming student. There will be certain subjects that interest each type of student.
5. Print Publications
As a website designer, I’m a big believer in the power of digital marketing. But at some point in your admissions funnel, prospective students will want to browse a physical publication. Not only do consumers trust print media more than digital, print media allows your college’s messaging to rise above the digital fray. The three publications I recommend focusing your college marketing plan efforts on are:
- Travel Piece: A high quality brochure or booklet for your admissions counselors to hand out while they’re on the road is essential.
- Major or Program Flyers: These program pieces not only personalize the college experience for the student, it helps them feel like they have found the right fit for them.
- Financial Aid Publications: If you can create a publication that answers the “can we afford this question,” you’ll keep your institution in the running and give the student and parent peace of mind.
I hope these strategies are helpful as you build a marketing plan for your college or university. When combined together, you can build a powerful and effective plan for your institution!