The Educated Marketer


Doing Higher Education Marketing Better

by Leah Peters | Dec 16, 2015

 |  college recruitment, inbound marketing


You’ve got to do it. But the same old, same old isn’t going to work anymore..


A Hard Sell

The world of higher education is changing fast, and it’s very competitive. Colleges scramble to get in touch with their ideal applicants, and they’re dedicating more and more money to advertising and marketing in order to maintain optimal enrollment levels.

Since the economic downturn of 2008, people have been questioning the value of the enormous investment that college represents. Those of us who’ve been through college understand the value of a college degree. But seeing friends and family members graduate in massive debt and unable to get a job has led some of today’s students to be a bit hesitant.

Additionally, innovations in the way higher education is delivered—massive open online courses (MOOCs), flexible online programs, and more—have pushed institutions to adjust their offerings and services—and to articulate what makes their particular program uniquely valuable and irreplaceable.

Advertising isn’t the answer

Yes, great marketing materials and the careful articulation of the unique value your institution is able to offer is key—but truly cutting-edge higher education marketing goes well beyond that.

First Point of Contact

Chances are good that your prospective students are checking you out long before you even know about them. What that means is that you need to understand your prospective students and their needs and interests well before they ever complete a contact form. You need to know what they’re likely to be worried about, what they are looking for in a college or university, and how your institution is uniquely positioned to answer their needs. Doing this will allow you to tailor content that’s relevant to them. Throw in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and you’ll have your ideal prospective students landing on your pages—organically.

Naturally, once they’ve landed on your website, you’ve got to do everything in your power to keep them there. Optimize for mobile. Make great offers. Be ready to answer their questions.

Look at the data

One of the great strengths of using an inbound strategy for higher education marketing is the way that analytics are built into the strategy. In order to be competitive in today’s higher education marketplace, higher education marketing professionals must be prepared to capture and analyze data, and shift strategies nimbly based on what the data declares. You need to be able to adjust quickly, tailoring the journey through the admissions funnel based on prospect behavior. An inbound strategy for higher education marketing lets you do just that.

Don’t go it alone

It’s tempting for higher education marketing professionals to think that they can carry their marketing strategies into the 21st century simply by setting up a blog and a couple of social media accounts—in other words, by doing the same thing they’ve always done, except online. But that’s just not how it works.

Institutions must consider working with outside firms that understand the technology supporting inbound marketing, content creation, and best practices—there’s a science and art to inbound, and it’s easy to get wrong.

Listening well

Higher education marketing is catching up with the marketing approaches that other industries have been using for years. Thanks to seismic changes in higher education and in the economy, it’s time for a fresh approach, one that’s based on listening well to the needs of students and offering information and appropriate communications at key points in their decision-making process.

Summing it up:

Higher education has always been a major investment, and the decision making process hasn’t been made any easier by innovations in higher education delivery systems and changes in the global economy. However, higher education marketers can learn from the best practices of other industries and leave behind outmoded, outbound-focused advertising strategies, adopting the data-driven, sophisticated, and student-centered approach known as inbound marketing for higher education.

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