College enrollment continues to decline, and older marketing methods aren’t working as well.
Since the spring of 2011, colleges and universities across the nation have lost over 1 million enrollments. While most of that decline has come from a reduction in students age 24 and over—who are headed back into the workforce as the economy improves—it’s also true that smaller, private colleges and universities are experiencing a decline in enrollment, finding it difficult to compete with the larger financial aid packages offered by institutions with bigger endowments.
More advertising isn’t the answer. Smarter marketing is.
Every generation is a little different when it comes to advertising. What worked in the 1990s can’t be expected to work today—in fact, research indicates that today’s prospective students, who have grown up with smartphones and tablets and laptops—are pretty much immune to traditional advertising.
When a millennial wants to know about a product or service—or college or university!—she doesn’t rely on advertising for her information-gleaning. She reaches out to her friends on social networks: hey everyone, I’m looking for informed opinions… and makes her decisions based on resources and word-of-mouth reports gathered from friends.
That means your marketing strategy needs to change.
To target rising juniors and seniors, you can’t rely on traditional methods—you’ve got to get onboard with inbound marketing methodology, which is all about promoting the kind of clickable, shareable, downloadable, buzz-worthy and cutting-edge content that millennials can’t get enough of. The rising juniors and seniors of today and tomorrow don’t want you talking at them. They want to have a conversation. You need to be ready.
Don’t just create content. Create great content.
You can’t just create a blog and hope prospective students read it—it doesn’t work that way.
Millennials are too savvy to pay attention to most paid blog posts and other forms of “content marketing” that amount to thinly veiled advertising. If posts and articles are too pushy—too plastered with calls to action, too sneaky in delivering a pitch—they get turned off, and fast.
Remember—your prospective students have grown up online. They dominate the social networks. The newest and hottest apps that you know of are old news to them. To reach them, you can’t just churn out content the way you like it. You’ve got to give them something that’s truly valuable, doesn’t feel like an ad, and doesn’t feel hokey or old—and that’s no easy thing!
Inbound is more than content.
Yes, great content drives the generation of leads in inbound marketing methodology, but inbound really takes off once you’re connected with your prospective student through social media and other web-based platforms. It’s then that you can begin to offer the tailored, timely, and individualized interaction that millennials want.
(The best part? Inbound platforms can automate the individualized communications.)
College enrollment is down. But inbound marketing methodology is UP.
It’s been called the most exciting development in higher education marketing since the advent of the college website, and implemented by institutions like Harvard, Notre Dame, UC Berkeley, among others. And, compared with methods of questionable value in targeting the prospective student segment, inbound marketing has been shown to cost 61% less per lead.
Summing it up:
Times change, enrollment patterns change, and so does prospective student behavior—which is why your school needs to consider implementing inbound marketing methodology—and fast.
Unsure your marketing efforts are having any results? Check out our free Inbound Marketing Checklist.