That no holds-barred quote is from Terry Flannery, vice president for communications at American University and CASE Treasurer. And while it may sound a little harsh at first, we think Terry hit the nail right on the mark.
Enrollment marketing is one of the biggest areas for improvement among colleges, trade schools and privately-owned universities, with only 34% of institutions reporting to have met their enrollment goals in 2017.
And while the recent crisis means that trade schools and private colleges will likely see a surge of interest from potential students, the competition will be fiercer than ever.
Let’s take a closer look at what works in enrollment marketing today by examining the leading student recruitment strategies, ideas and enrollment marketing platforms. We’ll also examine case studies from three different universities that were able to successfully reverse declining enrollment rates using a super smart enrollment marketing strategy.
Let’s dive in!
We won’t sugarcoat it: Higher education is an industry in flux.
Prior to the coronavirus epidemic, the average age for online students was 32 years old, and 68% of online students were experienced professionals. According to higher ed expert Seth Odell, this is set to change. “It is highly likely that we will see a dramatic increase in demand for fully online offerings from Gen Z,” says Seth.
But the rise of online isn’t the only change today’s enrollment leaders need to keep up with.
Increasing financial pressure, paired with the rising cost of digital advertising means protecting your tuition revenue is now more important than ever.
Today’s recruitment directors and admission heads must take new, innovative and calculated measures with their enrollment marketing to ensure every penny spent is effective in bringing you the right students.
Before you do anything else with your enrollment and student recruitment marketing, it’s crucial to learn as much as possible about your current students so you can understand who has the best chances of succeeding at your college.
Based on this research you can develop student personas. These are fictional representations of groups of students for you to target in your recruiting and enrollment marketing.
A well thought out student persona helps you:
By taking the time to develop a customer persona for your ideal target students you also learn which platforms potential prospects use the most. Now you can allocate marketing resources more effectively and eliminate wasting time and money due to unnecessary guesswork.
One of the smartest ways to bring your enrollment strategy full circle is to integrate your SIS with a CRM platform designed to maximize revenues from both new and existing students.
With a deep SIS and CRM integration, you can see the direct connection between your most successful students, and how you recruited them in the past. Remember, the more successful students you have today, the more referrals you’ll have tomorrow.
If you’re a Shape user, you can easily give your admissions team access to key information from your SIS in real-time. Here’s how the integration works:
Enrollment Marketing Case Study: The Power of Customer Personas at Mount Mary
But there’s an important distinction between colleges that boast high traffic and engagement on social, and those that struggle to keep up.
If you’re in the latter camp, you should know it’s not your fault.
Many of us did not grow up with social media as part of the equation and it’s easy to want to simply rush to create a branded account on every platform, post once or twice a month, and call it a day.
But when it comes to enrollment marketing, the default approaches to social media just won’t cut it.
Here are three crucial tips to help you use social media to enroll more students:
Every platform is a world of its own. What works on Facebook won’t work on Snapchat. If you’re new to this, we recommend picking no more than two social platforms to start with so that you can give each one your full focus.
Social platforms release new features every month, bringing new opportunities for engaging future students. But be warned, there will be a learning curve with every new change or update.
This one is a deal-breaker. Stock photos and boilerplate memes don’t offer any real value to prospective students. Remember, you’re competing for your prospect’s attention and not just against other schools but also against content from influencers, brands, mainstream media, friends and more.
So, how the heck are you going to attract new students amid all the noise?
Start by learning everything you can about the kind of content that works on each platform—then consistently build your audience from there.
Honestly, it doesn’t really matter which platforms you decide to start marketing with first. The only thing that matters is how consistently you’re able to show up on that platform with quality content for your audience.
For example, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has over 116,000 Instagram followers.
The school actively uses hashtag #TARgram to let students share their own stories about life on campus. This is a great way to redistribute some of the burden of content creation and let your students market your college for you in a way that feels more authentic for prospects.
Remember, there’s no one social media platform that is perfect for every university. Find the ones that work for your organization, and stick to it.
Already a Shape user? You can automatically trigger a personalized email to go out to any incoming inquiries from prospective students coming to your website from social media or other marketing channels.
If you’re not using video content as a part of your enrollment marketing strategy, you’re missing out.
No matter which way you cut it, video marketing is one enrollment strategy that’s not going away anytime soon.
Video content provides two key benefits for private colleges and higher ed orgs.
College webinars, presentations, lessons, and interviews can all be easily repurposed into bite-sized content for further distribution across all your marketing channels. For example, simply record a video lecture, create a quick highlights reel and boom. Now, you have an Instagram story or Facebook video ad ready to go.
According to the Wyzowl report, 83% of marketers say video provides them with good ROI, and 81% claim video helped them generate leads.
And that ROI rate soars even higher when you use video in conjunction with other engagement tools, like email.
If there is a segment of your database that hasn’t engaged in a while, a quick video email could be a great way to bring those conversations back to life.
In Shape you can easily integrate with video marketing tools like BombBomb to seamlessly add videos to your emails or even to your SMS messages, in just two clicks.
Even though teens prefer consuming video content on social media, you may be surprised to learn that on college websites, 64% of college prospects would rather consume content through text and articles.
Your website, ebooks, blog posts and other written resources must be top-of-the-line to win the hearts and minds of future students.
Enrollment Marketing Case Study: Using Content Marketing to Grow Applications by 106% at North American Trade School
With hundreds of intuitive apps and website builders that make mobile optimization as easy as ABC, there’s no longer any excuse for a poor mobile experience.
Already got a mobile-optimized website for your school? Cool!
In Shape, you can easily track all your phone and SMS outreach in one simple place. Just head to your Phone Settings dashboard to enable your SMS settings.
Email may sound a little dated after all this talk about social media and video ads, but when it comes to enrollment marketing for your private college, trade school or university, email still matters.
In fact, 76% of high school students say they prefer to hear from universities via email, rather than messaging apps, phone calls, or direct mail.
With a simple (but powerful) combination of email messages and phone calls, online education provider Stafford Global turned their website into a high-performance admissions machine, increasing the number web leads by 50%, while shortening their conversion time by 58%.
Want to replicate those results?
Even a small personalization in your subject line can increase open rates by 50%. With a smart higher ed sales platform, you can take it a step forward and personalize entire sections of your emails based on prospect data such as study areas of interest, in-state vs. out-of-state, etc.
Don’t overload your SMTP provider by sending thousands of emails using the same mail server. Make sure your CRM system allows you to stay compliant and distributes the workload between multiple servers.
With smart automation you can send hyper-personalized email messages throughout all stages of the student recruitment and application process, making sure your university is in constant contact with every prospect at every step of the enrollment journey.
Not sure you’re working with the right enrollment tools? Check out our Complete Buyer’s Guide for Choosing a Higher Education CRM
Shape users can easily customize, schedule and send emails based on the status of each and every prospect in your database. Or, you can customize a done-for-you email from our rich library of over 100+ proven email templates.
Enrollment marketing is no longer a game of chance.
According to the Cost of Recruiting an Undergraduate Student Report by educational enrollment agency RNL, the median cost of recruiting an undergraduate in 2018 was $2,357
And every ineffective marketing decision pushes that number higher.
To secure cost-effective tuition revenue, you need to know which marketing channels work best so you can keep your recruitment efforts focused and efficient. With the right data at your fingertips, you’ll always know who your ideal students are, where to find them, and how to effectively recruit them without breaking the budget.
The right higher ed CRM will let you instantly visualize your student enrollment success across marketing channels so you know how to make the most of your recruitment budget.
AI, virtual reality, chatbots—higher ed marketing innovation may seem like an overwhelming or costly thing to break into. But in reality, there are many platforms that will do the heavy lifting for you.
In one standout example, the Savannah College of Art and Design let students explore the campus virtually using Google Cardboard headsets, which led to a 26% increase in admissions.
Enrollment Marketing Case Study: The Power of Using a CRM at Hawkeye Community College
It’s hard to keep up with the constantly changing trends in marketing, higher education, and student lifestyle, and the truth is what worked mere months ago may no longer work tomorrow. Don’t let it overwhelm you.
With the right enrollment marketing foundation in place, you can arm your admissions team with the tools they need to attract and engage more students, regardless of future shifts in marketing and learning trends.