Higher education marketing leverages a blend of traditional and digital techniques to attract a unique target audience. Higher education institutions need to tailor their marketing efforts to satisfy the needs of diverse groups, from faculty and staff to students and parents. In this way, higher education marketing strategies must be broad-based and individually targeted at the same time.
Even with a diverse array of tools available, marketing to college students can be a difficult endeavor, particularly in such a crowded digital environment. To be successful, higher education organizations have to employ numerous tools to improve branding, messaging, and reach. Accordingly, higher education advertising and marketing methods come in just about every shape and size.
Learn more about higher education marketing with this analysis of effective strategies.
The following sections will engage in a specific exploration of seven inspirational ideas for higher education marketing in 2022.
Bill Gates coined the phrase “content is king” back in 1996 and it remains true to this day. Organizations that produce high-quality content can leverage its power in numerous ways to attract and convert prospective customers. As a result, it is vitally important for higher education institutions to emphasize content creation across digital and traditional marketing strategies.
Not all content is created equal, however. Great content can capture user attention by providing valuable information—or satisfying a need, even if that need is humorous in nature. Bad content does not take the end user into account and is usually self-serving in nature.
Users will consume great content and come back for more—over and over again. It is an excellent way to build engagement within a target audience. On the other hand, bad content can leave a sour taste and distance users from a particular organization or brand. Stated otherwise, content creation should be a process that focuses on quality over quantity.
Content creation in the higher education marketing arena typically includes several, if not all, of the following:
- Website Content — To succeed in the digital era, higher education institutions need to develop a well-organized website and populate it with good content. These days, using an organization’s website is an important destination for potential customers, providing valuable information and brand exposure.
- Blogs & Podcasts — Text-based blogs and audio podcasts are an increasingly popular tactic for higher education marketing strategies. Producing valuable text and audio content can help attract and maintain a strong user base, which is fertile territory for various higher education advertising and marketing methods.
- Social Media — Content creation can help drive effective social media marketing (SMM) strategies. Higher education social channels should provide good content frequently to maximize user engagement, improve branding efforts and boost enrollment.
- Video Content — With the rise of social media, video content has become increasingly consequential to marketing endeavors. From long-form instructional content on YouTube or Facebook to short-form content for TikTok or Instagram, video can be an absolute game-changer for higher education marketing strategies.
- Traditional Media — Even though digital marketing is crucial in today’s climate, broadcast, print and radio are still crucial to higher education marketing. These traditional media outlets have large user bases, providing a vast pool of potential customers for conversion.
- Advertising — Higher education advertising is a prominent piece of the overall business strategy for many academic institutions. Organizations that create targeted and well-executed advertising content can attract more customers and boost organizational success.
Taken as a whole, content creation is absolutely vital to higher education marketing strategies. From blogs and podcasts to social media and branding, content drives higher education marketing endeavors. Without producing top-notch content on a frequent basis, marketing to college students and other audiences can be difficult for higher education organizations.
When higher education organizations prioritize search engine optimization (SEO) marketing, it can improve visibility and rankings within the major search engines. With so many people conducting their research on major search engines like Google, established SEO strategies can assist with higher education advertising and marketing efforts.
As compared with traditional higher education advertising and marketing methods, search engine marketing can yield much more insightful data. Within this domain, pay-per-click (PPC) advertising is a great example. When an organization purchases PPC advertising space, they pay each time a person clicks on the ad link. And when that happens, a virtual treasure trove of data opens up, shedding light on impressions, click-through rate and other valuable insights.
The SEO marketing tactics that higher education institutions often employ to boost search rankings and visibility include:
- Creating and posting great content to websites, blogs, social media and other channels
- Cultivating quality links from high-ranking and authoritative websites
- Developing an engaging presence on social media to expand the quality and quantity of social shares
- Researching and incorporating appropriate keywords to leverage popular search terms
- Ensuring web sites and pages have proper HTML characteristics, including tags, URLs, headings and similar elements
- Utilizing geographically targeted methods to communicate with local, national and even international users
- Improving trustworthiness through domain and page authority as well as minimize bounce rate
- Providing a mobile-friendly, fast-loading and secure online experience to users
That being said, it is significant to note that there are many components to the mechanics of SEO marketing.
These days, social media networks tend to dominate the screen time of most desktop and mobile users. Beyond merely providing entertainment content, social media has evolved into a destination of sorts for information and engagement. From a commercial standpoint, organizations from just about every industry can recognize significant commercial benefits from leveraging the power of social media.
In the arena of higher education, social media marketing (SMM) helps academic institutions communicate with an extremely broad audience. Moreover, social media networks typically include built-in analytics to provide incredible insight into the success or failure of a particular campaign. Combine these factors, and it becomes clear that social media is a powerful tool for higher education marketing.
Social media represents an interesting case within the overall domain of digital marketing, as these networks can combine owned, earned and paid media. Higher education institutions publish their owned media in terms of content and messaging. Earned media shows up in social media through user-submitted content, comments and mentions. Plus, organizations can place social ads to target specific demographics from a paid media standpoint.
In order to leverage the power of social media to the greatest extent, higher education organizations should attempt to:
- Identify strategic goals, such as augmenting user engagement or improving brand equity
- Publish timely and relevant content with appropriate regularity
- Monitor comments, mentions and tags to maximize user engagement
- Review data and analytics to evaluate campaign performance and identify areas for potential adjustment
It is difficult to overstate the importance of brand awareness and equity in the context of higher education marketing. An academic institution’s brand—from the university motto and crest to design elements, school programs and campus identity—is the overarching factor that makes it unique from competitors. In that vein, branding is critical to the success of higher education marketing strategies.
To maximize the impact of branding in higher education, consistency is absolutely pivotal. Academic institutions at this level need to ensure that their brand is consistent across all channels and campaigns. In other words, higher education organizations should strive to communicate the same brand through digital, traditional and social media, not to mention any other marketing endeavors.
In the evaluation of brand awareness and equity, higher education marketers should consider the following questions:
- What services does your organization provide?
- Why should potential customers choose your organization?
- Who are your organization’s actual and ideal customers?
- Where do actual and ideal customers find your organization?
- How is your organization different from other competitors?
More than ever before, consumers are making purchase decisions based on an organization’s underlying mission and values. It is no longer enough to sell potential customers based on product, services, or price. To maintain a strong customer base in this era, higher education organizations should ensure that their branding and marketing efforts reflect a solid narrative.
In this environment, a higher education organization’s mission and values should be front and center. Marketing efforts should highlight nonprofit work and social justice endeavors. Organizational messaging should reflect a diverse and inclusive environment. Above all else, higher education institutions must be sensitive to the distinctly separate needs of teachers, employees, students and parents.
Marketing to college students and even graduate students can be difficult without demonstrating the career value of a particular degree or program. Without a clear articulation of how a degree translates into career opportunities, it can be difficult to maximize student enrollment at a particular school or program.
By detailing the career outcomes of past graduates, higher education organizations can paint a picture of the potential benefits of a degree. In this sense, it is helpful to provide data-driven messaging that explains graduation percentages and expected salaries. Naturally, this type of data can vary greatly from institution to institution—and even across programs within the same school. But overall, prospective students are more likely to enroll if they understand the potential value of a degree.
Last but not least, various societal factors make it imperative for higher education institutions to communicate health, safety and security policies in a clear fashion. From COVID-19 to allegations of sexual misconduct, harassment or discrimination, just every cross-section of higher education will have questions about these policies.
To understand the importance of this type of messaging, consider the challenge of marketing to college students today, particularly concerning on-campus activities. From a health and safety standpoint, students need to know about COVID-19 rules and regulations, including testing, quarantine or vaccination requirements. Remote learning capabilities are also necessary in this context, in the event that in-person classes are not feasible.
In terms of safety and security, college students are seeking out environments that prioritize the prevention of sexual misconduct or unlawful harassment or discrimination. In the unfortunate circumstance that these things happen, there needs to be a clear-cut reporting process. Furthermore, higher education organizations must investigate allegations of misconduct, harassment or discrimination in an upfront and honest fashion.
Without clear information into existing policies, higher education institutions run the risk of limiting potential enrollment or running afoul of government regulations. As a result, it is essential to communicate health, safety and security policies. Otherwise, higher education institutions might complicate their marketing efforts and, most likely, hamper progress toward organizational growth.
If you would like to enhance your higher education marketing strategies, it can be thoroughly helpful to obtain membership with the American Marketing Association (AMA). From training and certifications to networking opportunities at local chapters across North America and many other membership benefits, the AMA helps higher education institutions reach and exceed their marketing goals. To augment your higher education marketing efforts, join AMA today!