Modern education marketers understand the critical elements to drive new students through proven education marketing strategies.

Education marketing is increasingly competitive, fueled in part by the downturn in enrollments for smaller schools. According to data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, enrollments in the fall of 2016 declined 1.4% ó which may not sound like much but represents more than 270,000 students. 

With more awareness of the difficulty of paying off student loans and the fact that a college education doesnít guarantee a high paying job, smart education marketing is a necessity in order to keep from sliding to that inexorable black hole of empty classrooms.

This article takes a look at some of the top strategies that demand attention for effective marketing.

Branding and Education Marketing

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Most people think of logos when they think of brands, but a brand is more than a logo. A brand covers an individualís perception of a company or an organization as a whole; it has to do with the marketing, the message, the tone, the responsiveness, the customer service, the outreach, and any other point of contact between the organization and the potential customer.

That being said, logos are an important, even vital, part of branding. As the focal point of visual representation of the educational institution, the logo should be easy to remember, aesthetically appealing, and on-message, along with the technical aspects of good logo design, such as scalability, vector-based, high resolution and looks good in black and white. 

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Image Credit:†Examples of good education logos

The logo joins other aspects of the brand when it comes to high-quality marketing that is clear and consistent across platforms.

Whether youíve designed a flyer to advertise autumn enrollment, or youíve sent out an email blast about a job fair that the school is hosting, there are multiple aspects that should be considered for your branding.

  • The tone. It represents an educational institution. Is it dignified, yet inviting and friendly? Does it match the feeling that the school desires to promote?
  • The technical quality. Whatever the piece of branding is, itís reflective of higher education, and will, therefore, be subjected to even stronger standards than other companies might have. Is the content well-written, reasonable, and easy to understand? Are the spelling and grammar impeccable? Are the formatting and the layouts conducive to legibility and memorability?

Branding also includes the institutionís official website and platform marketing, such as Facebook, Instagram, and other social media.

These are ideal ways to reach out to potential enrollments and offer welcoming and professional conversation, including answering questions and giving tips. All of this helps to spread and grow a solid brand.

How important is social media in marketing an education brand? Studies indicate that half of all teen applicants use five or more social media platforms when doing their college research. 

Marketing Strategy:

  • Create a professional, memorable logo
  • Build a user-friendly website
  • Use social media platforms to connect

Content Creation for Site And Blog

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Any good college website should fulfill certain key objectives:

  • Answer common questions
  • Provide necessary information for interested readers to take the next step
  • Gather potential leads
  • Be usable, accessible, and appealing

But getting potential students to your website, to begin with, is an entirely different ballgame. Marketing in every niche is humming with information and strategies for SEO content. An estimated 93% of people begin their web sessions by using a search engine. That makes search engine rankings a vital concern for education marketing.

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Over and over again, itís proven that one of the best ways to up your SEO-rich content is to create and maintain a blog that is linked to your website. Websites that include a dedicated blog actually tend to have up to 434% more indexed pages than those which donít have a blog attached to them.

And it canít be just any blog content. SEO keywords, especially long-tail keywords, are often more organically worked into blog posts than they are website content. But SEO isnít the only factor for optimized content.

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Image credit: The Daily Riff

Put a special emphasis on creating usable, helpful, entertaining content for each post. Include photos, infographics, and videos at every chance. Increasing the demonstrated usefulness of your content also increases the shares and linkbacks, all contributing to the effectiveness of your blog.

And yes, the website itself is important, too. If your potential students canít find the information they need, thereís no chance that youíre going to actually make any sales. Youíll just end up with a lot of frustrated readers who decide to become students elsewhere.

A newer focus that shouldnít be neglected is the issue of web accessibility. Accessibility guidelines dictate the size, color, and contrast of content in order to make web pages accessible and legible to as many as possible. Cover your bases and follow the guidelines as closely as possible to open up your website to a wider audience.

Education Marketing Strategy:

  • Create and update regularly a blog which showcases usefulness and includes SEO-rich content
  • Include graphics, photos, and videos to increase interest and investment in content
  • Follow web accessibility guidelines for a wider audience

INTEGRATED RECRUITING CAMPAIGN

University of Denver

Weíve met their students, eaten in their dining halls, and uncovered their differentiators.

Networking and Education Marketing

Networking is an integral part of marketing. Effective marketing requires spreading the message about a brand. Just like growth needs oxygen, brands need exposure.

How can you make networking work for you?

  • Social media: Take advantage of the platforms available. Students conduct research through a variety of avenues, including Facebook. Create content that can be posted across platforms, and which funnels the student to the official website.
  • Alumni: Mentioned above, success stories can have a huge impact on enrollment. Successful graduates typically have a fond place in their memories for their school; reach out and invite them to be involved in the recruitment process. Conducting a short interview with a successful former student, either for the transcript or on video, gives prospective students something to aim for. Videos are recommended for engagement, especially if it will be posted on the official website; an average user invests 88% more time on any given site if there is video content.
  • Partnerships: Educational facilities often work together with companies or other organizations, and this gives another opportunity for networking. ďPartnerships between colleges/universities and corporations has been on the rise as federal and state support for higher education institutions decreases,Ē notes the Campus Media Group. Sponsorships and partnerships create new sources of revenue for institutions and can draw attention through the corporate world. 
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Photo by Buro Millennial from Pexels

Social platforms are a primary focus in all markets, and education marketing is no exception. Just take a look at famous examples like Harvard, which boasts 853,000 Twitter followers and more than five million Facebook followers. Those numbers donít happen by accident.

There are a number of fronts for education marketers to strategize for when it comes to social media. Posts can be created around ideas like the following:

  • Promote school pride by featuring the achievements of students, alumni, and faculty. Tell their stories, do Q and Aís, highlight their successes and wins. The personal touch here helps to reinforce the value of investing in education.
  • Feature the best parts of the campus. Many colleges are known for a specific area on campus, such as beautiful grounds or architecturally interesting buildings. The look of a campus can greatly influence the decision making the process a potential student goes through. Creating a ďwalkthroughĒ experience via social media posts also removes possible anxiety over the unknown.
  • Showcase life outside of college. You may not be promoting a ďpartyĒ college, but featuring glimpses of the social life of current students helps potential students to identify with the school.
  • Use hashtags to garner social proof. Hashtags have been around for a while, itís true, so it may seem like some of the excitement has worn off. But they are still being used as a tool to collate posts on social media. By promoting dedicated hashtags, your social media posts can add to the social proof of the popularity of your educational facility.

Following along the same line of thought as the promotion of dedicated hashtags, allowing students to contribute to a schoolís social media platform again boosts the ďidentificationĒ factor.

It also builds current studentsí own investment in their school, which often leads them to promote it on their own social media accounts.

A great example of this done right is found here at the YouTube channel of Flagler College. The collegeís channel features student-created content, walkthroughs, and other videos that highlight the involvement of the attendees. 

Education Marketing Strategy:

  • Plan out cross-platform networking, both virtual and physical.
  • Use online platforms. An estimated billion people use social media.  
  • Create social media profiles with the brand in mind. Each point of contact with a potential lead is a chance to promote the brand personality.
  • Garner social proof through tools like hashtags and student-created content.

Events and Conferences

Networking also requires awareness of upcoming events which give the brand an opportunity to have more exposure. These can be events in the community, such as job fairs, or educational conferences that open up discussion between institutions. Both of these avenues can facilitate network-based marketing.

  • Attend a conference. Keep track of upcoming events with the help of resources like this article, which lists 26 of the most important educational conferences in 2019
  • Host an event. For marketers who want to get creative about spreading awareness of their education brand, practically anything can be a reason to host an event at their school. The aforementioned job fairs are a popular choice, but so are open houses, Teacher Appreciation weeks, Student Appreciation days, Cultural Exchange fairs, winter breaks, and graduations.

Education Marketing Strategy:

  • Take advantage of upcoming events to market the brand.
  • Create events and opportunities to spread awareness.

Sales Funnel and Education Marketing

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Education sales funnels are designed to continually lead the viewer to the next step, with enrollment as the end goal. In this particular market, itís often called the enrollment or admissions funnel.

Each prospective student is at a different stage in the decision-making process. Some are still years away from applying; some wait till the last moment.

Some know exactly what theyíre looking for in a college; others have only a vague idea. Taking all these variations into account is important for an effective funnel.

Hereís a quick breakdown of stages that should be considered.

  • Awareness. Students at this stage may not have a clear idea of where they want to go, or possibly even what theyíre looking for in their further education. Theyíre open to possibilities. Marketing content should include blogs and articles that position the brand as an answer to the studentís problems, and highlight some of the options available.
  • Lead. Students at this stage have a clearer idea of what theyíre looking for, and theyíre doing more investigation. Marketing content should include specific information as to what is offered, schedules, pricing, and incentives to take the next step.
  • Application. Students are ready to apply to the school, though they may apply to others as well. Marketing content should highlight the benefits of enrolling, the features offered, and other factors that set the brand apart from its competitors. Testimonials and success stories from graduates are helpful.
  • Post-Acceptance. The marketing journey doesnít stop after a student is enrolled. The student needs encouragement to pursue their enrollment, follow through on their classes and schedules, and succeed at their goals in order to create the best student-institute relationship possible. Guides and how-tos, links to helpful information, checklists for what is needed before classes start, and other content can boost the student retention rate.

The target audience for a funnel not only ranges from awareness to acceptance and beyond, but there can be a wide variety even among each of those stages.

Market research can help to determine who the brand should be aimed at for the highest efficiency; whether itís young adults looking to go to college in the next year or two, people in their early twenties who have decided to go to a trade school. O

Or someone older who wants to get further education so they can pursue a long-time goal, tailoring the funnel for your intended market requires re-working the content to appeal to the demographic.

Education Marketing Strategy:

  • Create a sales funnel that addresses each stage
  • Conduct market research 
  • Know your intended demographic

Using Winning Strategies for Education Marketing

Though securing applications and enrollments are ever more difficult in the competitive market of today, it isnít impossible to gain an edge. Knowing where to direct marketing efforts, and how best to reach individuals, is key to making your marketing dollars count.

With smart use of virtual platforms, networking, and responsive branding, you can direct attention where it should be ó to your education brand ó and secure sales.

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Wrap up about Strategies for Education Marketing

One of the primary goals of education marketing is to attract prospective students with user-generated content, live streams, marketing campaigns, high ed content marketing, virtual reality and focusing on search engine optimization (SEO), speed for mobile devices and all connected with marketing automation.

It essential that your digital marketing strategy and traditional marketing strategies are integrated across all of the customer touchpoints. 

These touchpoints must be mobile-friendly tailored to your higher education marketing strategy and must take into consideration higher education marketing trends.

Weíre listening.

Have something to say about strategies for education marketing? Share it with us on Facebook, Twitter or our LinkedIn.

Alicia Rother is a freelance content strategist who works with small businesses and startups to boost their brand reach through creative content design and write-ups. You can connect with her here

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