As of 2020, the US colleges and Universities industry is worth a massive $528.4 billion. While the industry has experienced consistent growth in the recent past, registering an average growth of 2.6 percent since 2015, it’s still one of the most challenging markets.

Many higher education institutions still struggle to attract new students. It’s significantly more challenging to market newer, smaller institutions.

So how can you come up with a marketing plan that works? We’ve put together 12 proven higher education marketing strategies that can help you in building brand awareness

But first, 

What Is Higher Education Marketing?

Like the phrase suggests, higher education marketing refers to the different marketing approaches a higher education institution adopts to market itself to those seeking a higher education degree. In the US, a higher education degree refers to any degree beyond a high school diploma.

Here Are Some Smart Tips for Marketing for Higher Education

Marketing for universities and colleges does not have to be a challenging affair. Here are some strategies you can embrace. 

1. Develop a Personalized, Targeted Social Campaign

Social media has, through the years, become a wildly popular space for people of all ages. Whether you’re targeting teenage high school students who are beginning their college search or want to reach older people seeking a career change, your potential clients are on social media. Every higher education institution should thus have a strong social marketing strategy for every major social media platform. A great tip on how to advertise on Facebook and other platforms if to make sure you’re personalizing your marketing experience for every audience. The great thing is that this is easy to do on most social media platforms. 

For example, if you’re looking to enroll high school students interested in environmentalism, configure personalized social ads to reach potential clients. Be mindful of the location, age settings, demographic, and interest to ensure your ads and content are reaching your target audience.

2. Appeal to Your Audience’s Emotions 

A college degree can impact someone’s life in different ways. It’s the reason why getting a degree is often a meaningful and emotional experience for most people. Why not take advantage of this when creating your college marketing strategy?

Clients are more likely to buy a product or service if they trust a brand or feel a positive emotion towards it.  So, how do you effectively apply the power of emotion when marketing higher education?  

One way is to inspire potential clients by showing how graduates from your institution have achieved financial success. You could also tell stories of how people who met through your school have had their lives changed. 

The trick is to get creative and pull together compelling storylines that draw new leads in. Remember to include a short video or human photograph to communicate emotions and different stories.

3. Make Your Institution Stand Out 

Sure, college is well-known, has highly regarded professors, boasts a vast array of sports and activities, and endless housing options for students. But so are many other institutions out there. 

What makes your university stand out? Remember, your potential students already know what’s available out there, and there’s plenty of overlap. To keep new leads hooked, you should promote what’s unique about your school.

Is your institution close to a popular beach? Do you have a program where students get real-life internship experience before they graduate? If you think it makes your institution desirable and different, flaunt it in your marketing campaign. 

4. Let Your Successful Students Do Your Talking

Sometimes, the best marketing for colleges is keeping quiet and letting your satisfied former and current students talk for you. You want to avoid coming off as too “salesy” when seeking more tuition for your school. 

That’s why it’s so important to earn positive online reviews. Such reviews help your institution gain social proof. But how?

84 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as they trust in personal recommendations. Most of your potential students will gain trust in your institution if they read positive reviews. 

The great thing is that education is the ideal sector for colleges to gain positive testimonials from happy students. If students have had a great experience at your school, they’ll be happy to speak up and help new students. A short video of one of your current students sharing their insights with an incoming freshman can do wonders for your marketing strategy.

5. Embrace In-Person Networking

An effective way to convert skeptical applicants into thrilled future students is to hold events that enhance real in-person connections. Leaders of top organizations know that in-person social events are vital to the success of their companies.

Sure, digital marketing has plenty of benefits for businesses, but sometimes you need to take things offline and do some in-person networking. Think of creative ideas on how you can bring prospective students together and talk to them. For instance, you can hold an outdoor summer party on campus where your former and current students speak with your potential applicants.

Keep these social events organized, frequent, and publicized.

6. Partner with Your Successful Alumni to Help Boost Your Marketing 

Having your alumni succeed is one of the best things that can happen to your college. That’s because your former students represent your school, and whenever they are profiled and interviewed, chances are they’ll say where they went to university. This alone gives your institution a boost in credibility. 

You can, of course, take things with your successful alumni a not higher. Try to build and nurture good relationships with your students deliberately, so they’ll be happy to promote you by speaking about how wonderful and unique your institution is.

One way to partner with alumni who have succeeded in major ways entails honoring them with awards.  For example, if one of your alumni is the president of a top financial institution, you can honor them with an Alumni Professional Achievement Award. Giving them this recognition inspires future students who aspire to achieve success in the financial industry.

7. Leverage the Power of Video Marketing 

The growth of video as an e-commerce marketing tool has been phenomenal in recent years. Today, the vast majority of universities in the US have a YouTube presence as part of their video marketing strategy.

Keep in mind that not all potential students have the time or the means to visit each college they’re considering applying to in person. Many of them, however, would gladly watch a video about your institution and what it offers. Plus, video can help generate interest in students who may not even have been considering looking at your programs in the first place.

That’s why video should be one of the first tools in your digital marketing playbook. Post top qualities on both your website and social media platforms that generate interest in potential applicants. A short video showing happy students returning to campus can get your target audience excited. 

8. Start an Inspiring Campus Blog

For college university marketers, running a top-quality blog is vital to their marketing strategy. Sure, the venture is a long-term conversion approach, but it’s an excellent way to get your target audience invested in your institution. 

Consider running niche blogs for various interests. For instance, you can start a video blog for business people that teaches and inspires future business leaders. Have clear CTAs for people who’d like to learn more about your business programs. 

A well-written blog is effective because it feels genuine. Instead of being pushy, you are allowing your prospective students to do their research. Readers don’t feel pressured to join your institution. 

9. Promote Your Great Press 

Did you recently receive positive press for winning a prize or being among the top ten institutions in your area? Include this great news in your marketing campaign. 

You want to show off how well-liked your school is. Even better, you want to instill confidence in your potential students that investing in your programs is well worth it. Share with the world any positive press across all your social media platforms.

10. Market on Top Podcasts

About 51 percent of Americans above the age of 12 have listened to a podcast at some point. Tens of millions listen to podcasts every month. 

The vast majority of people who listen to podcasts are young adults. These are the people who are most likely pursuing degrees or are about to join a college soon. If you are not running podcast ads, you are thus missing out on a lucrative marketing approach. 

When you advertise on popular podcasts, you gain the attention of your potential students while they’re watching something they enjoy. 

So which podcasts should you sponsor? That depends on the programs you are recruiting to join. If you have a graduate business program, you want to target well-known business podcasts, as that’s where most of your potential students are likely to be.

11. Use Personalized Emails 

Email marketing is still one of the most effective digital marketing strategies out there. Unfortunately, many educational institutions don’t take full advantage of this simple marketing approach. 

The key to successful email marketing is making your emails as personalized as possible. If people opt into your email, it shows that they’re interested in your institution. It’s an open invitation that you should capitalize on. 

One mistake email marketers do is flooding subscribers with generic information. The best approach is to tailor emails so that they feel like they’re written for one person. 

You can use effective email marketing tools that segment different audiences into email lists. This helps make your communication more specific. It makes it possible for you to address the specific questions and concerns of your prospects, applicants, students, and alumnus. 

As soon as you’ve created emails, use email marketing automation to automate the series for each audience. By doing so, you get to save time without losing the personalization effect. 

Don’t forget to have a clear CTA for each email you send. Moreover, ensure recipients can reply to your emails. Have a team to respond to emails that you receive from your subscribers.

12. Use Chatbots to Respond to Potential Customers

Most applicants expect a response from a representative within the same day they fill out a form. Top universities now use chatbot websites to ensure applicants get fast answers.   

There are tools in the market that can instantly respond to people who visit your website or social media platforms with interest in your programs. These tools automate the initial steps before they escalate the conversation to a real college representative.

Keep in mind that your chances of making contact significantly decrease after just minutes of not giving prospective applicants a response. If you don’t have people standing by for live calls all the time, use chatbots to automate conversations.

Should You Work With a Professional Marketing Agency?

Running a full-time in-house marketing team can be challenging for many colleges and universities. Luckily, many agencies can provide top-notch marketing services for higher education institutions. Of course, the main question is, are these institutions worth the investment?

The simple answer is yes. Here are a few benefits you stand to gain by hiring a professional marketing agency to boost your student enrollment rates. 

You Get to Save Money 

Not many educational institutions can afford to run an in-house marketing team full time. Hiring marketing staff and investing in the right marketing structure can be a significant financial burden. Outsourcing marketing services help you avoid these costs.

You Benefit From Marketing Expertise 

Given that marketing agencies specialize in proven marketing strategies, they have qualified professionals who bring the expertise you need to make your institution stand out. Once you hire such an agency, you gain access to top-level marketing experience and the latest marketing tools.

You Save Time and Effort 

The amount of time and effort that goes into researching and developing an effective marketing strategy is a lot. A reputable marketing strategy has the resources needed to provide a full-service solution within a short time. 

Successful Higher Education Marketing Is Possible

Any institution can build an effective higher education marketing campaign if they set their mind on it. With the strategies we’ve shared in this guide, you should start to see student enrollment rates increase within no time.

Would you like some help with marketing your college or university? Please contact us today.


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