Higher Ed Marketing – Standing Out in a Crowd

The higher education world is more competitive today than it ever has been. If you want to attract the best & brightest, it’s important to put together an engaging, comprehensive marketing strategy. So how do you ensure your school will stand out in a sea of competition, especially in the Online space?

Identify Your Target Audience.

Your first step to making your advertising efforts as effective as possible is figuring out who your target market really is. Taking this step is important because it will help you decide things like which channels to use to communicate with your audience. There are at least four types of information that you’ll want to attain through the target market research process. Some of them include:

• Geographic (neighborhood, city, and region)
• Demographic (ethnicity, education, income, gender, family size, and age)
• Behavioristic (attitude, consumption, loyalty, and buying patterns)
• Psychographic (lifestyle, values, social class, life stage, and personality)

One strategy that educational leaders can deploy to locate their target market research is developing focus groups. These focus groups can help you decide what your specific wants and needs are for every demographic subsection, although the process here can be extremely lengthy, and time/resource-intensive. Your school may want to consider partnering with an agency with experience in Market Research & Analysis. Oftentimes, partnering with an agency that specializes in this area takes not only the guesswork out of identifying your ideal audience, but it allows you to tap into extensive experience and knowledge that your team would not have otherwise had access to.

Connect, Connect, Connect.

Building strong, meaningful connections with prospective students is one of the best ways to increase their likelihood of choosing your school over others. Colleges & Universities who figure out how to continually connect with their audience in a manner that facilitates outcomes like ongoing dialogues and brand loyalty statistically have higher enrollment percentages and overall student retention. When you start thinking about what steps you need to take to really connect with individuals who might be interested in your school, remember that the needs and purposes of individuals who are going back to school will likely be different than those of a first-time student. While a first-time student is oftentimes just looking for a way to finish a degree program, the returning student is generally more concerned with things like the practical advantages of taking your class.

Once you recognize the unique needs of people who are returning to school, you can develop cutting edge, customized strategies that help you connect and convert them. One thing to think about as you begin reaching out to these individuals is the connection between them taking your courses and subsequently optimizing some significant part of their professional or personal lives. For example, taking several continuing education courses might improve the student’s odds of attaining a promotion, developing their own business, or making connections that advance their career in some significant way.

In addition to demonstrating the connection between taking ongoing courses and making professional advancements, you should discuss the role that class completion can play in facilitating life achievements. Targeting the practical and emotional sides of achievement can oftentimes sway someone who is on the fence. As such, using marketing material that taps into the emotive, personal significance of educational advancement is immensely important. This objective can be accomplished in many ways, such as using marketing material with family photos depicting how attaining the degree constitutes a milestone that positively impacts everyone in the student’s immediate environment.

Share Success Stories.

Another marketing strategy savvy Colleges & Universities should use to promote their programs is sharing success stories – how has your institution benefited current and past students? Note that word-of-mouth advertising is one of the most effective marketing modalities on the block, and this is because it builds the individual’s belief in the validity of your brand. Specifically, having someone you trust tell you that a brand is valuable typically carries more weight than receiving this information through the radio or television. Positive online reviews also carry a lot of weight, so be sure that you’re encouraging satisfied students to share their experiences with your educational facility. As with most other forms of advertising, making this modality as personal as possible can be the key to attaining exemplary results. If you can, try to have a few people personalize their success stories with a brief bio and pictures so that prospects understand that real people are having profoundly personal, positive experiences with your educational brands.

Keep Your Website Simple.

Another strategy you can implement to promote your brand more effectively is keeping your website simple. Note that your website is an important, inalienable element of your online marketing process because this is the medium people use to enroll, learn more about your school, ask questions, etc. As such, you want to make your website as functional & user-friendly as possible. Luckily, there are hundreds of web optimization techniques you can implement to make this happen. One is the use of responsive web design strategies which make your website accessible for individuals who use mobile devices. Another is the use of “Live Chat” features which enable prospects to speak directly with a company representative regarding any questions they have about the school.

Another strategy you can implement to optimize your website is making enrollment as easy as possible. In some cases, it can be prudent to do a bit of research on what your competitors are including in their websites and then mirror their web optimization strategies. Also note that setting up your retail site so that you can put classes in a “basket” can be a very powerful strategy.

Advertise Your Educators.

Another strategy you can implement to make your continuing education marketing program more effective is advertising your educators – what makes your faculty stand out versus other institutions? This step is important because it optimizes the sense of connection that prospective students will have with your learning community. When they feel that they actually know the people who will be teaching them, they’re much more likely to enroll in your school and feel confident and enthused about taking classes at your university. This is why creating a “get to know your instructor” page can be one of the most effective advertising methodologies you deploy this year.

Colleges & Universities who want to learn how to effectively advertise their continuing education programs should know that there are multiple marketing methodologies they can utilize as moving parts of one overall holistic strategy.

Partnering with an agency that specializes in developing higher education branding & awareness can add immeasurable value to your existing marketing strategies. Reach out today to learn how Banner Edge can significantly increase the performance of your existing marketing plan.

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