University admissions are down across the board. According to UCAS in 2017 University applications dropped by 5%. It has also been reported by The Guardian that there is likely to be a 2% decline in 2018. As a result, higher education providers need to become more switched on with their marketing and embrace the latest digital trends to stay ahead of the competition. We look at some of the key digital marketing trends and how higher education providers can embrace them to supercharge new applications.
1. Persona Development
A persona is a fictional representation of a buyer. For a University, a potential buyer could be an A-level student, a graduate or it could just as easily be a parent. The messaging for these three groups would be entirely different. Personalising marketing messages according to a persona’s demographic, behaviours and beliefs is one sure fire way to cut through the noise and capture attention. The best place to start is analysing internal data sources, CRM systems and HEIDI are packed with detailed information about past and present students. Next step is running a series of workshops with key stakeholders from all parts of the University. This could be staff from admissions, lecturers, students and counsellors. To back this up conducting interviews with new graduates and alumni can help refine persona’s to ensure marketing messages are super relevant. Persona’s can also help with social media platform selection as well as content type, topic and frequency.
2. Inbound Marketing
Inbound marketing is the production and promotion of educational, valuable and entertaining content designed to attract potential customer (students) to your brand. In a 2018 QS report 86% of women and 82% of men favoured online research over offline for researching University choices. The proliferation of online self-promotional material from higher education providers means most potential students have tuned out from traditional "push" advertising methods. Instead, developing content that is aimed to answer potential student questions and help them through the University selection process is more likely to develop trust and credibility. Blogs are a great place to start posting fresh content. After all according to HubSpot companies that published 16+ blog posts per month got about 4.5X more leads than companies that published 0-4 monthly posts.
3. Social Media & Video
Whilst most higher education providers are embracing social media and ensuring they are regularly updating their profiles, many lack a cohesive strategy and the correct type of content to engage potential students. According the 2018 QS report Facebook is the most popular platform for researching Universities and YouTube the 2nd. Particularly with the undergraduate age group, video is a more engaging format for digesting content and consumption of video content is only growing. A 2017 comScore report revealed that people aged between 18-24 watched 486.6 videos each on average during July 2017. Also, think about engaging current students in marketing campaigns, use their affinity with social media for new ideas. Involving them in marketing campaigns will not only be more engaging but will also spread the word to their friendship groups who could well be prospective students.
4. Mobile Optimisation
The 2018 QS report report reveals that 25% of students are researching Universities using mobile. It’s therefore vital that Universities are ensuring their websites are responsive and optimised for mobile. Remember visitors browsing on mobile tend to have a shorter attention span and are less tolerant of slow page load times
Mobile users should also be addressed when considering website SEO. Along with an increase in mobile usage there comes an increase in voice search. According to comScore 50% of all searches by 2020 will be through voice. When Universities are reviewing SEO on their website they should be paying greater attention to the fact they need to optimise for voice search. Consider using more conversational content in blogs and on the website as a first step to addressing this.
5. Tracking Return on Investment (ROI)
Higher education providers rely on student intake to maintain the balance sheet and marketing is a critical method in attracting new students. Like many businesses, higher education providers have hidden often away from ROI metrics when assessing the effectiveness of marketing campaigns. The reality is that if you can show you are achieving an ROI it’s a much easier conversation when you are looking to increase budget. Technology and specifically Martech has made it much easier to track key KPI’s and metrics so this is no longer an excuse. The majority of the data needed data is available through Google Analytics and Marketing automation platform reporting. There is always an element of test and learn with any marketing channel and the only way to effectively measure the success is to measure ROI and continually evolve to ensure goals and KPI’s are met and exceeded.
If you are a higher education provider looking to dial into the latest trends and need help developing and executing your digital marketing strategy book a free consultation or read more about our service offering.