Recruiting students to colleges and universities has become a marketing challenge. With so many colleges to choose from, competition has become fierce between institutions. Aggressive marketing tactics and widespread advertising campaigns that direct mail to students who have taken the ACT and SAT tests are just a few of the tactics employed to attract students.
What works best though? How can colleges and universities facilitate more enrollments? The answer is not simple, but there are new methods that make the old ones obsolete. It’s time to let go of the old tactics and embrace new innovations that are proving viable in the field of student recruitment.
One old recruitment strategy, “name buying,” has been for years a major source of potential students. Colleges purchase names from companies like the ACT and SAT to target students and cultivate these prospective enrollees. What used to be the best option resembles a cry for help nowadays, as conversion rates for the ACT or SAT names have dropped significantly.
With success dwindling, name buying has become less and less feasible. It doesn’t guarantee success, and it leaves many schools wondering if name buying is a wise use of money. It’s a gamble, and outsourcing the name buying and marketing hasn’t significantly improved the results.
What it comes down to is a seemingly endless stream of mailing brochures and marketing pitches. While some students are flattered by all this attention, many become annoyed at what they perceive as being spammed by too many schools.
A recent poll conducted by the Sixth Sense survey asked 69 UK universities and higher education recruitment teams what strategies are working, and which ones are falling to the wayside.
The results of the poll showed that of all the options, advertising in national and local press was far less important than it was five years ago. In addition, international advertising and directories were also said to be outdated. Combine these with the gamble of name buying, and it becomes clear that there are better options.
In today’s world, the best method for recruiting students and convincing them to enroll lies within the technology at our fingertips. According to the aforementioned poll, the main strategies employed by colleges today encompass three major factors:
● Digital marketing
● Social media
● Unique attributes of the college
It is always said that one should play to their strengths, and that is the best strategy here as well.
It is important to approach these strategies with a profound understanding of what makes each school unique. A college should focus on unique attributes that cannot be matched by other schools. Digital marketing and social media should repeat this focus as well as promote awards the school has won, and statistics that show the success rate of alumni in the real world.
These kinds of differentiators should be the core focal point of any and all student recruitment marketing because these things are unique to each school and therefore cannot be replicated in the exact same fashion elsewhere. It is important, when utilizing social media, however, to remember its purpose.
Simon Pride, head of marketing and communications at Arts University Bournemouth says “Social media should not be used as a form of advertising, but as a tool to engage. You have to invest in the stories you place there, whether that be capturing and celebrating the student experience, or creating apps like kscope which are designed to provoke that engagement.”
Pride puts it perfectly when he says that social media is a tool to engage. Many schools are utilizing it, and the process is viable for every institution no matter its size. It doesn’t require constant budget or monitoring. It is an organic method of marketing that is fueled by the engagement of students who essentially do the promoting for the school by sharing their experiences. Through real world testimonies and stories, schools both large and small can allow their uniqueness to shine through in the social media sites they utilize.
Of course, social media still hasn’t become a completely autonomous method of delivering information, or initiating higher education student recruitment, but it is a great option to use in conjunction with other digital marketing strategies. In the end, each school is unique, and it’s those aspects that should shine through in every piece of marketing, advertising, and social media that they employ.
Through the approaches outlined in previous paragraphs, colleges and universities can substantially increase enrollment. There areother ways to gain exposure, including being designated a Best Value College, a third party award system that recognizes good reasonably priced schools. Most awardees are smaller colleges and universities that can finally receive the attention they deserve. The process of earning the Best Value School desigantion begins with someone nominating a college. The school itself can fill out a free nomination form online.
This prestigious honor – in the form of a crystal trophy - is given to colleges and universities on an in-depth examinationhe of each school by higher education experts. It is not a metrics-based ranking system like everyone else uses. Awardees not only receive a Best Value School Crystal Trophy, but are also aggressively promoted across the organization’s website. Name buying is becoming obsolete, but new and exciting opportunities are available to colleges and universities no matter how big or small. Digital marketing, social media, special recognition programs like the Best Value School Award, and discovering the unique attributes of each school can be combined to improve student recruitment.