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5 Must-haves for launching a new college program


1.      Figuring out your ideal student

Who are you speaking to? Successful marketing campaigns always start with the audience. If your program is geared toward recent High School grads, known as Generation Z, here are a few statistics to consider:

  • Gen Zer’s use five screens: a smartphone, TV, laptop, desktop, and iPad
  • 95% of Gen Zer’s use YouTube, and 50% say they couldn’t live without YouTube
  • Of all Gen Zer’s, 69% use Instagram, 67% use Facebook and 67% use Snapchat

These and similar insights are invaluable as you construct your communication strategy. What are their needs and aspirations? What are the potential barriers they will face before enrolling in your program? A strong understanding of your audience will result in a stronger marketing strategy.

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2.     Competitive research

With increasing competition aiming at your target audience, it’s vital to assess and understand the marketplace. What perception does your target audience have of rival schools? You both may provide rigorous academics, but if your competitor is perceived as more prestigious, you may need to adjust your messaging. Of course, you will want to be aware of the tactics and messaging they are using and what opportunities they might be neglecting that you can capitalize on.  

3.     Develop annual marketing strategy

It’s tempting to dive right into tactics. How about an AdWords campaign? What about a social influencer? Those might be good tactics, but good tactics are the result of a good strategy; not the drivers of a good strategy. Think about how to market your program from an annual perspective. What is your budget? What is the timeline for producing collateral or content you may decide to use? When is your target audience searching? Next, determine the topics your audience is interested in and what mediums they are using. An annual plan is a lot of work, but it’s the backbone of effective marketing.   

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4.     Establish clear KPI’s and goals

How do you measure success? If you can’t easily answer that, you can’t easily answer if your marketing strategy is effective or not. First, establish clear goals around the program, such as an enrollment goal. Next, determine what Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) you are going to use to measure the effectiveness of your execution. Here are a few examples:  

  • Site traffic (organic, direct, social, mobile, paid, etc.)
  • Conversions (how many visitors are converting into leads by filling out forms)
  • Open rate (how often prospects in your database are opening marketing emails)
  • Cost-per-click (and other AdWords metrics)

5.     Track and optimize

You know your audience. You’ve conducted some competitor research and have an annual plan, goals, and KPI’s documented. You’ve implemented your plan and are starting to see some results. Many communications departments and marketers are satisfied at this point. But your work is actually just beginning. You must track your results and use the data you collect to improve. Perhaps you notice a keyword is converting at a high rate or a post is doing particularly well. Use that intel to make future decisions. Continually tracking and optimizing is the only way to drive continuous results.

If you’d like to learn about inbound marketing and how it can change the game for higher ed institutions, download our free resource.


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