For a long time, many higher education institutions relied on their prestige and reputation — their brand — to drive enrollment. Students were confident of employment once their degree was securely in hand. Schools could simply put the message out there via TV, radio, print and outdoor media. But with the proliferation of the internet and the shifts in consumer behavior, times have changed. Even though there are more options to target your audience, the new savvy consumer doesn’t necessarily want to hear your advertising like they used to. Today, consumers can turn your messages on and off like never before. They are in the driver’s seat and control the content that comes to them. Attracting and enrolling the right students takes a thoughtful, strategic approach.
Pain point: higher ed is facing declining enrollment
Statistically, enrollment is down. We recently covered that here. But here’s a quick reminder: On average, all schools are suffering from declining enrollment. To sum it up, research has shown that by May 1st, “Only 34 percent of colleges met new student enrollment targets this year.” If your college is facing the same grim senario, we're here to help by discussing a path towards lasting marketing success. We call it the 1-2 punch.
The 1-2 punch to reverse college enrollment decline
Marketing and communications directors are faced with a tall task: attract more prospective students and better-qualified ones. More and better is tough. The best way to attack this dual goal is to utilize a dual strategy: build an amazing brand that commands long-lasting attention and layer on a performance marketing approach that connects with the right audience to drive results. It is a one-two brand-and-marketing punch.
Strong brands command long-lasting attention
A brand is not your logo, jingle, or tagline. A brand is a claim of distinction — it’s your stake in the ground that states what you stand for. A strong brand is a consistent drumbeat of your promise. It may not drive results overnight, but it strengthens your position over time. Strong brands live at the intersection of management’s vision, internal culture and audience motivation. The last one — audience motivation — is the basis for your marketing plan.
Strategic marketing drives results
You can’t be everything to everyone, so it’s important to figure out who your best prospect is by studying your ideal students. Dive into their buying habits, pain points and media consumption to get clarity around who your ideal prospective students are. With a clear view of your ideal prospective students, map out the decision-making journey they follow to ascertain which types of messaging will be most welcomed at each stage of their journey.
According to collegeboard.org, most high school students start the application process in the fall of their senior year. That means tomorrow’s college students are doing research right now. Make sure your communications are appropriate to the place they are at during their journey towards a decision. Helpful information assists during the research stage. As they progress, display your differentiation — your stake in the ground — so they understand why your school stands apart from numerous competitors. Finally, follow through on your brand promise.
When you take the time to build a brand that your audience can relate to and when you implement strategies that connect with your ideal prospective students on their terms, you will attract, not only a larger number of leads but better-qualified ones at that. Great leads turn into enrollments.
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