Creative Student Recruitment: Getting Personal in EDU Marketing

creative student recruitmentIn higher education marketing, you probably try all the digital marketing tactics to achieve higher enrollment rates. Maybe that’s pay-per-click advertising or search engine optimization. While I’m a proponent of both, I think college marketers can lose sight of the bigger picture. They get lost in the data. They stress under deadlines. They celebrate the wins of increased enrollments and feel the pangs of defeat when a program is underperforming.

Rarely do they stop to consider what their milestones and KPIs mean for each student. They focus on marketing the college, but do they really anticipate student needs? If they get personal (and creative) by addressing students’ concerns and desires ahead of time, the battle of getting students to click “Apply now” is already half-won.

Consider these common college “regrets,” “things I wish I knew,” and “wish-I-would-haves” from real college alumni. They probably sound familiar. They’re common experiences that can only be realized in hindsight. Keep them in mind when creating your marketing plans. They will help you think outside of the box – and reach the heart of what matters to your prospective students:

“I wish I would have experienced a broader community.”

Freshman year is the first time teens are faced with the opportunity to start fresh. They can develop themselves into the people they want to be. This is exciting, but it strikes fear in a large number of incoming undergraduates. Will they be liked? Will they fit in? How will they make friends?

Don’t ignore these concerns; find a way to market your university’s community-building opportunities. Maybe it’s a networking event for prospective students, an email that explains the roommate selection process, or a Facebook group for each dormitory. Get creative in how you ease the anxiety of your newest group of students. Here’s a cool example of a college promoting their community identity.

“I wish I would have balanced my time better.”

As students work on building community, they struggle with balancing their school and personal lives – particularly in the first year. It’s a major concern for most parents. Facing this pain point of the college experience head-on could win you credibility.

At high school recruitment days, spend a portion of your time discussing this balance (and round off the session with branded planners). Or build parent confidence by arming them with resources for addressing this topic. Simply adding a link to your academic or tutoring center in emails creates a sense of support. (Increased retention rate from addressing this struggle is a bonus!)

“I wish I would have majored in something that better aligns with my life goals.”

Knowing what they want to do with the rest of their lives isn’t something you should expect from your incoming students. Around 75% of them will change their majors before they graduate. Find a way to understand and embrace this indecision. Consider these techniques:

  • Rename your undeclared major to something more exciting.
  • Admit students into a particular “area of interest” as opposed to a specific degree.
  • Hold a faculty Q&A session as part of a guided tour.

Helping undecided students feel like they have a place on your campus will boost their confidence in what your university has to offer them.

“I wish I would have taken better advantage of on-campus resources and events.”

The decision to attend a college goes beyond location, program offering, and price point. It extends to the emotions and preferences of each student. Look for ways to include non-program related differentiators in your marketing campaigns. How about a Vine series of highlights from your nationally-ranked basketball team? Or an infographic of your tutoring and advising services? Try an instructo-graphic explaining how to use those complex machines at the gym, or a Tumblr micro-blog for your study abroad students.

The more you highlight what makes your university great, the more you’ll reach prospective students on an individual level. Take, for instance, this twitter account that celebrates “the best damn band in the land.”

By getting personal, higher education marketers can flip their strategies. Instead of simply marketing the college, focus on informing and empowering the student.Tweet: Instead of marketing your college, focus on informing and empowering the student. http://ctt.ec/BaINk+ #highered [Click to tweet]

What is your biggest college “regret”? What would you do differently if given the chance? Leave a comment below to inspire us all.

About Kelly Krasuna

A graduate of the University of Toledo, Kelly holds a degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations. She is a Senior Digital Specialist on Fathom’s EDU team, and brings several years of experience in ecommerce and lead-generation across both regional and national enterprise accounts. She holds certifications in Google Analytics and Google Adwords. Kelly enjoys Cleveland sports, her fiance Jeff, her calico cat and traveling.

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