Find the Right Higher Ed Marketing Media Mix

By: Sarah Russell Feb 06, 2023

Find the Right Higher Ed Marketing Media Mix

Molded Jello recipes make up a surprising percentage of any American recipe book from the 1950s. A hostess of the era could have fed guests four courses of wobbly, gelatin-encased food and had people asking for seconds. Yet, tastes have changed, and so has the diversity of modern dinner party menus. The same is true for the higher education marketing media mix.

A one-channel approach certainly won’t deliver optimum enrollment results. Colleges and universities need to balance and re-balance their media mix based on down-funnel performance to get optimal results for their school and its audience. Fortunately, modern higher ed marketers have access to data that can help them continuously optimize their mix for enrollment growth in 2023 and beyond.

How to Choose Marketing Channels for Higher Ed

Step 1: Identify your target audience. Understand student demographics and other relevant characteristics.

Step 2: Research marketing channels. Consider which ones are most likely to reach the target audience.

Step 3: Determine budget and resources. Choose channels that are cost-effective and feasible to implement.

Step 4: Test and measure results.Use metrics to measure the success of each channel.

Step 5: Adjust and optimize. Adjust the marketing mix to focus on the channels that are driving the most results.

infographic demonstrating five steps to choose marketing channels for higher education. Steps include identifying your target audience, researching marketing channels, determining budget and resources, testing and measuring and results, and adjusting and optimizing the mix.

4 Media Types To Include In The Media Marketing Mix

An effective marketing mix is diversified and carefully balanced. Diverse platforms and formats help marketing messages reach the right students in a targeted, cost-effective way. While the optimum mix may differ depending on the college, ideal audience, and credential type, there are several marketing channels that can be effective for higher education marketing.

1. Digital marketing – search, social, email and online ads

Education advertisers continue to increase spend on digital marketing. Search spending went up by around 175% in 2022 and online video spending grew 128%.

Google remains the largest media channel by ad adoption. But, it’s no longer the only giant in the space. Apple search ads is equally large. CPC varies widely depending on the program category being advertised.

On social media, Facebook usage has been dropping since 2014, but Instagram and Snapchat saw a rise in users over the same period. Today, two-thirds of U.S. teens use TikTok. Whether categorized as a search engine or a social media platform, the fact remains that Youtube is watched by 95% of U.S. teens, a massive potential market.

All of these mediums have a wide reach, while allowing marketers to tailor their audience targeting and ad messaging. Digital marketing is likely to make up a big portion of any higher education media marketing mix.

2. Awareness marketing – TV, streaming, radio, and out of home

While digital is often a major focus for marketers, other types of platforms offer more opportunities for awareness marketing. More than 85 million U.S. households stream content via CTV every month. Those households streamed an average of 122 hours of CTV content per month. Netflix’s recent move to offer an ad-supported option may have expanded the streaming opportunities since the platform accounts for both the largest reach and the highest number of hours.

Platforms like Spotify, Hulu and the ubiquitous YouTube, each have slightly different audiences. Placements on these various platforms can increase the overall brand footprint and brand equity.

3. Events – open houses, information sessions, webinars

In-person and online events often get left out of conversations about marketing mix, but they can make an impact. In-person events like open houses, hybrid-style information sessions, and online webinars all create opportunities to engage potential students and answer their questions about the college or university.

4. Partnerships – businesses, nonprofits, professional associations

Partnering with other organizations or businesses can be a great way to reach new audiences and offer value to potential students. Such partnerships can create a two-way exchange. Not only can they help colleges and universities connect to potential students, partnerships can also help institutions gather information about the credentials and outcomes students are looking for.

Each of these channels is most effective when targeted based on audience and goals. Of course, budget is a factor as well. By monitoring down-funnel performance, specifically enrollments and graduates, marketers can make informed decisions about how to balance their marketing mix and their budget.

Balancing a media mix is a lot more challenging than planning a dinner menu. Many college and university teams turn to EducationDynamics, a full-service marketing agency that can help them build comprehensive strategies and manage placements. We help our college and university clients talk to prospective students where they live and track results from consideration to graduation and beyond. No gelatin mix required.