Last month, over thirty higher education administrators assembled for two days in Austin, Texas, to discuss the future of higher education marketing. Among the group were presidents, provosts, directors and managers of marketing, enrollment, and admissions representing some of the most prestigious institutions in the country. They gathered at the Independence Inn in the heart of downtown Austin to discuss the unique challenges facing their institutions and to share strategies and tactics for overcoming these challenges. Though many topics were examined, there were three overarching themes that stood out during the meeting. They are:
Age no longer predicts learning patterns.
You can’t manage what you can’t measure.
Marketing diversification is key.
Let’s take a closer look at all three of these critically important themes and how you can respond to them within your institution.
1. Age no longer predicts learning patterns
Gone are the days of online students all being adults who have aged out of the traditional college experience. Even longer gone are the days of the majority of undergraduates studying full-time, on-campus, and straight out of high school. Carol Aslanian—President and Founder of Aslanian Market Research—presented recent data from her new, Post-Traditional College Students Report,shedding light on how much the post-traditional student has transformed since the demand for remote learning and untraditional courses of study have increased. “Slightly more than half of post-traditional students are 29 years of age or younger when they first enrolled or reenrolled in undergraduate education,” Aslanian reported. “What’s more, 40 percent of those surveyed preferred to take classes during the afternoon and evening hours, suggesting that many prospective students now work part-time or have other family obligations, which only permits them to study during off-hours.” If your institution is seeking to attract post-traditional students, you must not only be aware of these preferences but also offer options to satiate the needs of this cohort.
2. You can’t manage what you can’t measure
In today’s multichannel marketing world, prospective students are interacting and engaging with your institutions across a myriad of platforms and channels. The good news: digital marketing makes it easier than ever to reach the right students at the right time. The bad news: it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to efficiently track, measure, and optimize your campaigns. Without the right processes and tools in place, you could end up spending your higher education media budget both inefficiently and ineffectively. Thankfully, there now exists higher education marketing analytics tools to help you track and surface pertinent information in realtime. “With the right tool in place, you can quickly and easily optimize each layer of your enrollment funnel by tracking where students are entering your funnel and how they ultimately become an enrollment,” described Greg Clayton, President of Student Acquisition Solutions, during his presentation titled: Calculating the ROI of Your Marketing Dollars. To accurately determine which marketing channels work, which don’t, and which deserve more budget, all the factions of your digital marketing must be connected to your analytical tool.
3. Marketing diversification is key
You’ve determined the audience, setup systems to capture your marketing data, and now you need to spend your marketing dollars. Well, as the old adage goes: don’t spend all of your money in one place. During the conference several attendees expressed that when it came to determining what their digital marketing mix should look like, they weren’t sure how to prioritize or where to allocate their spending. “Just as you would diversify your personal investments, you should diversify how your digital marketing budget is allocated,” explained Bruce Douglas’ CEO of EducationDynamics duringhis presentation titled, Building a Digital Marketing Strategy to Attract Post-Traditional Students, which highlighted some possible areas for digital marketing allocation, including:
Search Engine Optimization (SEO/Organic Search)
Search Engine Marketing/Paid Search
Display and Social Advertising
Don’t believe digital media is important? Well according to a recent Google higher education study: 86 percent of prospective students said digital resources played an important role in their education process. That’s double the number who said admissions counselors were important and almost triple the number of family and friends. Considering how much of prospective students’ time is spent on their phones and computers, institutions must leverage digital campaigns that find and target students where they are active—not passively wait for students to find them. Though, many other topics were discussed, these three stood out as the most important among the higher education administrators who attended the Austin Showcase. Interested in learning more? Register to attend the Conference on Adult Learner Enrollment Management (CALEM), held in Denver on April 5-7, 2017. With 28 speakers, 33 sessions, and hundreds of higher education professionals attending, you’re sure to learn marketing, enrollment, and admissions strategies and tactics to help you reach your adult student enrollment goals.