• Ani Kodjabasheva

How Data-Focused Marketing Can Boost Student Recruitment: 5 Tips for Universities

То optimise reach and engagement, universities need digital marketing expertise and a more data-focused approach.

The recruitment cycle has changed in 2020, and universities need to find innovative ways to engage candidates. Prospective students’ lives are changing as well. Studies show that most do not intend to give up on their study plans, but may delay them.

The challenge for universities is to engage these young people at an uncertain time via exclusively online channels. Many universities are already experimenting with digital tools: in one survey of over 250 US universities, 62% reported using video conferences, and 89% were planning social media live events. For the majority of respondents, however, these were new tools they were just starting to employ. The next step is scaling these solutions to optimise their reach and engagement.

This is where universities need digital marketing expertise and a more data-focused approach. To serve this need, Carolyn Gonglefski, the CMO of Advent Group, launched Access Digital – a boutique marketing consultancy that helps university admissions teams reach their goals. So far, Access Digital has run 50 campaigns, including for IESE Business School (Spain), UCD Dublin (Ireland), and Asia School of Business (Malaysia).


I realised that our university partners needed more guidance to fill knowledge gaps and streamline their campaigns. - Carolyn Gonglefski

Based on this experience, as well as Carolyn's background managing Advent Group’s 7 student-focused brands, here are the key insights universities should leverage for recruitment success in 2020 and beyond.


1. Use multi-channel marketing to reach your audience.


It takes 6-10 touchpoints for a prospective student to react to your message. An optimised marketing portfolio includes eye-catching social media and display ads, as well as valuable content that speaks directly to students and guides them through the journey to graduate education.


The 4 million+ annual visitors to Advent Group’s student-facing websites pay attention to schools that provide advice and insight. Ads, social media posts, and email marketing then reinforce this content, making for diversified and highly effective marketing campaigns.


2. Practise remarketing.


During extended, unpredictable recruitment cycles, it is especially important to engage prospects more than once. The longer your campaign runs, the more likely prospects will be to keep your school top of mind as they plan their studies. Reaching the same person with a follow-up ad may matter more than reaching a greater number of people only once.


Access Digital campaigns run for up to 6 months, and multiple touchpoints lead to sustained engagement and more conversions.


3. Adjust your approach throughout the campaign based on data.


Marketing depends on rigorous testing. Each campaign is like a scientific experiment that needs careful examination. Are people engaging with your social media posts and clicking on your ads? If not, what could you do differently to draw them in – for example, more appealing visuals, or a more hopeful and positive message? In another possible scenario, think about prospects that are reaching your landing page, but leaving before they complete a desired action. What can you change about the page to improve the results?


Optimising the process requires creativity as well as close data analysis. Data is only useful if it is applied precisely to serve your story and goals.


4. Reimagine who you target.


Who is your ideal student? How do you know? Do not limit yourself by an idea that may be based on incomplete information or stereotypes. You should also try targeting different demographics such as location or work experience, as well as people with varying interests.


For instance, if you are promoting an MBA focused on the wine business – like one of Access Digital’s clients – do you target people in other industries who may want to pivot to wine, or do you go after winemakers who wish to scale their business? Prospective students have different experiences and life stories. It’s good to keep an open mind about where and how to reach and inspire them.


5. Continue your prospects’ admissions journey through direct engagement.


What happens after prospects respond to your outreach efforts? Engaging them directly and keeping the conversation open is essential. Regular communication can establish a lasting relationship with your institution.


It is essential to remember that marketing does not stop when a prospective student applies to your school. This year, universities have experienced stronger “melt” – some admitted and even registered students ultimately decide not to attend.


Crafting helpful, caring communications for admitted students is the final step in getting them to your campus or digital classroom.

A comprehensive marketing strategy and a data-focused approach can help secure steady enrollment. These tips only scratch the surface of what higher ed marketers can do right now to boost awareness of their programmes and to ultimately improve yield.


Access Digital promotes the value of global higher education by helping stakeholders scale their campaigns and build engaged audiences. They would be happy to use their experience and expertise to help you tell your story and expand your student community.


This article was originally published on LinkedIn by Carolyn Gonglefski.

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