With the end of the Fall 2022 semester nearly upon us, this is a critical time to brush up on the pillars of a solid enrollment marketing strategy.
Enrollment is the bread and butter of your school’s revenue. So, your school’s content marketing strategy must put prospective students front and center, now more than ever.
If you’ve been tracking enrollment metrics across the U.S., you know that the numbers are not encouraging.
Since Spring 2020, the national higher ed student population has declined by nearly 1.3 million. That’s a 7.6 percent drop since the beginning of the pandemic.
And while we saw a significant bump in students this spring, the total post-secondary population is still below pre-pandemic numbers.
But these levels aren’t strictly a COVID issue – this has been a systemic problem for years. According to this Wall Street Journal article, the number of school closures has quadrupled in the last decade compared to the previous one.
I don’t state these facts lightly. We’re not in the scare tactics business here at Caylor Solutions. But I think it’s vital that higher ed marketers get a clear picture of the table stakes.
You cannot afford to ad-lib your enrollment marketing strategy.
Without a well-defined plan, you’ll never be able to align your school’s recruitment goals, and your enrollment pipeline will eventually run dry.
For now, rather than use a broad brush to paint a giant enrollment marketing strategy picture, I’d like to target a few essential requisites.
So, here are three enrollment marketing basics to hone in on for 2023!
1. Build Your Website Around Enrollment Marketing
When you scan your school’s website, ask yourself: What is your focus?
The answer should be your revenue generators. And for the vast majority of colleges and universities, your top income stream is enrollment.
Posting the weekly cafeteria menu or library hours in a visible spot on the front page is a nice convenience. But will that help impact a prospective student’s decision about your school?
Your website isn’t just an obligatory asset in your digital marketing toolbox – it is the most important weapon in your enrollment marketing arsenal.
Does Your Website Provide Clarity?
Potential students and their parents will have lots of questions and will be coming to your website for answers. Therefore, you must ensure that your website is user-friendly and easy to navigate.
I could give you a whole checklist for web strategy. But for now, take a spin around your website and consider these top priorities:
- Do you utilize lists and bullet points?
- Is your “Search” bar and contact info clearly visible on each page?
- Are your paragraphs short, simple, and to the point?
- Is your search engine marketing up to snuff? Will your evergreen content be prominently featured in general searches?
The number one reason users give websites a speedy farewell is they don’t find what they need.
Above all else, ensure that your main landing pages answer your visitors’ questions.
Don’t Neglect Technology
Bear in mind that a big part of streamlining the user experience is the technology behind it.
The younger the demographic in your target audience, the more likely they’ll be to access your website through mobile.
Ensure you’ve optimized your website for screens of any and all sizes. While having a mobile app is a great idea, your website should be mobile-friendly at the bare minimum.
Therefore, you’ll need to employ a responsive web design so your site is readily viewable across all devices. This approach is especially important for your messaging capabilities as recipients now open about 62 percent of their emails on a mobile device.
2. Highlight User-Focused Content
The more things change, the more some stay the same – and the latter is absolutely true about content marketing.
Content is still king in enrollment marketing. And rich user-focused content is what will actively engage your target audience.
So, what do I mean by “user-focused?”
I’m sure you have people in your administration who are bursting at the seams wanting to tell the world about all of your school’s accomplishments. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but most of your prospective students don’t care about that science award you won last year.
As a higher ed marketer, you need to refine the raw topics at your disposal into content that puts your target audience’s needs first.
First, ensure that your – say it with me – enrollment marketing website has a quality stable of evergreen content.
Evergreen content is any content that could be considered a permanent fixture on your website. While you may need to update it occasionally, its primary purpose is to address your visitors’ most common questions or concerns year-round, such as:
- Finding and applying for financial aid
- Preparing for campus life
- Getting the most out of the college experience
- Campus statistics, like graduation rates and safety-related topics
By getting in front of your target audience with the big questions, your visitors will feel more inclined to approach you with the small ones.
Once you’ve filled your evergreen bucket, you’ll need to develop a strategy for regularly producing fresh content.
A consistent output of rotating content will drive more traffic to your site by boosting your SEO.
To clarify, “fresh” does not necessarily translate to “current” (although that doesn’t hurt!). A good marketing team can repurpose an inventory of rich content assets to no end.
What matters is that your content resonates with your target audience’s emotions and engages their curiosity.
Here are some examples of fresh content for your website and other marketing materials:
- Student stories your audience can connect with
- Photos and videos that will inspire the audience
- Write about challenges, dreams, and even concerns your audience may have about a particular program or event
You may have noticed a key theme in that last list: audience.
As long as you maintain a vision of generating user-focused content, you are well on your way off the launchpad for your enrollment marketing strategy.
3. Incorporate Multiple Lead Generation Tactics
I know most higher ed marketers cringe at being compared to corporate sales.
But let’s be frank – in a sense, you’re working towards “closing the sale” when asking for a student’s application to your school.
Not only are today’s prospects distracted by a tsunami of digital noise, but the average student applies to up to a dozen colleges.
So, it would be best to pursue every avenue available to you when nurturing the lead generation funnel. If your current lead generation playbook isn’t keeping you in the game, it’s time to shake things up.
I’d suggest implementing one or more of the following tactics to get started:
Change Up Your Call to Action
Honestly, if you’ve gotten bored of certain content, then your audience probably has, too.
Perhaps you should change that welcome message or follow-up correspondence. But don’t get too cute, as you want to maintain respect for your audience.
And consider using a small control group before expanding a significant change to your entire enrollment pipeline.
Personalization is essential to the student prospect experience.
Thankfully, several software platforms can help you automate your personalized digital and analog messaging solutions.
With so much recruitment data readily available, it’s easier than ever to acknowledge birthdays and other events with little to no micromanagement.
Offer Unique Incentives
Waived application fees, scholarship consideration, faster admission…
While these age-old incentives may strike a chord with the rare impassive recruit, they don’t make anyone feel special.
Try adding a little whimsy to your incentive pool:
- Tickets or vouchers for campus events
- Gift cards to local restaurants and other business partners
- A Cameo from a celebrity alum
- Custom swag embroidered/labeled with the recruit’s name
Whatever approach you choose, your objective is to stand out from the crowd. By differentiating yourself, recruits will remember you. And that’s a win.
Students are the Common Thread in Enrollment Marketing
I’ve highlighted three fundamentals for your enrollment marketing strategy, but only one commonality will determine their effectiveness: how well they engage prospective students.
Any platform or content not centered on your target audience is a misuse of resources – period.
But by developing your school website around enrollment, curating user-focused content, and utilizing multiple channels for lead generations, you will be well on your way to a successful strategy.
And if you’re unsure where to start, I’d love to help you kick off 2023 on a high note and move your school’s enrollment marketing forward.
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