Marketing shouldn’t stop when a prospect becomes a student. Here are ways to use education marketing to increase student retention and continue building your brand.
In education marketing, the emphasis is almost entirely on the prospective student with the goal of motivating them to enroll in your school.
And while it’s true that enrollment should always be the primary objective, education marketers also need to implement strategies that…
- Improve student retention,
- Build education brand authority as students matriculate, and
- Woo alumni back to their alma mater.
There are lots of good reasons for marketing to current students.
Just like in any other business, the marketing cost for student retention is much less than acquiring a new student.
More importantly than the cost savings is the fact that current students will go on to become your biggest brand ambassadors!
Marketing to current students gives them opportunities to share their experience with others.
And one of the big factors in college decisions is knowing people who are currently in the school a year or two ahead.
So if you’re not marketing to current students, they’ll never become the ambassadors you need them to be.
Education Brand vs. the Department
While in school, students naturally form strong relationships and affinities toward the faculty, staff, and students of their department of studies.
This is great for forging long-lasting relationships – and it can produce transformational gifts in the future for those specific departments.
However, if you market to your current students, you can deepen their relationship with your education brand rather than just a love for their department.
This goes a long way when raising annual funds.When donors believe in the vision of your entire educational institution — not just their department or degree program — raising undesignated funds like your annual fund gets much easier.
Cultivating future annual fund donors starts with marketing to current students.
Increasing Your Market Value
Marketing to increase student retention will enhance your school’s market value. Think about it.
The more students you retain, the more students will graduate.
And higher graduation rates mean more value for your school.
When you rank higher, more alumni tend to give, and the perceived value of your education grows.
But how do you use education marketing to increase student retention?
1. Launch a welcome campaign.
When a prospective student enrolls, it’s time to solidify your relationship with a welcome campaign.
New student welcome campaigns should be viewed as a marketing and a student life project.
On one hand, your welcome campaign should reinforce your education brand’s marketing message. But it should also serve a practical purpose.
The welcome campaign should help incoming students orient themselves to life at your school so they can get as much as possible out of their new experience.
Welcome campaigns should cover basics such as…
- Getting around the campus,
- Accessing databases and libraries,
- Where to get help,
- Important dates and deadlines, etc.
This is a time to create a real emotional connection between the student and your education brand as you welcome them and show them just how much they mean to your college or university.
So, should this be in the hands of the marketers or student life services?
Both, if possible.
Since new student welcome campaigns touch both the responsibilities of student life and marketing, I recommend that both departments collaborate as much as possible on this campaign.
2. Brand all of your student life services messaging.
Current students will constantly be interacting with the student life team for events, news, general information, and personal development.
The student life team should certainly be running the show when it comes to these communications, but they need to be informed of your school’s messaging strategy.
All student life communications should carry your educational institution’s branding.
And each communication should use the slogans and language you’ve crafted to express your school’s value proposition.
This way, you’ll remind current students of the value they’re getting from their education every time they receive communication from the student life team.
3. Send regular marketing newsletters to current students.
Every current student should automatically be subscribed to your school’s email newsletter to keep them informed and curious about what’s happening throughout the campus and the various programs you have.
Send announcements to current students about…
- Newly launched academic programs,
- Interesting speakers coming to campus,
- Student testimonials,
- Alumni testimonials,
- Campus upgrades,
- New policies that make student life better,
- Messages from the president or other executives, etc.
Basically, use email marketing to continue an ongoing conversation between your school and the student.
Otherwise, they’ll get tunnel vision and only experience what’s happening in their particular department.
4. Ask for opinions.
Every now and then, send out student surveys to gather feedback from your current students.
This not only provides your faculty and staff with valuable information on the quality of their academic programs, it will give you good insights into what makes your school so special.
You can use this feedback to enhance your marketing messaging and strategies.
And of course, asking for opinions is a way to show current students that your school is listening to them.
Their experience matters, even if you can’t fix every problem or give them everything they’re asking for.
5. Create content pieces just for current students.
We’ve talked a lot in this blog about using content marketing to attract and cultivate new prospective students.
But you can use content marketing to reach your current students as well!
Here are ideas on content pieces you can create that will help you with your student retention goals:
- Infographic on better study habits,
- Video series on how to develop strong friendships while in college,
- Blog posts discussing the history of school traditions or programs,
- White papers explaining the differences between your degree offerings, or
- Podcasts from your executive leaders about issues your education brand cares about.
These are just a few of the ways you can use content marketing to build your brand’s relationship with your current students.
6. Ask for student help in your marketing department.
So many students are looking for ways to get real-world experience in their chosen fields.
Choosing students who’re interested in marketing for your team can be an incredible win-win.
Of course, you can ask them to volunteer their time, but I highly recommend that you compensate these intelligent student helpers with whatever your budget allows.
But even if you’re running things on a shoestring budget, you can still compensate your student staff with a work-study scholarship for working in the marketing department.
7. Feature current students in your marketing.
Another way to increase student retention is to feature current students’ experiences with your school in marketing campaigns.
Student testimonials, especially in video format, are powerful content pieces.
And the good news is that your video marketing doesn’t have to break the bank!
For the prospective student, there are few things as convincing as hearing from a student close to their age sharing about what life is like in your school.
But there’s also something in it for the current student.
Being featured in a video or other form of content makes your current student feel that they play a special role in the life and success of your school.
They need to know they matter to you – and featuring their story is one of the best ways to do just that while serving your marketing goals.
Better Student Retention through Marketing
Student retention is a big deal.
And it’s not just a job for the student life services team or the faculty.
As an education marketer, you’ve a part to play in motivating students to stay until graduation and building their loyalty to your education brand.
So don’t wait for graduation to begin marketing to your current students. Now is the time to begin building a life-long relationship with each and every student!
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