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May 23

Mission-fit Marketing for a Christian College or University


Mission-fit marketing is a must for any institution, but when you’re marketing for a Christian college or university, it becomes all the more critical.

I write a lot about higher ed marketing strategies, tools, and tactics that work for almost any kind of educational institution.

In fact, that’s why Troy Singer and I created The Higher Ed Marketer podcast as another way to share our ideas with education marketers like you.

With every guest, you get to hear marketing principles they’re executing well in their institution so you can be inspired to implement these same principles in your context.

Although mission-fit marketing principles exist, there are differences in marketing for a Christian college or university as opposed to marketing a secular educational space. 

I’m a big proponent of Christian higher education as well as HBCU’s (historically black colleges and universities) and other kinds of niche higher ed institutions.

At Caylor Solutions, we’ve specialized in helping private colleges and universities like these for a couple of decades now because we believe in them.

Prospective students are a vast and diverse audience who need diverse educational options. 

The more diversity we can produce in the higher education sector, the better the educational offering we can provide young, upcoming students.

So here are my top words of advice about mission-fit marketing for a Christian college or university.

Lean into your mission. It’s who you are. 

In an effort to appeal to more prospective students, many faith-based institutions have tried to play down the fact that they are a Christian college or university.

I’ve never seen this work, largely because of the high cost of private higher education.

At least on the surface, Christian private colleges are more expensive than secular, public institutions.

This means the students and families who decide to enroll at your private institution are doing so because they’re willing to pay the extra cost.

The families who invest in a Christian higher education are looking for a uniquely Christian point of view, environment, and campus life for their students.

For them, your mission is worth sacrificing for. 

So when it comes to mission-fit marketing for a Christian college or university, make sure your Christian approach to education is front and center. 

This is what distinguishes you immediately from the thousands of other colleges and universities out there.

Don’t be a cheap imitation. 

Now that you’ve differentiated yourself from secular education brands, try to contrast your school from other faith-based institutions.

Often when marketing for a Christian college or university, marketers look around at other institutions like theirs to get ideas or be inspired by their competitor’s marketing messaging. 

This is a good practice, but there’s an inherent danger in which you could end up looking like everyone else.

In each Christian denomination or tradition, there are the big names, the schools with incredible brand recognition. 

But I challenge you to think deeply about your core values, about your mission.

What are you here to do? What are you called to say to the world? 

What do you want your graduates to contribute to the world or the Church?

Put that into your messaging strategy. 

If you’re Baptist, what makes you different from the other Baptist colleges?

If you’re evangelical, what sets you apart from the others?

If you’re Catholic, what would make you more attractive to the faithful?

Be willing to stand out on the values and ideas that make your education mission unique.

“Spray and pray” is not a mission-fit marketing strategy.

Prayer is more than a religious devotional practice, it is also a healthy mental and emotional exercise that can keep you grounded as a marketer.

However, cranking out marketing campaigns without an overall messaging strategy will not produce the results that you’re looking for. 

Prayer is good, but it is no substitute for careful planning and a studied approach to marketing for a Christian college or university.

There are many excellent marketing training programs and enrollment marketing resources, like this blog, where you can learn marketing principles that really work.

Good marketing principles along with a healthy prayer life is a recipe for success!

Find the watering holes.

One of the most powerful ways to boost your enrollment marketing results is to find the watering holes where your audience is already hanging out, and market there.

In Africa, animals of all kinds, both predator and prey, gather at the watering holes to get a drink or take a bath. 

It’s a daily ritual where they come together to get something they all need. 

Prospective students have their own “watering holes,” places they go every day to get their news, entertainment, and connection with their peers and families.

While there are public watering holes in the secular space where people of all religions or non-religions gather, there are watering holes where Christian prospective students are known to gather.

Target these “Christian” watering holes that are a good mission-fit with your institutional identity.

Especially in the United States, there are so many places where the Christian sub-culture attracts like-minded believers. 

  • Christian coffee shops
  • Christian-themed stores
  • Christian concerts and worship experiences 
  • Youth rallies 
  • Camps and conferences
  • Christian schools
  • Blogs
  • Vlogs
  • Reddit discussions
  • Facebook groups
  • Christian hashtags

I’m sure there are many more places where you can find your prospective students, but this is a good list to begin targeting in your local area.

Leverage the power of relationships.

Professionals who are marketing for a Christian college or university have an incredible advantage in the relationships they have in the Christian denomination or tradition they’re a part of.

Higher ed marketing tends to have similar marketing personas – prospective students, families, alumni, and general public. 

But I recommend that Christian colleges and universities add at least two more target audiences – churches and clergy.

Churches and/or denominational organizations are excellent resources for enrollment marketers. 

They can help you expand your brand awareness by market on their digital and/or print platforms.

Pastors and other clergy members are the individuals you’ll want to continue marketing to as they are the “gatekeepers” at their churches and denominational activities. 

By marketing specifically to pastors and clergy, you can keep your education brand top-of-mind when they speak to their young congregants about their academic future or ministry calling.  

Mission-fit marketing for a Christian college or university has its advantages… and its challenges.

For more help in marketing your private Christian college or university, please contact us today!

Market More. Spend Less.

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