With 2023 right around the corner, humanity cautiously surges forward in a post-pandemic world.
COVID-19 forced a higher ed industry that is notoriously slow to adapt to evolving technology to try to catch up to the rest of the world on a moment’s notice.
Higher ed marketers certainly deserve a pat on the back for pulling their institutions through the most challenging phase in their modern history. However, now isn’t the time to relax forward momentum and return to pre-pandemic marketing roots.
Colleges and universities must continue to pursue digital opportunities that strengthen the three pillars of their enrollment marketing strategy:
- An enrollment-focused school website
- Consumable content that answers prospective students’ questions
- Tools and tactics that bolster your lead generation funnel
As nationwide enrollment numbers continue to decline, I understand that marketing teams at smaller schools must stretch financial and time budgets further than ever.
Yet, cost-efficient virtual tools, a consistent content strategy, and personalizing your messaging can take your school to the next level without breaking your marketing budget.
Here are some practical tips for driving your school’s enrollment up while keeping costs down!
Post-Pandemic Virtual Events: Here to Stay
One of the biggest takeaways for colleges and universities during the pandemic is they can no longer rely solely on in-person events as hooks for prospective students.
Campus tours and college fairs are still practical outreach activities. But higher ed marketers must continue to embrace virtual alternatives, especially with the rising number of nontraditional students.
While applications like Zoom have practically become household names, you can leverage several virtual tools to improve your enrollment process at little to no extra cost.
Virtual Campus Tours
We may be joking about how social distancing was “so 2020” someday, but virtual campus tours are still a valuable part of your enrollment marketing post-pandemic arsenal.
With a few reasonably priced accessories, you can give out-of-state and international students the immersive campus visit they deserve:
You can find more virtual campus tour resources on our Tools page!
“Webinar” is an all-encompassing term for online conferences, seminars, or other virtual gatherings meant to inform.
Think of it as a Zoom call for a large audience. A webinar allows virtual visitors to get live feedback and answers to questions that may have fallen through the cracks on your enrollment website, including financial aid – a hot topic for parents.
And the best part is that you can repurpose all the accessories I listed above to host your webinars!
A virtual workshop is an excellent way for prospective students and families to get an insider’s view into your school’s hands-on programs and lab facilities.
For example, the workshop could involve working with farm animals in your agricultural department. You could also host a cooking class like this one sponsored by the University of Minnesota during the pandemic.
Your campus’s offerings are the only limits to the possibilities of enticing your target audience to your school’s website through virtual workshops.
Content Your Audience Will Discover
Let me tell you – my phone was ringing off the hook after March 2020.
Most colleges and universities were utterly unprepared for the pivot to online learning, much less a digital marketing strategy.
Suddenly, everyone was interested in pay-per-click campaigns and search engine optimization. And I told all of them what I will say to you now:
The most effective way to be organically discovered by your target audience is to invest in fresh, consistent content on your school website.
A weekly blog schedule has several long-term benefits:
- Provide answers to your prospective students’ common questions
- Establish your authority by demonstrating expertise
- Create a catalog of evergreen content for your website
Writing a thousand-word post every week may sound daunting, but it’s a worthy investment. My personal blog has been invaluable in driving organic traffic to this website. A thousand words each week since 2014 has resulted in over 500 relevant and discoverable blog posts answering questions about higher ed marketing.
If your team doesn’t have the resources to write and publish consistently, consider reaching out to your students. An aspiring writer or two may be just what you need to get your new and improved digital content strategy off the ground.
The key to a successful blog strategy is consistency. Adopting a regular cadence in your digital content can effectively boost your website’s search engine ranking.
Personalization in a Post-Pandemic World
In an increasingly competitive higher ed space, personalized marketing is a must for enrollment marketers.
Remember, any recipients of your email and video messaging aren’t faceless strangers like the readers of your blog content. So, if you want your prospective leads to notice you, then you need to stand out from the crowd through personalization.
Giving students a personalized experience isn’t as elusive as you may think, nor is it sinister. With a little bit of data, you can differentiate your brand by making your prospective students feel special.
Email and Direct Mail
With a little data collection, building a personal connection with your audience through email and direct mail is as simple as filling in some gaps.
You can apply techniques like email segmentation and variable content to fill a template with appropriate data points, like a student’s name, location, or interests. You can typically gather the necessary data from common applications, surveys, or browsing students’ social media.
Of course, automating this process can save you considerable time. Thankfully, there are reasonably priced services that can help you.
Nothing gives a personal touch to direct messaging like video.
It can be difficult to judge emotions and intent in written communication. But video can convey authentic expression through body language and other physical cues.
Regarding equipment, you’ll likely only need the smartphone in your pocket.
And for production and delivery, here are a few services you can partner with:
- Loom (Free – $12.50/mo): Record and edit videos (up to five mins long with the free edition) and send them to prospective students
- BombBomb ($33 – $49/mo): Sleek 1-to-1 video messaging as well as video analytics
- Spokenote ($9.99/10-pack): Spokenote stickers are QR codes that, once scanned, allow you to record a video and attach it to that code. Anyone can then scan that code to watch the video!
Budgeting for a Post-Pandemic Reality
With creative virtual events, rich content, and personalized messaging, you can successfully – and cheaply – execute a digital marketing strategy that reinforces your brand.
Regardless of which vehicle you use to deliver on your school’s post-pandemic strategy for 2023 and beyond, always ask yourself this question first:
Does this help answer our target audience’s questions?
If you can’t respond with a definitive “yes,” we can help you do that.
Looking for Enrollment Marketing Content that Works?
You’re in luck! We’ve curated 25 awesome ideas inspired by top higher ed institutions across the country and put them in one handy guide: 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content. In this popular resource from Caylor Solutions, you’ll get…
- 25 enrollment marketing content ideas you might never have considered before
- Guidance on how to use each one for best results
- Brief discussion on why they work to help you sell these ideas to your team
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