January 13

You Need a Mobile App: Why a Website Isn’t Enough


Having a mobile app isn’t just a vanity project. It can be a powerful tool to cultivate new students by giving you an exclusive marketing channel.

If you’re skeptical about creating a mobile app for your school, I was too.

Over the past 5 or 10 years, I’ve shied away from creating apps.

For one, they were too expensive.

But more importantly, I couldn’t see how they could improve the results we were seeing in our ongoing digital marketing strategies.

Today, my feelings have changed.

The price of creating a mobile app has drastically fallen in the past five years putting it well within reach of resource-hungry schools.

We also ended up creating a custom-app for one of our clients, and that really changed my mind!

I started to see how this tool fit into the broader sense of a marketing plan.

To help explain the benefits of a mobile app for higher ed marketers, we brought Jamie Giblett, Sales Manager at Digistorm North America, on this episode of The Higher Ed Marketer podcast.

Jaime Giblett of Digistorm shows us why education marketers need a mobile app. A webisite simply isn't enough.

Here are the highlights of our interview with him, and how you can benefit from a mobile app for your school.

A Mobile App Should Enhance Your Community

Surprisingly for Jaime, a mobile app isn’t about technology or bells and whistles.

It’s about creating a sense of community for your students.

In terms of being able to connect with your community – from a student perspective, not from the college’s perspective – feeling connected to the community is really important. Community is important for retention, whether you’re a college university or another education institution. 

There are plenty of wonderful things that an app can do. But the thing that I think is most important about an app is [that it should be] a reflection of what your community is about. 

The first thing a mobile app should do for your prospective and current student user is to make them feel connected to the broader school community.

It should foster school spirit and help turn your students into brand ambassadors for your school.

[It should be] about your brand, about your voice in a college or university setting, and fostering that sense of community that aids in retention. It aids in creating evangelists out of your students. [It should make them] want to rave about your institution because they feel so connected through their device. 

The key thing [about a mobile app] for a student is making them feel part of the community no matter what’s going on in the outside world.

Marketing to Current Students through Your App

It’s natural to feel like your job’s over as an education marketer once a student enrolls and pays their deposit.

But successful education marketing should continue as a student matriculates and eventually goes on with their life as an alumnus.

[Check out our conversation with Nate Simpson of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for more thoughts on this idea.]

A mobile app is one of the best ways to get your brand messaging to students and their families.

The conversation doesn’t stop after that application has been approved and we’ve collected some money to enroll a student. There is a big risk that the student is going to become disconnected and disengage. 

[Even] the best admission strategy is always going to be undermined by attrition if we’re not looking after our student body and keeping our existing numbers healthy. That’s why we don’t stop selling to our student body once they’re in the door. 

Once a student has deposited and begun their classes, it’s important to continue marketing to them so they remember they made a good decision to come to your school.

Basically, you’re marketing for them to come again after their freshman year, and then to stay on for all the years of your program.

A mobile app uniquely helps keep the student tightly plugged into the life of the campus, increasing the odds they will continue their program.

One of the ways a mobile app can do this is by allowing your student user to customize the kinds of notifications they receive.

A mobile app can help you prospective and current students plugged in to the campus community.

Depending on the size of your institution, you might have a lot or a little going on in terms of student activities.

If you’ve got all these different news events or information about school sports or other activities, students can go into the app and choose to be notified about content related to the clubs or activities they’re interested in.

Athletic students can engage more with the athletics of their choice through the app.

Theatre students can stay close to the events of their favorite student club through the app.

Just one mobile app can help you market all of these different aspects of campus life to your current students while keeping your education brand front and center.

Market with Smart Integrations

One final reason I think education marketers should consider creating a mobile app is how they can use it to brand the technology they’re already using with smart integrations.

Smart integrations [have to do with] integration to the college management system. We’ve been doing some work with Populi to pull through key information from the Populi platform into the mobile app natively. [This way], users don’t need to log on to the web platform or log on to the Populi platform. [Students] can get their tasks and other information from Populi directly through their branded campus mobile app. 

Using smart integrations can help you brand the technology you use every day for class management, student management, and other school management systems you might have in place.

As a result, each time a student opens the app to get the information they need for school, they’re also being reminded of your education brand.

Discover more when you listen to the podcast!

Like all of our blog post reviews of The Higher Ed Marketer podcasts, there’s so much more to learn in the podcasts themselves.

Listen to our interview with Jaime Giblett to get even more insights into:

  • How an app reflects your institution’s voice
  • The most compelling things to put on your app
  • Why students love self-personalization
  • First steps in getting started building your app

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.

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

Get inspired.
Get enrollment results.
Get 25 Ideas for Great Admissions Content.
Download your copy today!

Featured image by Tierney via Adobe Stock
Other images via digistorm.com/us

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