Marketing to students, and younger people in general, is a notoriously difficult task in the modern marketplace. As market trends continue to change at a rapid pace, social media platforms fall in and out of favour and influencer marketing becomes ever more prominent. It can feel like this generation is almost impossible to figure out when it comes to building consumer relationships and gaining trust.
Yet, as this group becomes ever more influential in buying power and consumer culture, the question of how to engage young people is becoming crucial, not just for businesses, but college and universities too.
Given their potential to become the CEO’s, MP’s and influencers of the future, it makes perfect sense for educational institutions to treat the admissions sector as its own marketplace. In which every college and university is a brand of its own and the students are their potential customers.
But how do we go about marketing to students, we hear you ask.
Look no further, this blog will explain everything. We’ll get into detail on the factors you have to focus on to have a lasting influence on the buying behaviour of your target student audience. We’ll also give you tips on how to capitalise on these factors for your business’ benefit.
Here are the factors we’ll cover:
- Building a Solid Brand
- Developing a Tailored Experience
- Creating Content
- Using a Mobile Strategy
- Focus on Your Alumni
Every college or university has a brand. It’s how the school is viewed by outsiders. Each one has a different approach to its brand, and you should strive to stand out amongst all others. To define your brand image, establish how you want to be seen. Your college should have a ‘voice’. This ‘voice’ gives you a personality – something people can use to identify with your institution in a much more simple way.
If you use this consistently across different marketing channels, it establishes who you are as a brand. If there’s a clear divide between a magazine advertisement and a Facebook advertisement’s voice, it creates confusion. It’s as if your college comes off with a split personality. It’s difficult to market your school in multiple voices, so identifying one helps to attract the exact type of students you want.
This could mean re-evaluating your current brand guidelines and updating marketing materials to ensure that everything is consistent. This step doesn’t directly market to your audience of students at first, but over the years the brand will become recognisable because of your earlier efforts.
As a college or university, you have to primarily focus on providing a great experience, or at least the air that you can provide one during students’ time at your institution. Think about it – you’re persuading people to invest in you. They’re pledging their time – whether that is 1, 2, 3 or 4 years – and they’re choosing to use what little capital they have to be educated in some way with you. That’s a big decision.
For a large percentage of your market audience, this decision won’t be driven by money. Their focus will be on memorable experiences and events more than tangible things with little emotional value.
So, it’s time to invest the time and budget of your marketing team into designing the perfect experience for each type of student you want to attract. This firstly means profiling their wants, needs, challenges and motivations for advancing their education.
Secondly, start to map each students’ experience and touch-points that they might have with you as a brand and tailor their experiences using those profiles. Show them you’re the right choice because you know them better than your competitors.
Next, start to craft a brand that is ‘experience first’ – this means stop talking about money and location and lead with what makes your college or university a great place to spend your time. What are you doing for the student experience that your competitors aren’t? How are you making those crucial years matter for your potential and current student body? These are the questions that matter to a consumer with so much information and buyer power.
In the modern world, marketing to students using old-fashioned direct advertising or over the top TV and billboard ads, just simply won’t have the same success as it used to. Those methods might work for the older generation, but college and university students enjoy – and are more likely to engage with – meaningful, engaging and entertaining content.
You can place this content either on your company website or social media pages. Investing in a good graphic design team is also a must – the younger generation have seen every stock image that exists throughout their time on the many pages of the web, so they can sniff out content with no effort put into it a mile away.
Video content is also a great way to engage students – young people are much more likely to watch a two or three-minute video than they are to read a blog post. They’re also more likely to finish watching a video than read every word of a blog. The simple fact is the younger generation are visual creatures, which means they absorb visual content much more effectively.
It’s fair to assume that every prospective student has a smartphone. Because of this, it’s important to keep your marketing efforts mobile-focused to market to students.
First of all, make sure your website is mobile-friendly. A website being hard to view in apps like Safari is a huge turn off for your audience, since a majority of them will be using their smartphones to surf the web and interact with your brand.
Be data driven in your approach as you design your website and make sure you have people on your marketing team that are familiar with effective UX design. Now is not the time to be cheap. With the pivotal role college and university websites play in student research, you’ll want to make sure your website is effective and optimized for mobile conversions.
If you’re running ads online, consider capitalising on platforms that prospective students are most likely to use while on their phones, such as YouTube, Instagram, TikTok or Snapchat.
Your institutional alumni can and should be your biggest and best supporters. Use their passion and experiences to promote your university. Featuring alumni in content and branding will help prospective and current students envision what their future may hold after they’ve graduated or qualified. This provides a sense of security in the early stages that often alleviates fears of debt or unemployment, creating a happier student body.
In addition, creating opportunities and networking events for alumni specifically will help thank them for their dedication to your institution. When your alumni succeed, the university has highly successful walking brand advocates; people that the students trust and put stock into for their opinions.
Remember, Above All, Quality Courses and Training is Key!
When marketing to students, it’s crucially important to remember that without the right courses and training available, all the strategy, activity and budget in the world won’t convert your leads. If your competitors have better quality and more diverse course lists, then they automatically become a preferred choice for students.
So, it makes perfect sense to diversify your offering as much as you can – check out our course and training lists to expand your prospectus and attract talented students you couldn’t previously!