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8 Essential Admissions Marketing Tactics to Drive Student Enrollment

by Sirley Carballo · Feb 15, 2022

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Higher education institutions face mounting pressure to produce captivating messages about academic programs while driving enrollment numbers upward. But with data showing declining enrollment rates across the board (particularly at community colleges), many experts believe the battle is an uphill one.

What can higher ed admission staff do in order to stand out and prevail against major trends countrywide? Innovative and personalized admissions marketing tactics are the key ingredient for a revolutionary approach to college enrollment.

If you’re not sure where to start, keep reading to discover what enrollment marketing is and how you can generate tangible results for your admissions funnel.

What is enrollment marketing?

Enrollment marketing is a comprehensive higher education outreach strategy that’s focused on finding, attracting, and enrolling students at a new institution.

Digital marketing experiences can make a difference

Modern enrollment strategies must cater to the needs and expectations of prospective students. In many cases, this means that colleges should approach enrollment marketing with digital tools and build connected experiences that are convenient, exciting, and persuasive.

Top marketing tactics to drive student enrollment this year

There are several methods and ideas to drive new enrollments at your college or university, but the most important factor is choosing the one that works for your particular campus culture and student body. 

To provide a clear roadmap that you can follow or adjust, we’ve rounded up some of the top marketing tactics to drive student enrollment this year.

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1. Use visual storytelling in marketing campaigns

One aspect of being a strong higher ed marketer is to create enticing, personalized narratives that bring the prospect into the journey. For colleges, visual storytelling is a captivating way to help prospective students envision themselves on a new campus.

Even though old school methods of visual storytelling include charts and graphics, today’s colleges have far better access to behind-the-scenes photos, first person snapshots, and engaging social media posts. You can use these highly visual resources to drive home selling points that applicants care about.

Admissions marketers should also place the student as the “hero of the story” in order to show what each new student can achieve or do with their college experience.

2. Improve the student experience with chatbots 

Responsive customer service isn’t just important for consumer-based businesses. Colleges and universities can also take advantage of digital, AI-powered tools like chatboots to enhance the online experience.

Modern students expect fast responses to their online applications and form submissions. Chatbots and automated communication tools help close the gap and reduce the time that a student has to wait to connect with school personnel.

While students may still prefer to speak with an actual person to solve detailed inquiries, smart messaging services help colleges acknowledge new requests faster.

3. Leverage user-generated marketing content

User-generated marketing content (UGC) is that which is created by your ideal customer (or in this case, your target student). This type of content can include:

  • Testimonials and reviews
  • Case study interviews
  • Pictures and images of real student life
  • Real-time comments or feedback

User-generated content is particularly effective for enrollment marketing since future students can get a genuine, firsthand look at campus life. If you want a way to strengthen the reliability and transparency of your marketing materials, invite current students to participate. You might be surprised by the level of creativity and relatability you can achieve.

4. Pursue reputable endorsements (and put them to work)

Public endorsements can come from a variety of sources, and they can have a significant impact on your enrollment marketing efforts when it comes to attracting new students and families. Here’s how to gather and use endorsements to your school’s advantage.

  • Connect with former students and famous graduates who have accomplished notable work or research in their field.
  • Partner with local community organizations and employers that can sponsor events or programs.
  • Create professional opportunities between students and corporations, and showcase the results of internships and collaborations. 
  • Host local, regional, or national events on your campus in order to attract new endorsements.

Remember, these opportunities aren’t just for show. You can use reputable endorsements to attract students who want to know that growth opportunities exist once they receive a degree.

White male student smiling and pointing at several graphics that show his acceptance on a large and mobile screen.

5. Define detailed personas for students and parents

Without detailed marketing personas, it’s increasingly difficult to achieve the enrollment marketing results you’re aiming for. Always set aside time to define detailed profiles for the audiences you most want to reach, regardless of the type of marketing campaign.

Persona identification should include details about:

  • The ideal interests of your student body (academic, social, and personal)
  • Important demographic information 
  • Data about parents and families that you’re aiming to reach
  • How your campus offerings are in alignment with specific audiences

When you define student personas, you’ll have more confidence that your marketing resources are going to the right channels, and that your spending is on target. This allows you to increase your conversion rate and attract your ideal student.

6. Use display ads to maximize visibility

Display ads utilize a combination of images, text, and video content to showcase a brand in highly visible ways online. Many display ads appear in website banners or prominent places to attract attention or drive more clicks.

Colleges and universities can drive brand awareness with an increased use in display ads, which are highly effective and visible. You can also use advanced targeting for display ads to make sure that your campaigns are seen by the right people (and students) at the most effective times.

7. Establish retargeting campaigns for potential students

A retargeting campaign adds an extra layer of brand awareness for visitors that have spent time on your school’s website in the past. Retargeting is a strategy that places ads in front of those visitors again.

Retargeting campaigns have been shown to perform up to 10 times better than previous display ad attempts. If you believe you have a strong ad but want to increase conversion and click-through-rate (CTR), retargeting is the way to go.

8. Optimize everything for a mobile experience

Today’s college applicants are highly mobile and looking for convenient user experiences. This means that your marketing, inquiry, and application processes should provide a seamless user experience across the board.

How do you accomplish this? By making every single step mobile and device-friendly. From your overall website, to specific forms, to communication procedures, students need to know that they can send and receive information in flexible formats.

Remember–these initial interactions may even communicate what it’s like to be a student at your institution. If you want to communicate a superior experience up front, mobile-friendly formats boost conversion and yield a better return on investment.

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Why are enrollment marketing tactics important for admissions?

Enrollment marketing tactics are essentials for admissions offices because they ensure that higher ed institutions are up-to-date with industry best practices. Today’s students are well-informed and proficient in digital experiences, which means that colleges and universities need to keep up if they want to remain competitive.

These tactics also result in higher quality marketing materials which raise the bar and lead to better branding. To overcome current dips in enrollment, colleges must be willing to invest in producing superior marketing campaigns.

Benefits of modern marketing tactics for higher education

Advanced marketing strategies aren’t just useful for strengthening your image. Other advantages include:

  • Achieving a better return on investment (increased revenue from dollars spent on marketing materials)
  • Having a more complete understanding of your target audience and student body
  • Building better recognition and publicity for your institution 

The foundation you build today paves the way for the future of your school. As a result, it's wise to think ahead and construct something sustainable.

Element451 offers the solutions you need

If you want to focus on creating a marketing process that drives student enrollment, now is the time for a strategic and well-rounded approach.

Book your Element451 demo today to learn how our student-centered platform can help you modernize your enrollment and engagement strategies. We’ll recognize your unique goals and help you provide personalized experiences for incoming students.

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