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Certified Strategies for Higher Education Marketing

Higher education marketing is increasingly looking toward digital marketing as a strategy for increasing enrollment and bringing prospective students into programs. Through channels like connected TV (CTV) and native, marketers can fill their enrollment funnel, at a cost similar to other marketing efforts.

In a discussion for the How Agencies Thrive podcast, we’re joined by Alison Baumann from TCS Education System, and Ben Masters from StackAdapt to discuss higher education marketing strategies. They explore how education marketers have adopted new strategies to stay relevant and competitive in a rapidly changing climate for higher education institutions.

Read on to learn 3 key insights from our discussion, or listen to the full episode, here

The Higher Education Marketing Landscape is Evolving

In the last two years, we’ve seen significant changes to higher education as institutions adjust to educating students during a pandemic. According to Alison, the biggest priority has been making sure that students are as safe as possible while learning. For many institutions this has meant transitioning to online classes.

The shift to online education isn’t the online change Alison has noticed. What students are interested in studying has been evolving, too. For example, Alison says there’s growing enrollment in psychology, health, and other community focused fields that have proven especially relevant during the pandemic.

Ben has noticed that there’s been an increase of interest in returning back to school to invest in further education. Programs that offer online and evening classes have proven that education can be done from home, which is especially helpful for people who are juggling an existing career or family while studying. Higher education institutions have noted this shift, and many are looking to offer more flexible education options for students with diverse needs. 

Alison and Ben explain that these shifts in higher education are resulting in shifts in digital marketing strategies for higher education, too. Marketing teams are becoming more flexible, and focused on long term planning. If the pandemic has taught higher education marketers anything, it’s the importance of thinking outside of the box and being prepared for the unexpected.

Brand Messaging in Higher Education Marketing

According to Alison and Ben, brand messaging is incredibly important in higher education marketing. Alison says that without a solid brand foundation, an institution won’t know how best to reach and best support their students. With a strong foundation, institutions can use their understanding of who they are, their offerings, differentiators and more to provide students the educational experience they are looking for. 

Alison explains that building that brand foundation begins with exploring the value that an institution is bringing to students, and then finding a way to help students identify with the brand⁠ through messaging. For example, some students want more than careers—they want to contribute to their educational experience and feel valued throughout it. Finding ways to highlight how an institution supports these values in brand messaging can help attract students.

Nowadays, it’s possible to communicate through digital channels like blogs, virtual tours, websites, and programmatic campaigns. These are new opportunities for conveying brand messaging to students and prospects in real-time, even as the demands and needs of students actively evolve. The important part, says Ben, is to ensure that the brand messaging resonates with the actual experience of the institution, is consistent, and delivers value. 

Tactics for Higher Education Marketers in 2022

In today’s digital marketing landscape, it’s important to leverage multiple tactics to maximize brand awareness. Students today are all browsing online, so it’s especially important to be on digital channels. Alison recommends using a multi-channel strategy that enables higher education marketers to reach their target audience across various channels. 

She adds that leveraging retargeting as well will help to re-engage prospective students and move them down the funnel. It’s important that your message is seen multiple times, and that the messaging is tailored according to where a user is seeing it, and where in the funnel they are. Alison explains that it’s important to keep in mind that more eyeballs on a campaign isn’t necessarily better. Be smart with your dollars and make sure you’re reaching the right users, not just a lot of them. 

Ben’s advice for higher education marketers is to avoid the “spray and pray” approach. He warns against putting out campaigns and simply hoping for results. Instead, ensure you have a strategy behind your campaign. Put in the time to understand the profiles of the users you’re targeting, and how to best reach them. Don’t overlook the intensive planning behind reaching the right people, with the right message, at the right time. 

Ben also suggests that higher education marketers consider leveraging brand lift studies. A brand lift study measures the impact of your campaigns across all your programmatic channels. It typically will provide a picture of the consumer sentiment and brand affinity of people who have been exposed to your media. Marketers can leverage data-driven insights from a brand lift study that will help them to better align brand messaging and strategy.

Lastly, Ben and Alison emphasize the importance of working with a partner who will help bring the expertise and support needed to create a highly targeted campaign that succeeds. Programmatic advertising is a pillar of diverse, intensive marketing plans, and it will help you reach a highly vetted set of users and also provide reporting that can be tied into an existing reporting function with the actual educational institution. Nowadays, thanks to demand-side platforms (DSPs) like StackAdapt, programmatic is accessible to anyone who wants to use it—it’s not just for those with high budgets. 

Listen to How Agencies Thrive For More!

According to Alison and Ben, the future of higher education will continue to change as technology, students’ needs, and students’ preferences evolve. For the best higher education marketing strategy, campaigns should be built around a thorough understanding of potential students. Knowing in real time what potential students are looking for in terms of their education will help education marketers reach them with highly targeted messaging. 

To hear more of the insights, tactics and predictions that Alison and Ben have to share about higher education marketing, tune in to the latest episode of How Agencies Thrive

Listen to How Agencies Thrive on Apple Podcasts.
Listen to How Agencies Thrive on Spotify.

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