Higher Education Marketing Strategies: Beating the Competition

Higher Education Marketing Strategies: Beating the Competition

Instead of your mascot or football team doing all the work, why not let your marketing team get in on the school rivalry? Nothing says, “We are the champions” than having your higher education marketing strategy draw away college recruits from your nearest competition.
Gone are the days when beating the competition was simply a matter of having the best academics or sporting facilities. Today’s students are more enlightened than past alums and demand more for their investment. Rising student debt, inflation and pandemic job loss have put higher education on the back burner for some students.
To gain a competitive advantage in the higher education industry will focus on student needs, faculty issues, programs, and your own higher education marketing strategy rather than your competition’s.


The Competitive Drive Behind Higher Education Lead Generation

As governments or states do not fully fund most higher education institutions, the upkeep of these institutions relies heavily on student enrollment. Whether Ivy League, community colleges, or online universities, higher education lead generation is important to all higher education institutions. However, it’s not more important for some than their struggling budgets, and that’s where their higher education marketing strategies fail.
Due to some universities’ limited budget and ingenuity, they don’t even attempt any marketing strategies for higher education institutions. But even with a large marketing budget, that doesn’t automatically mean success in your marketing efforts. There are a lot of failed college recruitment strategies in the competitive drive for higher education lead generation. Some failed marketing tactics include:-

  • Over or under budgeting their marketing team
  • No mobile-optimized emails
  • No unique recruitment strategies
  • Following a fad or trend, badly
  • Unclear campaign goals
  • No marketing research was done or data used
  • Student onboarding is not present in the higher education marketing plan
  • Mass advertising campaigns with no personalization
  • No overhaul of their current communication strategies
  • There is no overhaul of their courses, website, facilities, or other student offerings

This list could go on forever if we don’t stop it here. College recruitment strategies leave a lot to be desired, and many universities make the cardinal mistake of focusing heavily on their competition but not on their actions. This strategy may work in sports or academia, but not in your university recruitment strategy.
Against a backdrop of increased mental issues among the faculty and students, decreased international student enrollment, and wavering interests in four-year higher education, universities need to take a more straightforward look at their own failed marketing strategies and realize the only competition are themselves.


A Failed Higher Education Marketing Plan

Not every university had a higher education marketing plan after the arrival of covid. Some never adjusted their higher education marketing plan but proceeded with their college recruitment strategies as if nothing had changed. They didn’t predict that in 2022 and four vaccines later, we would all still be in this predicament.
Then again, higher education institutions aren’t known for strategic marketing. Since the early 2000’s universities have struggled with their higher education marketing strategies. Two universities in Canada made several mistakes who thought they could ‘copy’ a successful Canadian marketing strategy without proper execution or doing as promised. These included:-

  • Marketing to a fad or trend
  • Noncompliance with marketing ethics
  • No onboarding strategy included in their higher education marketing plan
  • Misleading marketing tactics
  • Not fulfilling their promised obligations
  • Not knowing how to recover a marketing error gracefully

According to the Canadian Marketing Association (CMA, 2020), “Marketers must not misrepresent a product, service, marketing program or make any other misleading representation” and should provide an accurate representation. Marketers are responsible for the content of their marketing communications and the advertising agencies that execute marketing behaviors on their behalf.”
These Ontario universities broke the basic rules of marketing and ethics. They saw a lucrative higher education marketing trend and decided to jump on it without thinking they needed to have the promised jobs and courses. Not only that, the degrees themselves weren’t worth anything once the scandal broke. Luckily, students received their money back, but the damage to the universities’ reputation was done. The Canadian government had to move swiftly to protect its reputation as a higher education destination.
The mistakes of the Ontario schools prove that no matter how good your marketing team is at higher education lead generation, it is up to the schools themselves to fulfill the promises made. When schools fail to meet the basic needs of their student enrollees, it makes the marketing team look unethical or like blatant liars. In reality, the situation with the Ontario schools could be a lack of clear communication of goals. The marketing team delivered a stellar strategy on their end, and then the school failed to tell them they were incapable of executing the strategy.Despite their failures, some schools excelled in creating and executing their higher education marketing plan, and their unique recruitment strategies set them above the rest.


5 Strategic Marketing Strategies for Higher Education Institutions

With the economy, student mental health and student loan forgiveness in limbo, universities need strategic and unique recruitment strategies for higher education lead generation. To meet the needs of students, colleges and all participating shareholders should have clear communication of goals and a realistic view of what can be achievable firmly decided from the start.
A successful higher education marketing strategy should consider these four aspects used by the University of Edinburgh to build student enrollment. Using these four core pieces as their foundation, the increased student enrollment by 10,000 students in 10 years. They did this by focusing on:

  • Marketing Research
  • Academic Offerings
  • Fees
  • Communication Strategy

Not all schools will need to focus on these four, but it wouldn’t hurt your higher education marketing strategy if you did. By correctly using the data from marketing research, the University of Edinburgh was able to have a clear campaign goal for its marketing strategy. This allowed them to change their offerings and fees and improve how they communicated with their potential student enrollees.
Having clear marketing goals, communicating those goals to your target audience effectively, and understanding you need to deliver on your marketing promises are the basis of a successful higher education marketing campaign. No matter the strategy you choose, you need reliable data to back up any marketing decisions. As a higher education marketing agency, you need to communicate what is required for your strategy to succeed and ensure that the school will deliver whatever you promised.
Before your school or higher education marketing agency embarks on any marketing plan, here are five strategic marketing tips for educational institutions that they should keep in mind: –


  1. Focus on Student Enrollment Issues, Not Fads

Fads fade, and that is a fact. This year, what may be funny, may be something you have to apologize for ten years later. Stick to student and faculty issues and focus on resolving their problems. Becoming their problem solver is a successful marketing strategy as it makes for excellent word-of-mouth advertising and student retention. It also helps with actually resolving a pressing issue. Focusing on student retention in this manner can be an inexpensive higher education marketing plan. It builds your school’s reputation while helping students and staff.
Mental health issues, Covid stress, unemployment and decreased international student enrollment are pressing issues students and adult learners face globally. Tackling covid immigration travel issues, emotional support, student debt support, mandatory vaccinations, and career services can be part of your higher education marketing strategy.


  1. Study Data Validation Before Your Student Offerings

What is the value you are giving? Are you communicating that value? Do your current student offerings match your target audience? For these answers, you need marketing research and data. For reliable data, you need a data-driven marketing agency with the latest education industry data to help your marketing team make the best decisions. Even with your in-house marketing data, that data needs to be validated and enhanced to ensure accuracy and relevance.
Accurate, relevant data is essential because you are about to spend thousands or maybe millions overhauling your university curriculum, facilities and faculty. Data validation services should not be pushed aside before such an endeavor. Introduction of new teaching hybrid teaching methods, reduced fees, and accelerated programs have worked for other schools, but as mentioned before, execution and target audience is essential. Are you optimistic your student enrollees and faculty will well receive these methods? To have some clue to the potential success of any higher education marketing strategy, you will need data validation services.


  1. Change How Your University Brand Message is Communicated

Miscommunication was one of the recurring errors in marketing strategies for higher education institutions. Focusing on outdoing the competition led to their brand messages being clouded or lost in translation. Outdated methods of communication and not being tech-savvy kept a lot of their college recruitment strategies in the ’90s. Not maximizing the potential of mobile-optimized emails and digital marketing was just the proverbial final straw in their dead marketing practices.
Even without the appearance of Covid 19, how could universities not have a proper digital marketing or brand-building strategies? 68% of potential student enrollees use social media to research schools and 1 in 5 students across a school after a bad website experience. Yet, most schools still don’t have a solid social media presence or regularly update their website’s user experience.
These issues do not include not using personalized digital marketing methods like programmatic mobile advertising, personalized, targeted emails and geofencing mobile marketing. Brand awareness isn’t a fad that will fade away, nor will effective communication practices. Making your brand presence felt online works like a magnet to pull your targeted student enrollees towards you. Once your brand message is communicated, your high education lead generation strategy is halfway done.


  1. Using Technology for Unique Recruitment Strategies

Hybrid teaching methods may reduce burnout among students and faculty and alter the importance of skills over knowledge, but they can’t work correctly without technology. Technology plays an essential role in your marketing strategy as it can be used to gather data, analyze data in communication methods, advertising, student retention, and brand awareness.
Embracing technology as part of your digital marketing strategy can include geofencing mobile marketing to drive local SEO or programmatic display ads in digital display advertising. Mobile optimized emails, improved user experience, and data validation can all enhance student lead generation. Technology can also create a unique student experience during onboarding that can improve student retention and increase student enrollment.


  1. Personalized Omnichannel Marketing Strategy

Omnichannel marketing isn’t the only strategy that works for higher education marketing. However, it is the one strategy that incorporates all marketing channels, is backed by data, and has personalized reach, which is sorely lacking in many higher education marketing strategies. Using an omnichannel marketing strategy forces universities to focus on the data and use it correctly to create highly targeted marketing campaigns.
It allows for segmentation to create unique recruitment strategies for young student enrollees and adult learners. Multiple channels mean your higher education marketing agency can create different campaigns for career development, fee reduction, lead generation and accelerated programs using email marketing, geofencing mobile marketing, native ads, or programmatic display advertising. You can tackle various unique recruitment strategies, bearing your brand voice with a singular brand goal.


Create Your Unique University Recruitment Strategy With FrescoData


At the end of it all, data, communication and execution need to drive all your higher education marketing strategies. Therefore partnering with a data-driven marketing agency with years of experience and the latest education industry data should be the first steps in your higher education marketing plan. Our data strategy can help you figure out your next campaign goal.
Using our data-backed, people-based methods, we can blend them seamlessly in an omnichannel marketing strategy that allows you to reach your target audience through social media, email marketing and programmatic display ads via any device. We can even provide school mailing lists for your mobile-optimized email campaign and focus on local SEO using geofencing mobile marketing.
No matter your campaign goal, we can create a personalized higher ed marketing experience complete with a technology-guided student onboarding for a safer and smoother onboarding process. With over twenty years of experience, global reach and partnerships with Fortune 5ooo companies, we can be a valuable partner to higher education institutions who need a competitive edge and a unique international university recruitment strategy.

Partner with FrescoData and Let’s Strategize on higher education marketing.

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