2023 is set to be a big year for higher education institutions. After three years of disruptions, many APAC universities are anticipating an uplift in student numbers.
But for a bumper year, the real work starts now with an effective higher education marketing strategy — and a smooth admissions process to follow.
So let’s start by exploring four areas university marketing teams should focus on in 2023 so that they can bring in new leads (and convert them).
1. Know your audience
For a successful student marketing campaign, it’s important to lay the foundations by clearly identifying your audience. 2021/22 student demographics can be a good starting point, but you may also find there are some shifts in 2023, compared to previous years. Consider that:
- Foreign student enrolment numbers are likely to continue to recover (50,000 international students arrived in Australia in February 2022, slowly returning towards pre-pandemic figures of 150,000 in February 2019
- The distribution of foreign student nationalities may be shifting
- Graduate programs are trending upwards (applications for full-time two-year MBA programs in the APAC region increased by 61% in 2020, and 40% for one year programs)
- Some students that deferred or delayed their course due to the pandemic may be ready to kickstart or restart their studies
- Secondary audiences (parents, teachers, and other students) may play a role in the decision making process
- Some audiences are more likely to be a better fit for your university than others — and targeting these students may help to control dropout rates (with approximately one in five first year students in Australia dropping out)
2. Define your messaging
What are you going to talk about in your higher education marketing campaign? Identify some core themes and underlying key messages to create a strong campaign that’s consistent. You can develop these themes and messages by knowing (and promoting) what matters to your audience.
Note: even if you've developed key messages for previous campaigns, it's a good idea to revisit these to make sure that they're relevant to current student expectation - and avoiding getting stale.
Recently, we looked at student perspectives and expectations, sharing 5 key findings from The Global Student Experience 2022 Survey:
A. Career impact is critical
B. The online learning experience matters
C. Getting students on-campus may be challenging
D. Wellbeing and student support is key to overall satisfaction
E. International students need additional support
This means that key messages that might resonate well with 2023 students include flexibility, study-life balance, virtual options, on-campus student life, earnings and job potential, connection to workplaces, and real world experience.
Develop messages that highlight your strengths. For example, the University of Sydney boasts the highest graduate employment rate in the APAC region, while Singapore is a regional leader when it comes to the highest fresh graduate salary rates.
Finally, it’s important to consider that different messages will work better with different audiences (and channels). For example, on-campus student life might feature more heavily on Instagram, while earnings and job potential would likely resonate with LinkedIn audiences.
3. Choose your marketing tactics and channels
Now that you’ve laid the foundations for your student marketing campaign, you can start to develop a plan that will support your key messages and reach your target audiences. Consider a mix of traditional and newer marketing tactics, including:
- Content marketing & SEO – Create blog articles for your website that are optimised with search terms your prospective students are likely
- Social media – Social media matters to students, and is an essential part of any recruitment strategy, with current top platforms for students including Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Tiktok
- Content marketing – Produce organic content to engage audiences across a range of online channels (if you’re looking for inspiration, check out these content marketing ideas for universities)
- Search ads – Pay-per-click ads for relevant searches in search engines can be a simple (but often expensive) way to send targeted traffic to landing pages
- Display ads – These online ads include your image or video and are displayed on relevant websites that offer space to advertisers
- Video – Many marketers find that paid and organic video content performs particularly well at the moment, getting more exposure and engagement on social media, appealing to younger audiences, and can be a powerful way to connect and drive conversions
- Influencer marketing – One way universities can use influencer marketing is by engaging with current or past students to showcase campus life and/or careers following graduation
- User-generated content – Universities can showcase testimonials, answer FAQs, and share stories from current students to help build trust with the audience
- Billboards – Many universities still use billboard ads and posters in physical locations where they can reach their target audience
- Print – Ads in magazines, newspapers, and newsletters can reach the prospective students that read or buy them.
Note: that an omnichannel approach is essential in order to reach a variety of audiences, increase your touchpoints with potential students, and avoid relying on a single channel for your leads. But that doesn’t mean you need to show up everywhere or use every on-trend marketing tactic. It’s important to be realistic about the resources you need to execute — including ongoing monitoring and engagement on your chosen platforms.
4. Manage and convert leads with a CRM
Before your leads start rolling in, it’s important to have a system set up to handle their data and communications. An education-focused CRM can help you manage your leads effectively, and has the added advantage of being designed to support prospective students and your marketing and admissions team.
Best practices for managing and converting leads include:
- Quickly responding to enquiries, with a mix of automations, templates, and personalised support
- Capturing lead data in one place to provide a source of truth
- Capturing enough data to segment audiences and personalise communications (but striking the right balance so that leads don't feel overwhelmed by huge forms)
- Tagging and segmenting leads to automatically personalise journeys based on their characteristics and activity
- Tracking lead sources and how much they cost so you can calculate your cost per lead and ROI
- Split testing variations to discover what works and improve ROI
- Creating clear calls-to-action that guide people to the next step with link, buttons, and instructions
Tribal’s Student Marketing & Recruitment solution can allow you to follow these best practices, with tools that streamline your higher education marketing strategy, from lead capture to admissions. Popular features include detailed audience segmentation, personalisation, automation, event management, and reporting.
Higher education marketing matters, but don’t stop there. Head to part two in this series, where we share enrolment and admissions tips that will help you engage with potential students and set them up for a strong start to the semester.
Want to learn more before you launch your 2023 student marketing campaign? Check out these articles:
- 8 lead generation strategies for higher education
- International Student Recruitment in Australia: The post-pandemic challenges & opportunities
- A new horizon in marketing strategy for student recruitment
Contact Tribal to discuss how we can help you upgrade your student experience. Or book a demo to explore our student marketing and recruitment solution.