Understandably, the past few years have been unpredictable to say the least. Institutions across a wide range of industries have had to fundamentally change and revisit their business model and marketing tactics—including schools seeking to bolster their student recruitment efforts in the post-pandemic reality.
2022 holds the promise of a new start for schools. ICEF Monitor’s 2021 survey reveals that 53% of agents anticipate a recovery post-pandemic, with higher international student enrollments in light of new virtual and hybrid educational initiatives. Although it’s difficult to predict the future landscape of enrollment marketing, certain marketing tactics and student recruitment strategies are rising in popularity and are promising to be particularly effective in the year ahead.
With the right strategy in place, you’ll be better positioned to understand, connect with, and discover new prospects to help your school boost its enrollment numbers. These approaches can even help you improve your school’s reputation and student retention efforts, leading to better brand awareness and loyalty. Read on to discover our insights and begin developing an effective student recruitment strategy to achieve your goals in 2022.
1. Embrace Virtual and Hybrid Events to Increase Student Engagement
It may be difficult to remember a time when virtual events were popular, but data shows that they have been steadily growing in demand even before the pandemic—now with an expected annual growth of 23.2% from 2020 to 2027. This growing demand for virtual and flexible options is also reflected in the education sector. According to Salesforce, 57% of surveyed staff say that their school is investing in new revenue streams to attract new students, including flexible learning options such as online, hybrid, and in-person.
The online factor is an effective way to appeal to a broad range of prospects, overcoming geographic and in-person limitations. In this way, your school can use virtual events as an opportunity to connect with more prospects—even marketing your virtual or hybrid learning options to address student concerns and showcase your institution’s flexibility and quick response.
Example: The Queen’s University Tours and Events page includes an “Online Events” section that lists a variety of outreach methods, from webinars and Instagram LIVE events to saved recordings and virtual experiences. This allows students, no matter where they are, to connect with Queen’s University and engage with the community in a more meaningful way.
Source: Queen’s University
Prospects interested in browsing webinars can click the link and register for different types of virtual events that cover key topics in admissions and recruitment, as seen below:
Source: Queen’s University
Your school can embrace this approach to make its team more readily available, allowing admissions to easily interact with interested prospects.
2. Personalize Your School’s Digital Marketing Strategy to Better Connect with Prospects
You have likely heard about the importance of personalization in your school’s digital marketing strategy, but did you know that personalization also has the potential to become an expectation among prospects during enrollment?
According to one marketing study, Gen Z wants deeper interaction with content and is seeking personalized targeted efforts. This desire to connect has been prevalent even during the pandemic. In fact, the previous Salesforce study shows that personalized messages made 77% of students feel that their school cares about their personal success.
To create effective personalized messaging, your school will need to develop accurate student personas that delve into your prospect’s motivations and concerns. By understanding who your prospects are and analyzing their needs and interests, you’ll be able to better connect with them. The data you gather can help you craft key messages, proving to prospects that your school is committed to their growth and development.
Example: Carleton University’s Carleton360 initiative is a great way to engage interested prospects, creating a virtual hub that keeps them informed. Here, prospects can tailor their own experience and view events and news that uniquely align with their specific interests.
Source: Carleton University
Focusing your efforts on prospects in their senior or junior year in high school can be a great way to boost student enrollment, but it’s important not to overlook other opportunities. Many younger students, even those who are just beginning high school, can be open to exploring their academic and professional future. Targeting these younger prospects with relevant personalized content can help you with lead nurturing—allowing you to establish brand loyalty, trust, and meaningful relationships that drive results.
Foster Deeper Relationships with Targeted Email Marketing Campaigns
Personalized marketing can take shape in a variety of ways, including targeted email campaigns. Despite social media’s popularity and the rise of new marketing tactics, email marketing continues to be one of the most effective and reliable communication channels for schools. Survey data even shows that 57% of students list email as their preferred channel, making it even more important for your school’s student recruitment strategies.
Your school can make full use of this channel by embracing automated email workflows that send prospects relevant information regarding their specific interests. When done right, these email campaigns can push prospects further down the funnel and encourage conversions. A powerful education CRM can help your school manage these relationships, equipping your admissions team with the tools they need for success.
Example: The Toronto Film School sends relevant information as part of their email marketing campaign, introducing prospects to the Student Showreel as a way to showcase student talent and generate interest and engagement in the prospect’s program of choice. It should be noted that the message is made more personal by including the prospect’s name and program in the body of the email.
Source: Toronto Film School
Expand Your Reach through Student Ambassador Marketing
Prospects are seeking connections with real people from your school, giving them an insider perspective on campus life and the student experience. This is where student-generated content, as well as student ambassador programs, can come in handy—allowing your school to support its current students while showcasing their personal experiences more authentically.
Here, students can share their insights on life in residence, their program and class schedule, campus clubs and activities, and so much more. This type of student influencer marketing can help increase your visibility on social media platforms and portray your school in more open and positive light. Engaged members of your community can also share their activities, research, and other interests on social media while representing your school to draw in more interest, and expanding your reach online.
Example: Western Washington University has a dedicated Instagram page for its student ambassadors. Different posts introduce different members and their backgrounds, making the university and its community feel more approachable. In the post below, WWU supports one of its student ambassadors and generates buzz around a campus event:
3. Promoting Transparency and Insightful Content as Student Recruitment Strategies
It’s important to understand your prospects’ intentions and why they’re viewing your school’s content. Doing so allows you to embrace “intent marketing,” which focuses on consumer behaviour and intent instead of other factors like demographics.
One key way to collect this information is by referring to the data gathered by your website’s search tool. Here, you can view the most common queries and create custom content that addresses each point comprehensively. This ensures that interested prospects have quick answers to their most burning questions—helping you better address their concerns and, consequently, secure more enrollments.
Content development can also be applied to generate innovative recruitment methods. High-quality, insightful content that educates and delights prospects can serve to showcase the wide range of opportunities and experiences offered at your school. For example, your school can share educational content surrounding financial aid, career services, and even program-specific information (i.e. assignments, short lectures and workshops, curriculum, etc.).
Simon Fraser University (SFU) features an accessible page on how students can gain work experience while completing their studies. The page addresses prospects’ concerns regarding finding employment by listing the various services and resources that they can rely on when becoming students.
Source: Simon Fraser University
On another page, SFU shares a list of community events that educate and engage prospects and current students—showcasing a vibrant community dedicated to the growth and success of its members.
Source: Simon Fraser University
Another notable strategy to consider is developing an active school blog to introduce your school’s campus, programs, services, events, and other relevant information. It can also be a great way to spotlight standout faculty, alumni, and current students. Through your blog, prospects can discover new insights and learn more about what makes your school different from other options. This can help encourage prospects to enroll, motivating them to become part of your school’s active community.
Example: The John Cabot University blog can be filtered by different topics, ranging from academics and student life to student/club spotlight and career services. Here, prospects can read different types of posts and learn more about the school and its community through insider perspectives.
Source: John Cabot University
Focus on Storytelling to Showcase Your Community and its Successes
Storytelling marketing is a great way to connect with your prospects and show them what their future pathway can be, spurring them to follow in your students’ footsteps and enroll. According to the Search Engine Watch, storytelling can even increase conversion rates by 30%.
The key here is to highlight student success and your school’s unique selling proposition (USP). These stories can be featured through student testimonials, paid advertising campaigns on social media, as well as other web and social media content.
Example: The bottom of Victoria University’s website features a “Hear from Our Students” section, which spotlights three different student stories along with key information like the student’s name, their program, a direct quote, and an image. The featured stories serve as testimonials in their own right, making it easier for prospects to discover the advantages your school can provide.
Source: Victoria University
Another way to display your school’s stories is to feature a dedicated news page on your website. By presenting your school’s activities as “stories,” you can become better positioned to inspire prospects and motivate them to become a part of your active community. The University of Bristol takes this approach by highlighting “A Place of Amazing Stories,” where prospects can view different topics and be inspired by students’ research.
Source: University of Bristol
Visual storytelling and video content can also be an effective student recruitment strategy, particularly when it tells your prospect’s story. Randolph-Macon Academy does this by presenting a prospect’s point of view in an engaging video, showing the prospect (the main character) searching online for ways to convince their parents why they should attend the school. A series of fun facts and interesting insights are then shared on-screen by actual students, making the video all the more engaging and effective.
Source: Randolph-Macon Academy
Pro Tip: Social media is a great place to share your school’s stories, especially on visual-heavy platforms like Instagram and TikTok. Consider developing a social media strategy that invites student ambassadors to become more active storytellers.
4. Explore Higher Ed Conversational Marketing for Innovative Recruitment Methods
More and more prospects are seeking personal connections with real-time interactions. According to this study, 42% of surveyed students say their school utilizes a chatbot–with three in five students evaluating those experiences positively. These positive experiences make conversational marketing more popular, allowing school admissions teams to be more accessible than ever before.
Conversational marketing, typically through chatbot and live chat features, has been reportedly used by 47% of marketers in the past year. The ease of adding these features to websites and the rapid growth of artificial intelligence in marketing (increasing by 190% from 2018 to 2020) promises a lot of opportunities for schools seeking to improve and increase one-on-one interactions with their prospects.
Here, your school can include a live chat feature on its website to help prospects get immediate answers—which can play a part in helping them quickly understand and complete the admissions process. A chatbot can also be made available to guide prospects after work hours, giving your team a break while consistently providing prospects with a high-quality experience.
Example: University Canada West includes an exclusive “Chat with Students” page on its website, linking prospects to current students from different backgrounds taking different programs. Through filter options, prospects can find students who they relate to most—speaking with them to get instant answers that can affect their decision to enroll. The live chat service also connects prospects to the school’s staff, giving prospects different ways to connect with your school directly.
Source: University Canada West
Host Live Events to Give Prospects Immediate Answers in a Community Setting
Your school can also adopt live events as effective strategies for increasing student enrollment. Live events allow your potential students to meet your school’s team alongside other interested prospects. This can give them an insight into their future community as well as how your school engages with its members. By hosting and marketing these events on social media, you can boost your engagement and reach a wider audience.
The University of Nottingham announces its live Q&A event on Instagram to generate buzz, sharing the type of information they’ll be covering to better inform prospects during admissions.
This way, students can get instant responses to their questions. You can also create livestream events on social media to generate engagement, answer more questions (open Q and A format), and boost brand awareness. This can be hosted by your school’s recruitment team (making them more responsive) as well as student ambassadors for a more authentic experience.
These events can be hosted by different departments and teams at your school to increase student engagement and brand awareness. You can also involve staff, faculty, and student ambassadors to differentiate events and draw in more hesitant prospects.
Pro Tip: Although you’re seeking to attract more students, it’s important to also consider improving your school’s parent outreach efforts. Parents are key decision-makers and appealing to their concerns and interests can help you boost overall enrollment numbers. Here, it may be helpful to host events specifically tailored to parents, giving them the resources and answers they need to feel more confident about their decision.
5. Optimize Your School’s Website Content to Ensure Better Accessibility and Discoverability
Optimizing your school’s website can make it more discoverable on search engine results pages, making it even easier for prospects to find your school and learn about your programs. Search engine optimization (SEO) has been around for a while, yet it still manages to stay relevant in today’s digital marketing landscape.
Education SEO can include a broad range of factors, such as page architecture and domain authority to content quality and mobile friendliness. Each component can play a key role in improving your marketing and student recruitment strategy. To know where to start, your school can conduct an internal SEO audit and take active measures to improve your efforts.
Some key things to focus on in 2022 include creating high-quality content specifically designed to answer your prospect’s most common queries. This is where Google’s E-A-T Principle comes in, which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness. Creating web content that meets all three pillars, while also integrating semantically related keywords, can significantly improve your SEO strategy for student recruitment. More recent SEO best practices also include featuring videos to broaden your scope and impact.
Research shows that mobile internet traffic makes up 56.89% of the total global online traffic. As a result, your school should pay particular attention to its website’s mobile friendliness.
Consider making 2022 all about improving accessibility, from ensuring a high-quality user experience on mobile to venturing into other areas to boost SEO—including adding voice commands (for better voice search discoverability) and virtual reality features (such as interactive campus tours).
Example: The University of Reading’s website appears differently depending on the prospect’s device—with content rearranged in order to promote a positive user experience. Compared to the desktop view (first image), the mobile view of the page (second image) is more concise and compact for easier navigation on smaller screens.
Source: University of Reading
6. Increase Student Enrollment Numbers by Enhancing Your School’s Student Application Process
Simplifying the student application process can help you retain prospects and encourage more enrollments. ICEF Monitor’s 2021 agent survey revealed that flexibility is a popular motivator among prospects seeking to enroll in language schools as well as those pursuing foundation, pathway programs, and undergraduate-level studies.
Source: ICEF Monitor Survey
Source: ICEF Monitor Survey
As seen in the charts above, flexibility in admission processing and requirements has been consistently cited in the top three motivating enrollment factors for both groups. By revising your admissions process and streamlining the experience, more students can be motivated to complete their application. Having an intuitive online application process that seeks to eliminate extra hurdles can be a particularly effective way to increase student recruitment post-pandemic.
Example: Carleton University has actively worked to simplify its student application process. Through the Carleton360 platform, students can easily apply for internal degree transfers. Students can also use digital Third Party Release forms for multiple offices to eliminate additional paperwork. This approach can inspire other schools to revise their application process and apply technology similarly to simplify admission processing for prospects.
Source: Carleton University
When applying any of these methods, it’s best to start with an assessment of your school’s current efforts and the development of SMART goals. By carefully outlining your goals and crafting your strategy, you’ll be better able to start on the right track and drive positive results.