A robust digital marketing strategy for schools is instrumental, especially for those looking to boost enrollment numbers, and effective lead generation is a crucial aspect. As technology and student behaviors evolve, digital advertising strategies for schools must be re-evaluated. This is particularly the case in the post-pandemic landscape, where conversions increasingly occur across multi-channel funnels that involve multiple touchpoints instead of in separate channel silos.
Having a solid strategy behind your school’s chosen channels and taking the time to track conversion properly can help you refine your lead generation efforts, ultimately allowing you to achieve your recruitment goals in 2023. Here are some key tips and insights to consider as you get started with marketing for schools!
1. Understanding Common Channels in Higher Education Marketing
Marketing channels can be viewed as media that allow schools to market their programs and student experience to prospects. These channels are typically divided into four main categories: digital, traditional, paid, and free. This can include anything from paid ads on social media or search engines to email marketing. When it comes to education marketing and the best marketing strategies for schools, the most common channels are:
- Paid Search: users who click on one of your Google Ads
- Organic Search: visitors who find your website by typing a search query in Google
- Direct: visitors who land on your website via bookmarked or typed URL
- Paid Social: users who click on an ad on social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
- Organic Social: users who come from your social media accounts
- Referral: users who click on a link from another website
- Email: users who click on a link from one of your email campaigns
- Cross Network: users engaged with an ad across multiple networks
Using these channels correctly ensures your school can reach its audience, boost brand awareness, and entice prospects to reconsider their options. You can start by evaluating your advertising goals and analyzing your audience, identifying which channels they use most. Once you review your student enrollment journey and scope out your competition, you’ll be better positioned to develop a strong marketing strategy for schools.
Single Channel vs. Multi-Channel Higher Education Marketing
In the past, many schools relied on a single marketing channel to promote programs and course offerings. However, student needs and behaviors have evolved, and now, many schools know they must adopt a multi-channel marketing approach to maintain a competitive edge.
In the former, schools may only rely on their website and direct web traffic to promote their programs, whereas, in the latter, schools would use a mix of different channels to reach prospects and guide them through the enrollment funnel. This can include a social media ad, Google Ads, and the school website. Here, prospects may discover the school through one channel and uncover more information as they engage with other channels, ultimately leading to their enrollment.
2. Digital Marketing Strategy for Schools: Gathering Key Insights by Monitoring Conversions and Touchpoints
You’ll want to use conversion tracking and attribution to gain valuable insights when developing a digital marketing strategy for schools. Conversions occur when visitors complete desired actions on your website, and tracking them can help you determine how users interact with your marketing and advertising initiatives. But to follow them successfully, you’ll need to set up attribution in your analytics platform properly.
In Google Analytics 4, your attribution model will enable you to determine how conversion credit should be distributed to different marketing touchpoints along the conversion path—the path users take to convert on your website. Other attribution models award conversions differently. The Last-Click attribution model is the most used for schools, primarily because it provides measurable data grounded in high-intent user actions. Other attribution models can also be valuable for your school to gain insights into its conversion touchpoints. These models include:
- Time decay
- Data-driven attribution
It should be noted that the paid search and organic search channels are increasingly becoming assigned as First-Click and Last-Click attributions. The direct channel is more commonly tagged as the Last-Click, usually due to an earlier touchpoint, whereas the organic medium is often the final touchpoint. Diving into your data and conversion touchpoints can significantly benefit your overall advertising strategy. It can help you:
- Better understand how different campaigns contribute to your key performance indicators (KPIs)
- Better allocate and plan future budgets
- Better use of data-driven optimization techniques
Finding Your School’s Multi-Channel Conversions and Conversions Reports
You’ll need to review your multi-channel conversions when dealing with multiple touchpoints in school marketing strategies. In Google Analytics 4 (GA4), you can find these tools in the “Attribution” tab under “Advertising” in the main menu. The “model comparison” tool allows you to analyze and compare results between two different attribution models, as shown below:
The second tool, “conversion paths,” shows conversions by default channel groupings across early, mid, and late touchpoints (first image). Further down this report, you can gain even more detailed insights on your channel groups and conversion information (second image):
3. Establishing Your School’s Presence on Additional Platforms
It may sound like a lot of work, but developing a digital advertising strategy across different channels can produce great rewards. Research shows that brands using three or more marketing channels generate a 287% higher conversion rate. Considering that prospects need multiple encounters with a brand before they convert, it’s safe to say that creating a presence on different platforms and channels can help your school improve its reach and visibility and enable you to attract the attention of your target audience. This approach can be one of many marketing strategies to increase student enrollment.
Knowing which channels matter most to prospective students is vital to this strategy. Here, your student personas will be helpful, mainly since they serve as a semi-fictional representation of your ideal students with information on their backgrounds, motivations, and concerns. These personas can reference how your target audience likes to communicate with your school, giving you an idea of which channels and platforms to prioritize.
Once this step is complete, you can review your overall digital marketing strategy and your school’s online presence and seek to identify gaps in possible touchpoints. Perhaps you can capitalize on an opportunity to establish your school on a new social media platform, like TikTok or BeReal. You can also use this to refine your SEO efforts and drive more organic traffic to your website.
Are you interested in trying this out for your school? Our team of marketing and advertising experts can help your school expand its online presence and develop targeted ad campaigns on multiple paid advertising channels. Reach out to get started!
4. Using Cross-Channel Remarketing and Different Media Types
Cross-channel remarketing can be an effective way to retarget a school’s prospects and can even help improve lead generation for schools. That’s because retargeted ads allow schools to connect more effectively with prospects, creating a more personalized interaction that increases their chances of engaging with its advertising. This could result in a website visit that later transforms into a conversion.
Some platforms can be compelling tools for remarketing to traffic. The example below uses the Meta pixel to collect all visitors from various sources, including a Google landing page, organic visits to the program page, and traffic from a Facebook campaign. The results show impressive reach and impressions:
There’s also value in experimenting with additional media types as part of developing robust marketing strategies for schools. Although search should be a go-to approach for lead generation, other campaign types can help reach users across different networks. This includes Discovery, Performance Max, and Video. Similarly, Meta should be considered, primarily since video or dynamic ads often provide equal or substantial results.
The example below shows the impact a digital marketing strategy for higher education could have using the Discovery campaign type in Google.
Pro Tip: Reviewing your data regularly and relying on A/B testing and other types of experimentation is crucial. Doing so ensures that you’ll be working with the correct data and generating better results, creating ample opportunities for optimization.
5. Creating Lead Generation Offers for Each Stage of the Enrollment Funnel
Lead generation for higher education is about nurturing your prospects and guiding them from inquiry to enrollment. To do this justice, you’ll need to consider two main questions:
- What funnel stage are prospects at?
- What do prospects at that stage need from you?
The former question pushes you to analyze your admissions funnel structure, while the second prompts you to consider the messages you’ve created for your prospects. In each funnel stage, prospects will need to receive certain types of messaging, making them more comfortable and confident in choosing your school above its competition. The funnel stages are as follows:
- Top of the Funnel (TOFU): Awareness
- Middle of the Funnel (MOFU): Consideration
- Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU): Decision
So, How do you market a school digitally? Using the funnel stages, awareness, consideration, and decision will ensure your school is correctly sold. These marketing messages allow your school to create personalized offers that resonate more effectively with your prospects. In doing so, your school can decrease the threshold resistance, a perceived barrier between schools and their prospects, one that is held up by offers that prospects are not ready to take on. Understanding these funnel stages and creating TOFU to BOFU marketing initiatives can do wonders to improve digital marketing for schools.
Expanding Your TOFU Content and Using Lead Magnets as a Digital Marketing Strategy for Schools
At the top of the funnel, prospects discover your school and interact with your content for the first time. Since this is the awareness stage, much of your content will focus on promoting your school and attracting prospects by appealing to their interests. It’s all about knowing what prospects are searching for. In this stage, that often boils down to the career in question for colleges and universities. Common questions prospects may have can include:
- Is this the right career for me?
- Is this a growing field?
- What is it like to work in this field?
- What are salaries like?
- Will there be opportunities for advancement?
Creating TOFU content that answers these questions is another one of many essential marketing strategies for schools. Here, your focus should be entirely on education lead generation. This is where lead magnets come in, serving as free assets or offers that prospects can access in exchange for their contact information. These lead magnets are considered “low threshold” offers, making it easy for prospects to fulfill the action. To boost their impact, you’ll want to aim for broadly appealing, intriguing, and gated offers, meaning accessing them requires contact information like a name and email address. They can also be created in different formats, such as career guides (PDF documents), career-based webinars, and online quizzes.
Example: Simplilearn uses TOFU content to generate leads, attracting prospects by promising a valuable cybersecurity career guide. The guide contains a market study as well as insights on top skills and career growth, making it much harder to turn down:
Embracing MOFU Lead Generation Offers
The middle of the funnel is about engaging leads for schools and creating opportunities that push prospects to consider a school as the primary choice for enrollment more seriously. In this stage, prospects are likely familiar with your school but have not taken the next step in becoming more qualified leads. With MOFU higher education lead generation, you can interact more meaningfully with prospects, developing a digital advertising strategy that drives results.
Video content is also helpful in encouraging prospects to visit your school. Here is an example of who your content should include:
Source: Higher Education Marketing
Having student ambassadors share their experiences creates a sense of understanding and belonging for prospective students. Videos provide a platform to understand the students’ tone and the school’s atmosphere.
You can also create brochures about your program, promote information sessions, or host open house events to attract prospects at this stage. You can then use these offers to generate leads, capture prospects’ contact information, and pave the way toward more personalized communication.
Example: The University of Windsor promotes its Open House event on an Instagram Ad. The ad redirects prospects to a sign-up page, making it an effective way to appeal to prospects in the middle of the funnel:
Source: University of Windsor
Driving Conversions with Targeted BOFU Offers
At the bottom of the funnel, prospects are nearly ready to convert. They’ve heard about your school, are interested in your offerings, and have developed a more meaningful relationship with your school’s brand. However, they still need an extra push to make that final decision and enroll.
You’ll need to rely on BOFU offers to nurture leads at this stage. Marketing strategies for schools that embrace this component of lead generation are essential. These student enrollment lead generation offers can include personal meetings with admin staff, class demonstrations, tutorials on relevant subjects, and intelligent content.
Example: To entice prospects at the bottom of the funnel to interact with the school and become more qualified leads, Cumberland College invites them to schedule a personal information session. Through an easy-to-use interface, prospects can quickly select a date and leave their contact information for a follow-up:
Source: Cumberland College
Integrating these different lead generation offers into your admissions funnel can greatly impact a digital marketing strategy for schools, along with an advertising strategy for schools. It can help refine your messaging, allowing you to better connect with your audience and boost enrollment numbers.