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Strong marketing strategies for schools are instrumental, especially for those looking to boost enrollment numbers, and effective lead generation is a key aspect. As both technology and student behaviors continue to 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 strong 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 better achieve your recruitment goals in 2023. Here are some key tips and insights to consider as you get started!

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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, 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 get started by evaluating your advertising goals and analyzing your audience, identifying which channels they tend to 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 and Google Ads in addition to 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.

Gathering Key Insights by Monitoring Conversions and Touchpoints

When developing a digital marketing strategy for schools, you’ll want to use conversion tracking and attribution to gain valuable insights. 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 in order to track 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 that users take to convert on your website. Different attribution models award conversions differently. For schools, the Last-Click attribution model is the most used, especially since it provides measurable data that is grounded in high-intent actions taken by the user. Other attribution models can also be a valuable way for your school to gain different insights into its conversion touchpoints. These models include:

  • Last-Click
  • First-Click
  • Linear
  • Position-based
  • 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 channel 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

When dealing with multiple touchpoints in marketing strategies for schools, you’ll need to review your multi-channel conversions. 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):

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.

A key part of this strategy is knowing which channels matter most to your prospective students. Here, your student personas will be useful, particularly 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 as well as 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 as a chance to refine your SEO efforts and drive more organic traffic to your website.

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!

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 with improving lead generation for schools. That’s because retargeted ads allow schools to more effectively connect with prospects, creating a more personalized interaction that increases the chances of them engaging with its advertising. This could result in a website visit that later transforms into a conversion.

Some platforms can be particularly powerful 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 strong marketing strategies for schools. Although search should be a go-to approach for lead generation, other campaign types can help reach users across other networks. This includes Discovery, Performance Max, and Video. Similarly, Meta should be considered, especially since using video or dynamic ads provides equal or strong results in many cases. 

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, along with other types of experimentation, is crucial. Doing so ensures that you’ll be working with the right data and generating better results, creating ample opportunities for optimization. 

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

These marketing messages present an opportunity for 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 simply 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

At the top of the funnel, prospects are just discovering your school and interacting 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, for colleges and universities, that often boils down to the career in question. Common questions prospects may have can include:

  • Is this the right career for me? 
  • Is this a growing field?
  • What is it actually 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 offers that are broadly appealing, intriguing, and gated, 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 career 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:

Source: Simplilearn

Embracing MOFU Lead Generation Offers

The middle of the funnel is about engaging leads for schools and creating opportunities that push prospects to more seriously consider a school as the primary choice for enrollment. 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. 

You can choose to 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, capturing prospects’ contact information and paving 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. 

To nurture leads in this stage, you’ll need to rely on BOFU offers. Marketing strategies for schools that embrace this component of lead generation are essential. These student enrollment lead generation offers can include anything from personal meetings with admin staff and class demonstrations to tutorials on relevant subjects and smart 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

Making an effort to integrate these different lead generation offers into your admissions funnel can make a big difference in your school’s digital marketing and advertising strategy. It can help you refine your messaging, allowing you to better connect with your audience and boost enrollment numbers.

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