Strategic Marketing for Student Recruitment: Promoting Individual Programs
Date posted: July 26, 2017
Throughout the year, your school’s marketing needs will shift and change. At some point, you may find yourself needing to promote a certain program more than others. Whether you need a minimum amount of students to enrol in order to run the program or you’re promoting a brand new offering, your digital marketing efforts may need to be adjusted to accommodate your goals.
By singling out one program, zeroing in on its key strengths, and developing a program-specific target persona, you can reach out to prospective students more effectively, and move them through the funnel towards conversion and enrolment.
If you’re looking to develop a specific strategy for an individual program, read on to find out more.
Why Should Your School Promote Programs Individually?
Whether a program is one of your school’s largest offerings, or a small niche course designed for a specialized career path, there are many reasons why you may want to single it out and focus your efforts on promoting it.
Some examples of when program-specific marketing strategies for student recruitment are particularly useful include if a program is underperforming and you need to boost its enrolment numbers, or you’re launching a new course and need to increase awareness. Perhaps you may have added new elements to your curriculum or improved your facilities and want to capitalize on these changes. You may even run seasonal programs, such as summer courses, and need to increase your recruitment efforts at specific times of the year. Whatever your reason may be, there are several important considerations to keep in mind when creating a strategy for marketing your course.
Target the Right Prospective Students Using Customized Personas
Depending on your needs, you may have an overarching target persona for your entire school or specific personas for different demographics or age groups. Strategic marketing for student recruitment in particular courses, however, may include formulating new personas that are designed to target the ideal student of that program. This will help you to better tailor your messaging and appeal directly to the persona’s needs, concerns, and motivations. Some questions to consider when developing program-specific personas include:
- What is the age range, location, and socioeconomic background of a typical student in this program? Does it differ from your main target audience?
- What concerns may the prospective student have about enrolling in this particular program?
- What is motivating the student to enrol in this program?
- Who are your main competitors for this program? What advantages does your course offer over other schools? (e.g. better facilities, lower costs, etc.)
- What outcomes do typical students in this program expect? Are they hoping to find a job, learn a particular skill, or progress to further study?
While more general student personas are often more concerned with school facilities, amenities, financial aid, and broader information about subject choice, personas for individual programs must look more closely at the prospective student and their interest in the specifics of that particular program.
You also want to make sure that all content promoting the program is conveying the right message. By developing key messages in your content that highlight your program’s unique selling points, prospective students can more easily overcome any boundaries to applying and move down the funnel. You can draw these key messages directly from the persona you created.
Using Your Website in a Program-Specific Marketing Strategy for Student Recruitment
For some potential recruits, your website’s homepage could be their first point of contact with your school. If you want to increase enrolment in a particular program, featuring it on your homepage is a good way to increase awareness and point prospective students towards the program page.
Example: The International Beauty Institute features its Make-up Artist Diploma Program on its website’s homepage. The content addresses several important points including internship opportunities and the ability to develop a portfolio, which would both appeal to personas looking to begin a promising career in make-up artistry.
By featuring the program front and center on your website, you will help ensure it doesn’t go unnoticed by prospective students entering your website from the homepage.
You should also pay particular attention to the program page of the specific course you are trying to promote. This may also attract substantial traffic from students searching for particular courses online, and needs to be as detailed and enticing as possible. Your persona research may reveal some general points that are important to include here, such as careers that past graduates have been successful in, practicum or internship opportunities that are included in the program, specific course content, scheduling, and course delivery.
Example: Vancouver Community College’s Bachelor of Hospitality Management program page includes information about the program structure, length and start date, and availability, in addition to links at the bottom of the page that open to reveal additional information about the program that a prospective student would be interested to know.
Highlighting Programs Using Engaging Blog Posts
Blog posts are another excellent way to promote a specific program. Blogs offer more flexibility in terms of how you present information, whether you want to speak about a program directly, or write a blog on a general topic related to it. By mentioning a course more frequently on your blog, you can generate more awareness amongst your online audience.
Example: CultureWorks, an English language school in Canada, promotes its EAP Program in a blog post that outlines the curriculum of the program.
If you want to promote your program in a more subtle way, discussing general topics that the persona would find valuable and interesting is a great way to generate awareness and provide prospective students with useful or interesting information about that field. Integrating carefully selected keywords and links throughout the blog will also help your course rank higher in search engine results.
Example: ASC A+, a school in Boston, USA that offers enrichment programs for students in grades two to 12, promotes its SAT prep course by publishing a blog about how parents can help their child prepare for the exam. While the post doesn’t promote the program in an outright manner, several keywords that relate to the program and link back to the program page are integrated throughout the post.
Strategies for Promoting Specific Programs on Social Media
Social media is another channel that can be useful for promoting individual programs, allowing prospective students to engage with your school directly about the course in fun and interesting ways.
Instagram, for instance, can be particularly effective when it comes to finding more visual ways to promote what you have to offer. Posting photos or videos of current students participating in the program will provide potential recruits with a valuable look at what the courses are actually like.
Example: Falmouth University promotes its fashion program on Instagram. Students in Fashion & Textiles courses are shown in the classroom working on projects.
If you are looking to fill remaining spots in a program right up to its start date, you can also use social media to raise awareness, creating posts that include information on application deadlines, availabilities, contact information, and even links to encourage prospective students to seek more information.
Example: Rhodes Wellness College in Vancouver promotes its Professional Counsellor Diploma program by letting students know that there’s still time to apply, but there are only limited spots available. The post includes a link, contact info, start dates, and relevant hashtags.
Don’t be afraid to get creative to get the attention of your audience. Social media “stories” are a fun way to interact with prospective students and answer their questions, and there’s no reason why you can’t tailor your stories to promote one program in particular. In addition, don’t forget to utilize other platforms where your target persona may be found like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Using Email Campaigns to Promote Specific Programs
Email campaigns can also be vital to raising awareness of a specific program you want to promote. There are many different types of campaigns; from newsletters and promo emails, to extensive lead nurturing campaigns, all of which can help to increase applications.
Newsletters, whether they run biweekly or monthly, are a great option for getting information about your program on the screens of potential recruits. They can be used to talk about a program directly or as a means of distributing other content, like related blog posts.
Lead nurturing campaigns are also an excellent addition to any higher education digital marketing strategy for student recruitment. Nurturing campaigns are designed to deliver highly targeted content at optimal points in the user journey to move a prospect down the funnel.
Using a customer relationship management (CRM) system, you can create smart lists to segment potential leads based on what program they have shown interest in. This allows you to create more tailored, personalized communications that highlight specific aspects of the course, while focusing your efforts on those who are most likely to convert. By crafting insightful emails with important information prospective students would want to know at each stage of the user journey, you can help move them towards enrolment.
It’s really important to ensure that each email’s message is crafted for the particular program-specific persona you developed. This will help ensure the content is not only timely, but relevant. In addition, it’s imperative that your school has a process in place for following up with students who make inquiries. This includes making your student-facing admissions team aware that you’re pushing a particular program, so they are prepared to answer any and all students’ questions.
Using Paid Advertising to Promote a Program is an Effective Marketing Strategy for Student Recruitment
If you’re looking to garner qualified leads quickly, investing in paid advertising is an ideal route. While organic practices like blogging, SEO, and social media are effective, paid advertising is optimal if you need results in a short period of time.
Employing a program-specific pay per click (PPC) campaign on search engines like Google or Bing will help ensure that your course appears near the top of search results when prospective students search for related terms.
In addition, don’t forget the importance of creating a landing page for your PPC campaign. A well-designed landing page should provide enough information to entice users to provide their contact details, so they become a formal lead and you can follow up with them in an effort to move them down the funnel.
Example: CDI College advertises its Dental Assistant Training Program on Google.
When the ad is clicked, the prospective student is taken to a landing page with some details about the program, as well as an above-the-fold form that prospective students can complete to receive additional information.
When it comes time to promote a specific program at your school, the tips in this blog will prove quite handy. Above all else, ensuring the content, message, and style is well-suited to a program-specific persona will help you achieve results.
Narrowing in on just one program presents the unique opportunity to be extremely specific and targeted with your messaging. By understanding your persona and getting your messaging right, you have the potential to reach out to prospective students in such a way that they feel like what they’re reading was written just for them, which is invaluable when it comes to recruiting students.