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Top 5 Higher Education Enrollment Marketing Questions to Ask Yourself Ahead of #AMAHigherEd

By Gil Rogers

The higher education enrollment management and marketing industry is headed to Atlanta next week for the annual American Marketing Association Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education during a time of rapid change, increasing pressures to perform, and an ever-moving target with respect to reaching our audience.  With that in mind, here are 5 questions to ask yourself (and potential chances to find them!) at the conference.

Question 1: How do I define my audience?

Marketing is hard.  Marketing for higher education is harder.  For many of us in higher education marketing we are tasked with building a message for, and engaging with, a variety of constituencies.

  • How and when are we talking to alumni?
  • What about the campus community?
  • In the context of recruitment; does the same brand message work for prospective undergraduates versus prospective graduate students?

As marketers, it is important that we not only segment our audiences, but also consider how subsets of those audiences may think, act, and respond differently based on your messaging.  One area of research on this topic was published earlier this year by Eduventures, tackling the realities of institutional branding.

Question 2: Where do I reach my audience?

With the explosion of online search, social media, streaming services and more; the opportunities to display or broadcast your message are seemingly endless.  But, which of these channels actually work?

In the world of social media, one way to think about this is that there are different places that students go for different things.  A prospective student may use Facebook to stay connected with family while using Snapchat to keep up with their friends.  Which advertising platform is more appropriate for higher education marketers? We’ll discuss this and more during the expanded marketing session on Monday, November 13 at 10:15 AM titled “E-Expectations 2017: How Online Expectations Change for Today’s Prospective Students and Parents”.

Encoura Data Lab subscribers gain access to the full report on-demand in the Eduventures Research Library.

Question 3: How do I define success?

With so many tools and tricks available it can be easy to fall into the traps of letting your tools drive your strategy and not being able to effectively measure success. Even digital marketing tools, with their insights and analytics, can be hard to effectively measure if not implemented appropriately and monitored correctly.

At the AMA Symposium, you will hear a lot of people say “goals before tools!” or some variance of that statement.  And, they are right.  However, once you’ve established your goals (be them branding, student recruitment, alumni engagement, etc.) it’s important to understand what tools will effectively help you achieve those goals as compared to what tools are a shiny object that doesn’t actually move the needle.

Question 4: How do I connect the dots?

No matter what our priority is (alumni engagement, student recruitment, community engagement) it’s important to understand that our audience is multi-channel and mobile.  This means that what we do to engage students on, say, social media can happen on a desktop PC, a mobile phone, a tablet, or any combination of those and more. What it also means is that there will likely be disconnects between where our marketing happens (ex. In-app ad on a phone) versus where our desired outcomes take place (ex. Student registering for a visit on their home PC).

Leveraging the right technology to track attribution and conversion is key.. Shortly after the AMA Symposium we are hosting a webinar titled “The Do’s and Don’ts of Digital Marketing for Higher Education.  Check it out here.

Question 5: How do I validate my assumptions?

One of the biggest opportunities higher education marketing professionals have at the AMA Symposium is the opportunity to gain student insights from industry practitioners with unique access to data and honest perspectives.  What we think we know about marketing to students may be misaligned with what they actually think, say, and do.

We’ll uncover some key myths and realities with respect to enrollment marketing on Monday, November 13 at 3 PM in a session titled “Mythbusting Marketing: What Pieces of Your Marketing Mix Impact Student Decisions and Awareness. We’re also hosted a webinar on the topic. Watch it here.