Boost Student Leads: The Definitive Guide to Marketing in Education Callum Hornigold - by Callum Hornigold,

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It’s painful, isn’t it? You’re responsible for increasing student leads for an education provider… and everything’s an absolute mess.

The website looks like it belongs in the noughties.

The copy is as bland as a lawyer’s legal papers.

And you’ve got more seats to fill than Wembley stadium.

On top of all this, you’ve got to contend with hundreds of other institutions.

Breathe.

We’re here to help.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll learn how to rapidly increase admissions.

You’ll learn how to write copy that sells dreams, not just courses.

And we’ll reveal how you can create a marketing strategy that’s a cut above competitors.

Sounds like we’re promising a lot…

…but it’s what we do, day in, day out.

We’ve helped a range of schools, colleges, and universities increase admissions, including Oxford and Cambridge. Now, it’s your turn.

Before we get started.

If you’re responsible for marketing or student recruitment, life can feel like you’re spinning plates at times, right?

This guide is comprehensive at XX pages. So, if you don’t have time to read it all right now, save it to your favourites or download it as a PDF so you can refer to it whenever you need inspiration.

Or, if you want to dive straight in, read on below.

The definitive guide to marketing in Education

This 106-page guide includes:

  • List a description of benefit 1 here
  • List a description of benefit 2 here
  • List a description of benefit 3 here
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What is marketing in Education?

Marketing in Education specifically involves marketing activities conducted by education providers, including schools, colleges, and universities. The primary purpose is to increase student leads and student recruitment.

While many standard B2C (Business to Consumer) marketing activities apply to marketing in Education, student marketing also incorporates various B2B (Business to Business) strategies due to the complex nature of the purchase.

Therefore, a strong inbound marketing and content strategy is needed to engage and persuade prospective students at each stage of their buying journey.

 

Stage 1: Website and analytics audit.

Conducting detailed research is the foundation for a robust student marketing strategy.

This section details the research process. This is where you will need to analyse fundamental areas such as your website, content, SEO, social media, and competitors.

We understand the intense pressure on marketing and student recruitment professionals to boost student leads and get fast results.

However, doing your research in the first three months will pay dividends later.

Your marketing will resonate more with prospective students and your conversion rates will be much higher.

Stakeholder interviews.

Begin by conducting stakeholder interviews.

Stakeholders include department members, representatives of the student body, and anyone else who has strategic input on future institutional goals.

The goal is to understand each stakeholder’s goals and perceptions of the school, college, or university.

During these interviews, you should also aim to understand what role the website plays in driving admissions.

From our experience conducting research with education providers, we often discover that each stakeholder will have different goals and perceptions.

Once you have gathered the research, prioritise institutional goals and identify what makes your institution truly unique.

Student persona working session.

Student personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal students based on data, interviews, and some educated guesses.

Student personas help you to understand prospective students’ goals, challenges, wants, and needs.

This will enable you to truly connect with them with your marketing activities.

The student persona working session will allow you to sit down with stakeholders and discuss their perceptions of prospective students.

Speaking to department members is useful but the real value comes from speaking to current students, alumni, and prospective students.

“Focus groups are a rich source of market research,” states Claire Matthews, Associate Director of UK Student Recruitment at the University of Greenwich.

“I recently hosted a group of adult learners on discussions around a new programme development for a suite of ‘Elevate’ degrees. These are designed for busy lives to fit study around work and other responsibilities. The group provided direction and insight around flexible timetabling, terminology, and assessment modes. Once the conversation was flowing some of the feedback was brutally frank. This helped me to speak to my teams on pre-entry support needs and a new project.”

 

“Dismiss all assumptions and listen to the people that matter, your students.”

Claire Matthews, Associate Director of UK Student Recruitment, University of Greenwich

 

student persona contra

 

With our clients, we often find there are a number of personas based on courses of interest.

However, try identifying commonalities between them to break them down into three to five student personas.

There are six main areas you will need to gather information on. These are:

  1. Education status: Are they a student or a parent? Are they an international or domestic student? Are they a new student or post-grad? Are they an early admission or a clearing student?
  2. Goals: Why is this degree, course, or certification important to them? What doors will it open? How might they feel once they’ve achieved their goals?
  3. Challenges: What are they finding difficult about making their university decision? Are they concerned about finances? Do they have a family to juggle? Do they struggle with making friends?
  4. Resources: What does this person need to make an informed decision? What questions will they be asking?
  5. Demographic background: How old are they? What’s their family background? What’s their race and gender? Where do they live?
  6. Decision-making: How do they make decisions? How long is their decision-making process? Do they care about campus tours? Do their parents have a say?

Student Personas: The Free Template

Create your student personas and get more student leads. This resource includes:

  • List a description of benefit 1 here
  • List a description of benefit 2 here
  • List a description of benefit 3 here
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Website user surveys.

Conducting a user survey of your website is a great way to identify the needs of your prospective students.

It will also enable you to identify the website’s strengths and any current content gaps or areas for improvement.

Offer incentives for participation, such as gift cards.

Your research should provide answers to the following questions:

  • Does the user journey flow correctly?
  • Do the visual elements appeal to them?
  • Does it address any questions or concerns they may have?

Ultimately, can they find everything they need, when they need it?

Commissioning research.

As well as conducting focus groups and user surveys, commissioning research to help understand demographic and psychographic data is also valuable.

“Start by commissioning your research. Then consolidate the responses and start to build on fictional profiles,” says Ellen Bushell, Head of Marketing, King Edward VI School in Southampton. “Student personas should go beyond standard demographic data and look at anything from morals, emotional drivers, shopping habits, or lifestyle choices.”

 

“Once you are able to map persona data against postcode data you have two influential data sets working in harmony that should inform marketing strategy. And in return, gain trust, loyalty, and brand longevity.”

Ellen Bushell, Head of Marketing, King Edward VI School, Southampton

 

UI audit.

Conduct a UI (User Interface) audit of your website to get a clear understanding of the current design language.

The goal is to understand what fonts, shapes, patterns, and colours are currently being used.

This will help you when it comes to redesigning/optimising your website in stage six.

Take screenshots of components and ask your design department for current brand guidelines (if there are any).

 

Content audit.

Carrying out a thorough audit of your content is essential.

A good content strategy maximises both search engine success and reader engagement.

A content audit allows you to:

  • step back from creating content for the sake of it and start thinking strategically again
  • assess what you already have and how it links together in topic clusters (great for SEO)
  • recycle old content rather than creating new content, saving time

Every three to six months you should take a holistic view of your content strategy and make sure it’s working to achieve your goals.

What’s involved in a content audit?

There are four distinct phases for a successful content audit.

1. Identify existing content.

First, list all the content you own. You shouldn’t just list blog content, but everything that’s used by each of your teams.

This includes marketing, sales, customer success, etc. as well as website content.

To give you an idea of what you need to find at this stage:

Website: Website copy, blogs, videos, multimedia content
Marketing: Reports, testimonials, newsletters, infographics, internal comms
Sales: Brochures, proposals, quotes, price lists

2. Categorise the content.

Look at each piece of content and ask:

  • how old is it?
  • who’s it for?
  • is it up-to-date?
  • who’s actually using it?
  • where does it fit in the buyer’s journey?

You may find that certain pieces of content are being used far more than others.

If this is the case, decide whether it’s good gated material (that’s sat behind a data capture form).

You can also ask your colleagues from different teams what they use, how they use it, and what they share with people most often.

3. Identify how well it’s performing.

Track the impact of your content and report on a monthly basis using analytics tools such as Google Analytics, HubSpot, or Kissmetrics.

Look at insights from social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter.

At Contra, we mark performance as either ‘poor’, ‘okay’, ‘good’, or ‘excellent’.

Alternatively, you can use a scale from one to five, or colours to represent a piece of content’s performance.

4. Note ideas and recommendations for what to do next.

You can choose to update the information if it’s a little old, repurpose successful ebooks into blog posts or infographics, or make videos.

Only after you have analysed the content will you be able to come up with a reasonable set of actionable steps.

Your focus should be on improving the prospective students’ experience using content resources to help them with their research.

Here are a few questions to think about:

  • Can I combine two pieces of content?
  • Could I create an FAQ page on my website based on the questions people ask most often?
  • Have I shared this on social media yet?
  • Have I worked it into an email?
  • Does the piece need updating with the latest thinking or current research?
  • Should I condense the content?
  • Should it be cut?
  • What distribution channels aren’t being utilised?
  • Where in the buyer’s journey does this belong?
  • Have we got enough awareness/consideration/decision content?
  • Should I move the CTA?

Free Content Audit Template.

Use this spreadsheet to audit your content now! The template includes:

  • List a description of benefit 1 here
  • List a description of benefit 2 here
  • List a description of benefit 3 here
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SEO evaluation.

SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is the process of improving both the quality and quantity of traffic to your website through search engines.

SEO is a whole discipline in itself, and is more than just “installing Yoast”. Here is a great introduction to SEO we created.

However, for this article, we can boil it down to a few fundamental questions:

  • How friendly is your site for search engines to crawl?
  • Is your site optimised with relevant keywords and useful content?
  • How user-friendly is your website? (This affects your search engine rankings.)

With our clients in Education, we start by running a comprehensive SEO report to identify areas of improvement.

We then build out an SEO strategy, designed to increase rankings for relevant search terms on search engine results pages.

SEO isn’t a quick fix and takes consistent effort from experts to keep you ahead of the pack.

However, if you can rank at the top of Google for key search terms your prospective students are using, you can significantly increase traffic and admissions.

CTA:

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Book your free SEO and website review now
We’ll identify how you can hit the first page of Google

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Social media audit.

Now it’s time to analyse your social media channels.

At this stage, don’t get too bogged down with the messaging. Simply look at which social media channels are driving the most traffic to your website.

You can do this using Google Analytics.

Now, look at which channels your prospective students, current students, and alumni are most engaged on.

In each channel, filter and sort by your most popular posts to identify which drive the most engagement.

You may find the 80/20 rule applies, also known as ‘The Pareto Principle’. This is the notion that 20 percent of your social media efforts drive 80 percent of the results.

The goal here is to find out what’s working and double down on it.

Of course, this needs to be balanced out with the internal resources available to produce social media content.

Also, is there an opportunity to produce more user-generated content?

Do you have student ambassadors who can help out with vlogging?

Do you have current students who want to showcase their work?

List all the potential stakeholders who could help produce content for social media.

 

higher education social media

 

Competitor analysis.

Conducting a competitor analysis will help you identify your institution’s strengths and weaknesses.

Start by identifying your closest competitors. Some examples could be:

  • other institutions in your area
  • institutions offering similar courses
  • learning platforms that offer similar courses

Use an SEO tool such as Ubersuggest to compare website traffic.

Conduct a SWOT analysis to identify competitors’ strengths and weaknesses, as well as areas of opportunity and threats. Yup, it’s a cliche but it works.

Are there any USPs that set your school, college or university apart from competitors? What are your greatest strengths?

Use your findings to inform both your branding and messaging, as well as your marketing strategy.

CTA:
Free resource
University competitor analysis template
Identify your strengths and set yourself apart from the competition

 

Stage 2: Create student buyer personas.

 

student persona template

 

During the research phase, you’ll have built up a strong picture of your prospective students.

Now it’s time to create student personas.

Student personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal students based on your data, interviews, and some educated guesses.

They’ll inform your entire marketing strategy as these best represent the very people you’re trying to recruit.

Treat them as if they were real people.

Give them a memorable name. For example, if you’re a fashion university targeting creative students, they may be called ‘Fashion Styling Sophia’.

Break the student persona down into 10 key areas:

  1. Age
  2. Gender
  3. Location
  4. Education
  5. Background
  6. Goals
  7. Challenges
  8. Resource requirements
  9. Decision-making process
  10. Channel (online/in-person/blend of both)

Student Personas: The Free Template

Create your student personas and get more student leads. This resource includes:

  • List a description of benefit 1 here
  • List a description of benefit 2 here
  • List a description of benefit 3 here
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Stage 3: Identify SMART goals and KPIs.

SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-bound.

The purpose of SMART goals is to avoid any ambiguity in what you’re trying to achieve.

SMART goals also enable you to measure and optimise your marketing activities.

Let’s take your primary goal, to increase student admissions.

Now, we need to apply the SMART goal method as this is currently too vague.

Rather than “increase student admissions”, it would become:

“Increase student admissions by 25 percent (Specific, Measurable, Relevant) from September 2022-September 2023 (Time-bound).”

Measuring success.

Let’s focus on two key elements of any SMART goal, ‘measurable’ and ‘attainable’.

This is where data comes into play.

It’s easy to measure whether you have increased admissions by 25%.

All you have to do is look at last year’s admissions and compare.

But is this attainable? How do we know? How do we achieve this?

To discern this, we must look at the student marketing funnel and analyse each stage.

A typical student recruitment funnel will look something like this:

  • Prospects: People who have interacted with content on your website but have not provided any contact information.
  • Leads/Inquiries: Prospective students who have provided contact information. (This might be through downloading a course guide, or contacting the admissions team.)
  • Applicants: Prospective students who have applied to your university/college/school.
  • Admissions: Prospective students who have met the admissions criteria and have been admitted.
  • Deposits: Students who have sent a deposit to secure their place.
  • Enrolls: Students who have successfully enrolled.

 

student recruitment funnel contra

 

Now, look at last year’s data at each stage.

For example, last year you had:

  • 200 admissions
  • 400 applicants
  • 1000 leads
  • 120,000 prospects (use Google Analytics to see how many unique visitors you’ve had to your site)

To increase admissions by 25 percent, you would need:

  • 250 admissions
  • 500 applicants
  • 1250 leads
  • 150,000 prospects

The beauty is, if you increase the number of prospects by 25 percent, this should increase admissions by 25 percent.

If you optimise each stage of the marketing funnel, it will have a compound effect on all the other stages.

Now we can start to set SMART goals and metrics for each of these stages.

KPIs

Prospects:

  • Unique Website Visitors

Leads:

  • Content Offer Downloads
  • Email Inquiries

Applicants:

  • Number of Applicants
  • Inquiries-to-Applicants Conversion Rate

Admissions:

  • Acceptance Rate
  • Email Open Rate

Now you must ask yourself how to improve the KPIs at each stage.

This is how you begin to shape your school, college, or university marketing strategy.

Q: How can I increase annual website visitors from 120k-150k?

  • SEO optimise my website.
  • Write five blogs a month instead of four.
  • Implement an authoritative pillar page to rank on Google on a key search term students are looking for.
  • Invest in targeted advertising across Google and social media platforms.

Q: How can I increase leads from 1000 to 1250?

  • Produce 25 percent more content offer downloads and include them in prominent areas of my website (e.g. course prospectuses).
  • Redesign my website so it’s more user-friendly and successfully sells the student experience.
  • Implement chatbots to instantly respond to student inquiries and collect contact details, even at weekends.
  • Ensure ‘Contact Us’ buttons are easy to find.
  • Invest in ads to drive visitors to landing pages with content offers/course guides.

Q: How can I increase the number of applicants from 400 to 500?

  • Send out a monthly newsletter showcasing student life.
  • Automate email workflows based on course of interest, with content designed to guide prospects towards applying.
  • Run virtual open days.
  • Host live Q&A sessions with current students.

Stage 4: Identify appropriate tools.

There’s a multitude of marketing platforms available for education providers. The question is, are they fit for purpose and within budget?

Here is a comprehensive list of marketing tools needed to manage your marketing activities and boost student leads.

However, in our experience, investing in a great marketing automation platform pays dividends in the long run.

This is because the amount of time and costs saved by automating marketing activities far outweighs the initial investment.

Equally, having a single platform that can manage the bulk of marketing activities proves more cost-effective than having multiple platforms.

As HubSpot Gold partners, we’ve worked with some of the most prestigious education institutions in the world to implement the world’s leading marketing automation software.

Here are just some of the ways we’ve used HubSpot to help automate and boost student leads for education providers:

  • Increase admissions with automated personalised emails that target prospective students based on multiple factors (e.g. course of interest, the content they’ve engaged with, pages viewed on site etc.).
  • Save time by automating tasks and assigning them to the correct team members.
  • Save time by planning and scheduling unlimited social posts.
  • Save time by monitoring and engaging with social media from one single platform.
  • Increase engagement and conversions by quickly creating segmented lists for more personalised one-to-one marketing communications. Focus on the prospective students that are most likely to convert.
  • Generate and qualify student leads, respond quickly to enquiries, book meetings, provide support, and scale one-to-one conversations with chatbots.
  • Increase admissions by focusing on the most engaged prospective students; with insights such as which contacts have opened emails, watched videos, clicked links, and more.
  • Easily measure the ROI of every ad campaign within one tool.
  • Tie marketing assets to specific campaigns so you can measure the success of each individual campaign.
  • Create custom dashboards that monitor all your KPIs and send out automated monthly reports.

 

hubspot partner agency

 

CTA:

More results, less time
Chat to one of our marketing automation experts
Get expert advice on how we can unlock the power of automation to boost student leads

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Stage 5: Build a marketing plan.

In the above stages, you will have done your research and collated all the information needed to develop a marketing plan.

Now it’s time to build your marketing plan.

Start now by downloading our template, designed exclusively for marketing in the education sector.

CTA

Free resource
Higher Education Marketing Plan Template
Build a marketing plan and start driving more student leads now!

GET THE TEMPLATE

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1P3jujP3aj_porlofdRLo2WJXz844wmINBjHLjeuEm-0/edit#heading=h.t5xsgz447m0e

Catalin designing a template based on what I’ve provided.

Higher Education Marketing Plan Template

Build a marketing plan and start driving more student leads now! The template includes:

  • List a description of benefit 1 here
  • List a description of benefit 2 here
  • List a description of benefit 3 here

 

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Stage 6: Optimise your website.

Your website is arguably the most powerful weapon in your student recruitment arsenal.

You don’t want to be firing shots with a rusty cannon.

So read on to find out exactly how to boost student leads with your website.

 

 

Determine messaging and tone.

USP.

USP (Unique Selling Point) is the one element that makes your institution unique.

You will have identified your USP during the research phase in stage one of this guide.

Perhaps you offer specific degrees, top-ranked courses, or are a leader in a particular field.

This is what you’re going to shout about within your website messaging.

For example, Texas Wesleyan University proudly declares it’s a small university and has a strong student-to-teacher ratio.

 

university web copy

 

If you don’t necessarily have a strong USP, build one within your culture.

Become known for one thing and do it well.

For example:

Aston University = Employability
The Open University = Flexibility
Homerton College, Cambridge = Diversity

Optimise your site around your main area of focus and build out content that hammers it home.

Think masterclasses, guides, and communities. How will your website communicate your one thing?

Brand Pillars.

Brand pillars are three or four distinct elements that reflect your brand personality and values.

Your brand pillars are what sets you apart from competitors.

You will have already identified your brand pillars during stage one of this guide.

However, here are some key areas to think about should you be starting out:

  • Purpose
  • Performance
  • Diversity
  • Heritage
  • Location
  • Facilities

Make your brand pillars instantly evident on the homepage of your website, or, at the very least, on your ‘About’ page.

Brand Voice and Tone.

Your brand voice and tone is how you express yourselves in writing. It’s what you say and how you say it.

For example, the University of Manchester outlines its brand voice and tone as:

“Influential – Enterprising and intelligent, with the confidence and credibility to inspire. We exude authority and gravitas. We know what we’re talking about.

“Straight-talking – Sincere and direct. We’re open and honest about who we are and what we do. We have some fantastic stories to tell and we can easily substantiate them. We don’t dumb down, nor do we over-complicate. We expect our audiences to be intelligent, but not expert – where we use specialist language, we always take the trouble to explain it.

“Approachable – Inclusive and friendly, with a strong social conscience. We want to engage with our many audiences and be involved with inspiring new activities and ideas. We have a lot to say, but we appreciate the value of listening too – the most productive dialogue is two-way, in partnership and collaboration.

“Dynamic – Positive and assured, focused and decisive. We are proud of our past achievements and we look to the future with ambition and positive energy. We don’t just aim to do things, we make things happen.”

When writing website copy, consistently question if it aligns with your brand voice and tone.

Consistency is key to creating a brand experience that connects with prospective students on an emotional level.

Speaking of copy, read on to find out the best copywriting hacks to breathe life into your website.

Essential elements of your website.

Engaging copy.

 

university website copy

 

Your web copy must clearly state what’s in it for the student.

Be emotive. Sell the outcome, not just the service. Sell the dreams, not just the course.

Here are some top tips on engaging prospective students with powerful copy.

Tell them how they’ll feel.

It’s scientifically proven that people choose with emotion and justify with logic.

Paint a vivid picture of how students will feel when enrolling at your institution.

Like this:

“Feel part of a community with our friendly and fun social groups. With over 56 groups to choose from, there’s certainly something to suit you.”

“Feel at home with our fun and modern accommodation. You’ll be part of a close-knit community with regular opportunities for trips and social events.”

“Feel in control when balancing your education and family life with our flexible studying scheme.”

Not this:

“Our university offers a range of flexible studying schemes for single parents.”

Speak to prospective students, not at them.

If you’re excessively using first-person pronouns (“We are…”) or third-person pronouns (“Calton College is…”), chances are you’re speaking at student prospects and not to them.

Instead, make it about them. Use ‘you’ and ‘your’.

Like this:

“Where will your next course take you?”

“Choose the perfect course for your career aspirations.”

Not this:

“We offer over 257 courses.”

KISS (Keep it simple, stupid).

There’s nothing more off-putting than pretentious BS copy.

Don’t make your prospective students think too hard or overload them with information.

Remember, less is more.

Like this:

“Welcome home.”

Not this:

“We connect the cultural dots to form a cohesive and vibrant community.”

Use single sentences or short paragraphs to communicate your main points.

If you need to elaborate, utilise accordion structures on your website. This will stop the page from becoming too cluttered.

Show value.

Prospective students care about value. They’re giving up time and money.

Ultimately, you’re giving them a stepping stone into their desired industry.

This comes down to three key areas:

  1. Career prospects
  2. Industry experience
  3. Cutting-edge facilities

Hammer home exactly how you provide value.

Like this:

“Your film career starts at Farringdon and ends in lights.”

“You’ll be right in the action, with real industry briefs and production projects.”

“Picture perfect: Learn how to use state-of-the-art equipment in world-famous film studios.”

Not this:

“We provide a range of equipment for filming.”

Walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.

We need to back these statements up with social proof.

This includes statistics, testimonials, and references to alumni success.

Like this:

“Stand by for lift-off: 72 percent of our graduates go on to work within NASA.”

“I got my dream job with Tesla as an aerospace engineer straight after graduating. They were instantly impressed by the strong practical experience I gained while studying at Stratosphere College.”

“To infinity and beyond: For over 20 years, we’ve launched aerospace engineers’ careers.”

Not this:

“We are the most prestigious aerospace college in California.”

Rule of three.

They say three is the magic number. It’s true.

Take Apple, for example.

Currently standing as the world’s strongest brand (at the time of writing) in Forbes’ ‘The World’s Most Valuable Brands’ list, Apple is known for its slick copywriting.

Apple utilises the rule of three regularly within its copy.

Three is the smallest number of pieces required to make a pattern.

In copywriting, we like concise sentences, and we try to create patterns in words because they’re easier for a human brain to soak up.

Like this:

“The CQL Webinar Subscription:
Unlimited webinars. Unlimited learning. Unlimited potential.”

Couplets.

Apple uses couplets to create contrast and convey simple messages. These utilise the following:

Adjective-Adverb combination (Incredible power. Incredibly simple.)
Adverb-Adverb combination (Delightfully capable. Surprisingly affordable.)
Adjective-Adjective antonym combination (Mega power. Mini sized.)

This can be applied to your website copy.

Like this:

“Small courses. Big prospects.”

“Accommodation at Carlton College:
Delightfully comfortable. Surprisingly affordable.”

Start with power verbs.

Start sentences with empowering verbs to create an emotional connection with your audience.

Here’s a list of some useful empowering verbs for Education.

  • Accelerate
  • Choose
  • Grow
  • Master
  • Maximise
  • Outperform
  • Raise
  • Revitalise
  • Surpass
  • Top
  • Define
  • Challenge
  • Champion
  • Energise
  • Engage
  • Focus
  • Influence
  • Inspire
  • Instil
  • Lead
  • Motivate
  • Captivate
  • Boost
  • Discover
  • Secure
  • Fulfill
  • Sharpen
  • Embrace
  • Ignite
  • Unite
  • Win
  • Enhance

Like this:

“Excel with our expertise.”

“Grow your career.”

Idioms and puns.

Using idioms and puns adds a playful element to your copy.

They’re often used to introduce benefits.

Like this:

“Watch and learn:
Get unlimited access to over 1200 seminars.”

“Easy does it:
All your course learning, on one simple platform.”

Student and alumni personas.

Once you understand your buyer personas’ goals and challenges, you can optimise your site with content and copy that addresses these.

It’s always better to show rather than tell when addressing your student prospects. It creates more of an emotional impact.

Here are some examples of how you can create content that engages your core audience.

A single parent concerned about how they’re going to juggle childcare and education:

  • Web copy that resonates with their emotional drivers. Remind them why they’re doing it (To give you and your child a better life).
  • An interview with a single parent on how easy it was to balance childcare and their studies. Show how supportive and flexible the university or college is.
  • Show any communities you may have for single parents.
  • A free eBook (e.g. ‘The single parent’s guide to balancing childcare and university’).

A foreign student who is concerned about inclusion:

  • Show the range of student groups that reflect the diverse student base.
  • Images, videos, and communication need to be representative of all races, genders, and backgrounds.

An ambitious film student wanting to go all the way to Hollywood:

  • Show success stories of alumni who’ve hit the big time.
  • Instil emotion in your copy (“Write your own script”, “Now screening: Your future”).
  • Show how they’ll get real industry experience through videos of students on set.

CTA:

Featured resource
Student Personas: The Free Template
Create your student personas and get more student leads

Student Personas: The Free Template

Create your student personas and get more student leads. This resource includes:

  • List a description of benefit 1 here
  • List a description of benefit 2 here
  • List a description of benefit 3 here
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Design language and intuitive organisation.

Design language is the overall visual design of your product.

Developing and defining your design language creates a consistent brand identity.

It’s also time- and cost-efficient as it enables you to use pre-designed components and quickly iterate on new website updates.

Your design language will include:

  • the colour palette and use guidelines
  • typography
  • layout rules (white space, paddings, margins etc.)
  • iconography
  • components (call-to-action buttons, bios, pull-out quotes etc.)

Responsive design.

During the website design process, consider what the site will look like according to screen size, platform, and orientation.

Ensure the design is responsive and will adapt to the user’s behaviour.

Optimise for mobile and tablet, as well as desktop.

Dynamic content.

Dynamic content is content that changes according to in-session user behaviour or user characteristics.

Think Amazon’s recommended products, Netflix’s recommended movies, and Groupon providing coupons based on where you live.

There are a number of ways you can utilise dynamic content for marketing in Education, including:

  • personalised course/webinar recommendations
  • geo-targeting ads based on catchment area
  • personalised offers based on customer lifecycle stage (e.g. new visitors vs. returning visitors)
  • contextual pop-ups and chatbots (first-time visitors, Add to Carts, enrollment status etc.)
  • automated email workflows based on the course of interest, student persona, and customer lifecycle stage

For example, MBL, one of the world’s leading training providers, came to us needing a dynamic website.

Their team required a method of promoting/upselling subscription packages on their website, based on the current package of the user.

Our solution was to encourage existing users to log in to their portal instantly upon visiting the website.

The site would then be optimised with call-to-actions that were based on the current user’s subscription level.

The users would only see promotional elements and prices that were relevant to them.

We also recommended various webinars based on their current area of interest.

Think about how you can make your user experience as personalised as possible.

One of the finest recent examples of using personalisation to engage students is Middlesex University’s video prospectus tool.

Prospective students can curate their own video content based on their choice of course and career preferences, as well as other priorities such as whether they are a local student, extra-curricular interests etc.

 

 

[Carousel case study: MBL]

Strong images.

Every image on your website should have a purpose.

For example, user journeys should be supported by imagery showing the diverse community of people actively engaged in college/university life.

However, images should only be used when they meet user needs and add value.

Strong imagery helps prospective students get a feel for your institution. It shows them what they can do and what their lives might be like there.

Try to keep your image file size to no more than 200KB so they don’t impact your page load speed.

Remember, a slow loading speed increases your website’s bounce rate, as well as decreasing your search engine rankings.

Full-screen background images should be between 1,500 pixels and 3,840 pixels wide.

Most other images can be a max width of 800 pixels.

marketing in education images

Landing pages.

A landing page is a page a visitor lands on when taking one of the following actions:

  • Clicking on an ad.
  • Click on a call-to-action button.
  • Click on a result in a search engine.

Regardless of how prospective students arrive on a landing page, it has one key function…

…to convert them into a lead or a customer.

Within the Education sector, a landing page’s goal might be to get a prospect to:

  • download a guide
  • download a course prospectus
  • apply for a course

There are two types of landing pages:

  1. Lead-generation landing pages: These are used to capture personal information in exchange for a lead magnet (e.g. a guide or a webinar).
  2. Click-through landing pages: These are used to attract the visitor to specific courses or facilities that you offer (further information that enhances the message that brought them to you).
Landing page best practices.

There is a science to creating a landing page that’s optimised to convert visitors into leads/customers.

Here are the best practices.

Benefit-focused headline.

You don’t want your visitors to bounce because they don’t instantly understand what you’re offering.

Ensure your headline clearly communicates the benefits your guide/course provides.

Imagery that illustrates the offer.

Choose imagery that illustrates your offer. If it’s a guide, show them an image of the guide.

If it’s a course, show imagery that relates to the course.

Play on their aspirations. For example, if it’s a course in maritime engineering, show someone working on a boat with an exciting backdrop.

Write compelling copy.

Keep it clear and concise.

Use verbs at the beginning of sentences to drive action.

For more on writing powerful copy, check out our ‘Engaging Copy’ [anchor link] section of this article.

Include a lead form above the fold.

If you’re trying to capture people’s details, you want to make it as easy as possible.

Include the lead form before the fold and then CTAs below the fold. If they click on the CTA, it should take them to the top of the page back to the lead form.

If you require a lot of information on the lead form, reduce psychological friction by utilising a multi-step form.

Remember, only ask for what you need. The required information must correspond with the value of the offer.

For example, if it’s a simple course guide, you likely wouldn’t need more info than their name, email, and potentially country of residence – asking for their phone number may put them off downloading it.

Clear call-to-action

If you’re trying to drive action, use a clear CTA button that uses a verb.

For example, ‘SUBMIT’, ‘APPLY NOW’, or ‘DOWNLOAD’.

Make the CTA a bright colour that stands out from the rest of the page.

 

marketing in education landing page

 

Social proof.

Getting your visitor to give up their details isn’t easy.

The transaction must be relevant and the value must be justified.

Justify the value by providing social proof.

This could be testimonials, reviews, customer logos, a NET promoter score, or statistics – anything that gives your offer credibility.

Make your page responsive.

This one is simple.

Ensure your visitors have a great viewing experience on all devices.

Optimise for search.

You want your landing page to be discoverable on search engines.

For example, if it’s a course page, optimise it with the keywords your prospective students are searching for.

Use video where necessary.

Video engagement rates are much higher than simple text.

Include an engaging video that explains the benefits of your offer and answers potential objections. This will increase conversion rates.

Equally, use video to provide social proof. Interview current students and alumni regarding the course/student experience. Break the interviews down into the following topics:

  • Course content.
  • How engaging the course is/was.
  • What practical experience they received during the course.
  • What doors have opened directly as a result of the course.
  • What life is like at your institution.
  • Would they recommend the course/institution?

Thank you page.

Once the prospective student has submitted their details through a form, you must provide them with the offer they’ve requested.

Simply displaying an inline message stating, “Thank you for submitting the form”, is not enough.

Send them to a thank you page where they can access the offer instantly. Include a ‘thank you’ message too.

Follow up with an email linking to the thank you page.

A thank you page has two added benefits over solely sending them a follow-up email.

If you link to it in your follow-up email, it encourages site revisits at a later date when they want to access the content again.

It has a menu nav so when they revisit the page to re-access the content, they can explore your site again.

You can include further resources on a thank you page to push them towards enrolling, such as ‘Chat to one of our students’.

Social Media Integration.

Ensure you include links to your social media icons in the footer.

Also, include social sharing icons at the top and bottom of your blogs and pillar pages.

Contact Us.

Create a specific ‘Contact Us’ page with your general enquiries contact, address details, and press enquiry contact.

For a better user experience, be sure to also include more specific contact addresses, such as ‘[email protected]’ or ‘[email protected]’.

Add further value and drive engagement by including a news feed within your Contact Us page.

Video.

Video is an essential tool for marketing in Education and particularly Higher Education marketing.

87 percent of video marketers reported that video gives them a positive ROI.

We’ve presented video ideas throughout this guide.

However, for brevity, here is a succinct list of 15 video ideas to boost student leads:

 

1 ) Loop video backgrounds on your website to show the life and vibrancy of your institution.

 

 

2 ) Feature behind-the-scenes footage of any practical experience students receive (e.g. shooting on a famous film set).

 

 

3) Use videos within landing pages to explain the benefits of an offer.

 

 

4) Video current students and alumni on life at your school, college, or university.

 

 

5) Video current students and alumni on their course experience and what doors it opened as a result.

 

 

6) Create student vlogs showcasing life at your institution.

 

 

7) Use video to showcase your accommodation.

 

 

8) Video interview any famous alumni or partners.

 

 

9) Video social events to showcase the great social life your institution and city have to offer.

 

 

10) Create video competitions on social media and set up your own hashtag.

 

 

11) Introduce faculty members and ask them FAQs regarding a course. Also include tips about their own careers and goals.

 

 

12) Share student survival tips including budgeting, meal planning, getting involved with clubs etc. Living off Greggs sausage rolls for three months is not an option (true story). 

 

 

13) Video any guest speakers and share on your website, newsletter, email automations, and social media.

 

 

14) Provide video tips on the dos and don’ts during the application process and interview.

 

 

15) Use your lecturers to do what they do best – bring education to life. Eric Laithwate was a professor of heavy electrical engineering at Imperial College London in 1964. The video below has amassed over 6 million views on YouTube!

 

 

16) Provide study music, like the University of Leeds teaming up with the massively popular LofiGirl channel.

 

 

Feedback and social proof.

To reiterate, your current students are your most powerful marketing asset.

Education.com conducted a robust student survey, completed by over 30,000 prospective and current students representing 192 nationalities.

The report showed that students are now more likely to consider peer reviews than rankings when making a decision on where to study.

There are a number of ways you can provide social proof on your website and within your marketing channels. Here are some ideas:

  • Conduct student interviews and gather reviews and testimonials.
  • Showcase successful alumni stories (including famous alumni).
  • Highlight any positive feedback on social media.

How to get student reviews for your university or education institution.

There are two types of reviews and testimonials you can gather: internal or external.

Internal reviews.

Academic reps.

An academic rep is an undergraduate or postgraduate who is elected by their peers to represent students in a specific department.

Their aim is to gather feedback and improve the academic experience.

Annual student surveys

These are surveys designed to find out what students think you do well and what can be improved.

We utilise marketing automation through HubSpot to help a range of education providers conduct automated feedback surveys at key moments.

We also build in automated follow-up emails based on their responses.

For example, if they score the education provider high on a particular area, we may trigger a follow-up email asking them for permission to use some of their quotes on the education provider’s website as testimonials.

You can also use the HubSpot platform to embed surveys on key pages of your site as slide-in or dropdown boxes.

We’re HubSpot partners, so if you’d like to chat with us about how we can help you unlock the power of marketing automation in Education, get in touch now.

Getting external reviews.

Encourage happy students to leave reviews on trusted sites such as WhatUni, StudentCrowd, and EDUopinions.

You can also utilise social media to build reviews.

Ensure your review tab is active on Facebook and be sure to kindly respond to any reviews.

Use polls to collect feedback on Instagram and ask questions in Stories.

Use social monitoring tools to find any mentions of your university too. Just be sure to contact the person who made the comment and ask for their approval to use the quote first.

Information architecture.

Put simply, how easy is it for prospective students to get the information they’re looking for?

We could talk all day about information architecture. But for the scope of this guide, here are the most important elements.

Cognitive load.

The amount of information a person can process at any given time.

Are there multiple call-to-actions that leave them paralysed with indecision?

Are there too many menu options which make it hard to navigate?

Keep it simple.

Mental models and navigational cues.

A great definition of a mental model comes from Jakob Nielsen at the Nielsen Norman Group.

Put simply, it’s “what the user believes about the system at hand”.

Your prospective students will have their own expectations on how your website information will be presented to them.

Going against this could cause confusion and frustration.

Some examples are:

  • buttons appearing in a coloured box
  • hyperlinks underlined and in a different colour
  • the logo located in the top left takes them back to the home page
  • site navigation will appear at the top of the website

Use mental models to create a user experience that makes sense.

This links closely to your design language mentioned earlier in this guide.

Sure, you can experiment with your website layout and design. But don’t try to be too creative at the expense of user experience.

 

 

Navigation and hierarchy.

Navigation and hierarchy is arguably the most important element of your website user experience.

Failing to carefully consider the prospective student’s needs and user journey will result in a poor experience.

Depending on the complexity of the site, we usually aim to ensure users can find the information they need with a maximum of three clicks.

Check out our example below with Homerton College, part of the University of Cambridge.

 

 

A poor experience will result in far less student leads.

Get it right. Consider the following elements.

Breadcrumb menu.

A breadcrumb menu is a secondary navigation system. It’s useful when the site has a number of subcategories.

For example, you may offer a variety of courses in different sectors (e.g. ‘Legal Services’).

Within each sector is a practice area (e.g. ‘Environmental Law’).

Within each practice area is a number of courses (e.g. ‘Contaminated Land – A Look at the Key Regulatory Regimes’).

Your breadcrumb menu would look like this:

Courses > Legal Services > Environmental Law > Contaminated Land – A Look at the Key Regulatory Regimes

Hamburger menu.

University website hamburger menu

A hamburger menu isn’t quite as tasty as it sounds. However, it can satisfy a user’s navigational cravings.

The hamburger menu symbol is found everywhere, from apps, websites, and videogames.

It’s particularly useful for mobile where screen space is limited.

It makes pages look much cleaner.

And it’s great for secondary engagement. For example, you may want your user to take a single action on a page and don’t want to distract them with a large list of menu items.

However, there are cons to a hamburger menu.

It adds an extra step for your users to get to their desired action.

Equally, it makes pages less visible, effectively ‘burying’ your pages.

CTAs.

A CTA (Call-to-action) is a term used widely in marketing (and throughout this guide). It refers to the steps you want the user to take.

For example, ‘Download Guide’, ‘Apply Now’, or ‘Contact Us’.

Call-to-actions are often presented in the form of buttons.

Best practice dictates to make them a bright colour that stands out on your page.

A word of warning:

Don’t overload your page with multiple CTAs. It will only overwhelm your prospective student.

If you do need to include multiple CTAs, create significant space between them as you scroll down the page.

If you need more than one above the page fold, consider using a ‘Primary’ and ‘Secondary’ CTA.

 

university of greenwich cta

 

Navigation cues.

Navigation cues are used to guide your website users in a particular direction or to take a particular action.

There’s a range of clever navigational cues you can employ on your website.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Use of colour to split course category pages.
  • CTAs in a bright, contrasting colour encouraging users to click them.
  • Arrows pointing towards forms.
  • Use of background imagery that frames a particular area you want the user to take an action (e.g. someone looking towards a form or a CTA).
  • Mouse icon at bottom of the page to prompt scrolling down.
  • Showing ‘Top Courses’ slightly above the fold to encourage users to scroll down.

A good web design team will utilise a range of navigational cues to optimise your user experience and boost leads.

Taxonomies.

This is basically how you group information together. In website terms, this often means categories and tags.

Categories are a bit like movie genres — you have main genres like comedy, horror, sci-fi, thriller, drama and romance. However, some films fit into multiple genres, like rom-com or horror-comedy.

The same thing applies to content.

For example, let’s say you have a blog post called, “How to break into the film industry”.

This would be of interest to multiple courses as there are many different roles in the film industry.

In this case, there would be a category called “subject area” that both courses and blog posts have. The CMS would be able to automatically display the blog post on course pages with the “Film & TV” subject area category.

Tags are more freeform — back to our movie analogy, tags could be used to apply descriptions like “witty” or “irreverent”. In our educational website example, you may apply job roles to courses as tags or the more traditional use of tags on blog posts.

 

university website design

 

 

What makes good website navigation and hierarchy?

Ultimately, good navigation design is about maintaining clarity.

For example, a navigation bar will usually link to designated landing pages which are labelled with text that makes the most sense to the user.

And if you have a ‘Courses’ landing page in your menu navigation, you would name it so.

You wouldn’t call it ‘Expand your knowledge’, as users may not understand that if they click on that section it would take them to courses.

Navigation design should also align with user goals.

Think about the various entry points on your site and where the user might be in their journey.

When we work with clients, we usually conduct deep research into the various user journeys.

This starts with internal and external interviews.

We then create interactive wireframes and test the user journey internally to identify any friction points.

Then, it’s time to test it with the people that matter – prospective students.

Read on to discover how to truly take your website experience to the next level with user-centred design.

User-centred design.

 

university website design

 

Buyer personas should influence your website design and functionality.

However, it shouldn’t stop there.

“Whilst personas have some value in providing very general views of potential users, there is also a risk in creating content or systems for these very generic ‘named individuals’,” says Ayala Gordon, Associate Director of Digital User Experience at the University of Southampton.

Gordon spearheaded the OneWeb project at the university, a multi-year digital transformation programme focused on user-centred design (UCD).

“The OneWeb approach took a user-centred design view, an iterative design process that focuses on the users and their needs in each phase of the design process,” says Gordon. “Essentially, it allows us to create solutions that meet a variety of needs rather than using an ‘umbrella’ persona.”

UCD enables design teams to involve users throughout the design process via a variety of research and design techniques.

 

“Involve your real-life website users in the development process so they can test the site and provide feedback. Iterate during each stage of the design process.”

Ayala Gordon, Associate Director of Digital User Experience, University of Southampton

 

The result?

A highly usable and intuitive website for your users.

If you break down each interaction and goal (rather than general goals outlined in buyer personas), the main elements you will need to understand are:

  • who your users are
  • what they’re trying to do
  • how they’re trying to do it now
  • how their life or work influences what they do and how
  • how they use and experience existing services

A key component of UCD is user testing.

A robust user-testing process can yield incredible results.

“A great outcome from our user testing is our ‘Student life’ section of the site,” says Gordon. “It has been redesigned for simplified journeys with more direct routes to completing key user goals. For example, applying for accommodation now follows patterns users are familiar with on commercial sites, allowing them to select rooms and locations which meet their individual needs. Users can now easily compare and save the key details of their accommodation options before applying.”

 

 

Website branding.

Firstly, what’s a brand?

It isn’t just your visual identity. Your visual identity consists of your logo, typography, media, colours, and creative design.

Your brand is your mission/purpose/vision, positioning and target audiences, offering/USP, values, personality, culture, voice and visual identity.

Your brand is how your audience feels about the way you use your visual identity and other elements to communicate who you are and what you stand for.

Start by defining your “target brand”. How do you want to your audience to feel?

Then, you must understand how your audience feels about you to get your “perceived brand”. The starting point is to simply ask them.

We recently conducted some research ahead of a web redesign for a top-five-ranked university.

We asked a group of A-level students their thoughts on various university website designs and messaging. This enabled us to understand the “perceived brand”.

One student exclaimed, “It just feels like they’re flirting with you [laughs].”

That’s the power of great branding in Education. It creates an emotional connection.

Once you have your target brand and perceived brand, it;’s time to set KPIs to shift the perception to meet the target brand.

So how do you shift these perceptions?

Community comes from people, not buildings.

Students are looking for a home which means somewhere they relate to.

A good starting point when defining your brand is to consider the emotions you want your prospective students to feel.

Are you trying to be their best buddy and want them to feel at home?

Are you trying to make them feel inspired to become anything they want to be?

Perhaps you’re trying to make them feel in awe of your impressive heritage and excellent results?

Write the emotions down.

Now, consider both visual elements and messaging that convey this.

 

branding colour

 

For example, if you want to make them feel at home, go for a friendly and informal greeting on your home page, such as “Welcome home.”, or “Come and say hello.”.

If you have a vibrant international community, then you could combine this by saying “Hello” in different languages:

“Well, hello! Bonjour. Salut. Hola. Guten tag. Salve. Nǐn hǎo. Olá. Asalaam alaikum. Konnichiwa. Anyoung haseyo. Zdravstvuyte!”

If you want them to feel inspired, include a range of success stories from your students in video format.

If you want them to feel in awe of your impressive results, hit them straight away with a power stat.

The use of colour can also create an emotional reaction. Consider your visual elements.

For example, blue is often associated with trust, peace, loyalty, and competence.

Orange is associated with confidence, success, and sociability.

Naturally, if you’re an education provider for the arts, you may want to use a very creative and colourful palette.

Again, do your research.

We often did deeper than just asking prospective students what they think of a particular education provider’s brand.

We ask department heads and current students, as well as conducting surveys to find out what the brand means to them.

Showcase these perceptions through video.

Here’s a great example from The University of Sheffield.

 

 

In summary, ask your students and staff what the university, college, or school means to them.

Use annual incentivised surveys to make sure you’re on target.

Don’t get stuck behind with outdated perceptions of your institution.

Perceptions can change as the world evolves. So should your brand.

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Stage 7: Create a content strategy.

Inbound strategy.

Traditionally, marketing and sales have taken more of an outbound approach.

The outbound approach pushes messages out to would-be students and tries to connect with them through an outreach strategy.

Over time, consumers have become a little weary of this type of media (and perhaps a little desensitised to it too).

This is where inbound marketing has taken over.

Inbound vs Outbound.

Outbound marketing refers to the more traditional methods of marketing your product or service.

We refer to them as “push tactics” because you’re essentially taking your product or service and pushing it in front of your audience.

Specifically, this includes ads (digital, social media, print, TV, radio), email blasts, cold calling, direct mail, and anything else that targets a large audience.

Customers are sought out and communication is one-way.

For example, the University of Cambridge asked us to create a cinema advert as part of its #BeCambridge campaign.

This was used to challenge the preconception that the university only accepted applications from students from a wealthy and privileged demographic.

It purposefully chose to feature students who weren’t traditionally from these backgrounds and built inclusivity into its brand messaging.

In contrast, inbound marketing is a marketing strategy which focuses on ‘pulling’ high-quality leads to your business.

It’s more subtle and looks to align with audiences through an understanding of their personas.

At its core, inbound marketing is about creating value for your target audience by understanding their challenges and creating resources that help them overcome their obstacles.

This builds trust and authority by demonstrating expertise in a non-invasive, human way.

Inbound marketing is largely centred around quality content, how you market that content, and how it helps you rank in search engines.

Typical inbound marketing channels include SEO, blogging, social media marketing, and influencer marketing.

We’ll go into more detail within stage eight of this guide.

For now, it’s important to understand the methodology and map out the user journey.

We can then start considering what content prospective students need at each stage.

The four stages of inbound marketing.

Attract [Awareness].

Your prospective students may have been referred to your website via search engines, digital ads, social media, OOH (Out of Home) advertising, or outreach activities.

At this stage, they’ll know little of your institution. They’ll want to learn more and assess your credibility.

Calls-to-action:

  • Subscribe To Newsletter
  • Read Student Stories
  • Read Alumni Success Stories
  • Read Life About School
  • Download Guide

Engage [Consideration].

Your prospective students now have a good level of knowledge about your institution and will be considering applying.

Now they must weigh up their options.

They’ll need to understand how their decision will impact them financially, socially, and from an educational perspective.

Calls-to-action:

  • Take A Virtual Campus Tour
  • View Courses
  • Fill Out Enquiry Form
  • Contact Us
  • Calculate Costs
  • View Pricing

This stage is about helping them overcome any challenges they may be experiencing and building trust.

For example, Birmingham University has its own ‘Get Ready For Uni Hub’ that provides useful resources for students.

This includes:

  • Budget planners and finance guides (made fun)
  • Study, productivity and wellness tips
  • Vlogs from real students

 

Close [Decision].

In the decision stage, student prospects are looking to finalise their decision.

This is where they require one-to-one communication so they feel they’re making the right choice applying to your institution.

They may speak to current students and alumni, visit the campus, or become highly engaged with your social media content.

Calls-To-Action:

  • Speak To Students
  • Speak To Staff
  • Speak To Alumni
  • Book A Visit

Delight.

Your current students and alumni are your marketing team.

We keep hammering home this point with good reason…

…because marketing is like a flywheel.

Create incredible student experiences and your current students will promote your institution to prospective students. Then, the cycle continues.

After deciding to attend your school, college, or university, this stage is about turning them into evangelists.

This would include social events, networking opportunities, careers services and student profiles.

The more you make them feel like they’re part of a community, the more they’ll feel like they’re making an impact.

Calls-to-action:

  • Register
  • Refer
  • Donate
  • Attend

Read on to find out how to build successful student marketing campaigns utilising these four stages.

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Stage 8: Plan your campaigns.

Spending time planning your campaigns will increase success.

In stage seven of this guide, you considered all the essential elements of the inbound marketing approach.

You now have a good understanding of the different stages a prospective student will take before applying to your institution.

These are Attract [Awareness], Engage [Consideration], Close [Decision], and Delight.

If you can draw your audience through each of these stages, you’re more likely to convert them from casual visitors to student evangelists.

Now it’s time to plan your campaigns.

Let’s examine what you can do to engage students at each stage.

Attract.

Attraction is the first stage of your campaign.

It’s where your prospective student will first encounter you and thirst for more.

This stage is about pulling them onto your website, educating them about your institution, and building up credibility.

A few key channels that you can use during this stage are digital ads, out of home advertising, blogging, social media, content, and SEO.

Let’s drill down into each of these.

Digital ads.

Digital ads are paid-for spots on social media sites, affiliate sites, or any space across the web where your message and call-to-action can be served.

It’s important to think about ad placement and which channels will be the most effective for you.

There are a few options, so it’s good to know the pros and cons of each.

Social media ads.

These are ads shown to users of social media platforms, usually within their message feed.

They’re also shown in other areas of the user journey.

For example, Instagram Reels shows display ads and YouTube shows ads either before or during videos.

The great advantage of social media ads is that they’re heavily targeted.

Facebook, for example, knows a great deal about its users (sex, age, geography, likes, time they’re using the platform/app etc.).

This makes for a truly targeted and therefore relevant attraction experience (increasing the likelihood of a click-through).

And don’t underestimate the power of TikTok for capturing Gen Z’s attention.

Tik Tok released ‘branded missions’ in 2022.

This harnesses the power of User Generated Content (UGC) to attract your audience.

In three simple steps, you can gain access to some of the most influential content creators on TikTok that already have a captive student audience.

  1. You set your “Branded Mission” (the kind of content you want people to create) and the app briefs creators that are a fit with your university.
  2. Creators submit their videos.
  3. The highest performing videos are boosted as sponsored ads.

 

marketing in education tik tok branded missions

Video ads.

Video ads are, by their nature, far more engaging than their static or even animated counterparts.

They provide a great opportunity to identify with and talk ‘directly’ to your target audience.

Video ads can also be targeted at particular social media platforms and so earn the advantages already mentioned.

YouTube is the number one brand for Gen A and a platform you certainly shouldn’t ignore.

Video ads are a great way to show social proof and boost student leads.

These could include the following:

  • Behind the scenes footage: If your course provides a lot of practical experience in real-world settings then show the students in action.
  • Student profiles: Introduce current students. Get them to talk about why they chose your school, college, or university. Film them sharing details on why they enjoy the course and social life.
  • Day in the life: Utilise a vlog format and get students to create content for you. UGC (user-generated content) is highly authentic. This works especially well if it’s a creative course, showcasing a vibrant atmosphere.

When planning your video ads, start with your student personas. [Link to student buyer personas].

What are their desires and concerns? Your video ad should address these.

The students within your ads should be similar to the people you’re targeting. This will ensure they can relate.

[Any Contra ad examples?]

Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. High-performing content for higher education providers doesn’t have to directly relate to tuition.

For example, MIT has a biannual event that draws hundreds of students and thousands of eyes on social media, known as ‘Sunset at the infinite corridor’.

In January and November, the setting sun aligns perfectly with MIT’s 825-foot-long Infinite Corridor.

Planetary scientist, Richard Binzel, describes MIThenge as “a major cultural moment on campus… when the heavens and MIT seem to align.”

The university films it and publishes it on YouTube every year.

The results?

  • 3.9K likes
  • Over 80,000 views
  • Hundred of comments showing love for MIT

 

 

Blogging and SEO.

Blogging is an essential element of your attraction armoury.

It’s a fantastic opportunity to show your expertise and describe what school, college or uni life might be like.

You can also preempt questions an applicant might have and use blogs to address these.

Most importantly, consistent blogging will help you rank better in Google searches.

Blogging is a must-have for any successful student marketing strategy.

The potential benefits to your search rankings are huge…

….but there is a science behind the art.

And here’s the secret sauce to ranking well on Google.

For content to rank well it should be carefully structured.

As we’ve mentioned in our content marketing guide, organising your content by the pillar-cluster model will increase its ranking in SERPs.

In this model, the pillar page hosts the umbrella topic and cluster pages support the topic.

If, for example, you’re a fashion school, you might write a pillar page focusing on the topic ‘colour analysis’.

You would write a comprehensive page on the topic (e.g. ‘The Definitive Guide To Colour Analysis for Creatives’).

You would then write a series of subtopic blog posts, based around the topic. When working with Education clients, we use tools such as Ubersuggest to discover real search terms their customers are using.

Another useful tool to identify search terms and questions is AnswerThePublic.

In the ‘colour analysis’ example, we could write blogs on the following topics:

  • colour analysis tools (10 of the best colour analysis tools for creatives)
  • winter colour analysis (Using winter colour analysis to create the perfect winter wardrobe)
  • how to do a colour analysis (How to do a colour analysis for fashion clients)
  • colour analysis quiz (Colour analysis quiz: How on point is your colour styling?)
    Etc.

You would then link the blogs to the pillar page.

This will signify to Google that the pillar page is a highly authoritative piece of content, therefore pushing the page up the search rankings.

Now, let’s break down a great blog into distinctive elements.

Strong headline.

Grab prospective students’ attention with a powerful headline.

SEO tip: Be sure to include your focus keyword in the headline.

Compelling hook.

Your first paragraph should hook the reader in.

Show empathy, highlight a problem, then introduce the solution.

SEO tip: Include your focus keyword in your first paragraph too.

Use subheadings.

Readers scan content before committing to reading paragraphs.

Use relevant subheadings to section your blog.

SEO tip: Use your focus keyword in one of your subheadings.

Informative and engaging body.

This seems obvious, but the most important point of your blog is that it provides unique and engaging insights.

Every sentence should be a win for the reader.

When writing a paragraph, always ask yourself the question, “So what?”

If you can’t answer that question, you probably need to think about changing or removing it.

Avoid using large paragraphs.

Better still, start each new sentence on a separate line.

This eases the eye and helps readers scan. (Sorry, your readers likely won’t read every word of your beautifully crafted blog.)

Include appropriate keywords.

As discussed, do your keyword research before you get going.

Make sure you understand what sort of words and phrases your audience is searching for and then write relevant content that solves for those terms.

Appealing images and graphics.

Images are powerful.

They can tell a story so much more succinctly and engagingly than the written word.

And they help your content breathe too.

Powerful call-to-action.

This is an absolute must.

Ask yourself why you’re writing the blog, what’s its purpose, what do you want the reader to do?

Once you understand that, you can ensure you include a powerful call-to-action.

This could be signing up for a newsletter, downloading a prospectus, or even starting their online application.

Never leave a reader thinking, “Well that was nice, now what?”

Relevant internal link.

Linking between pages within your topic clusters not only helps them to understand how your content fits together, but it also helps search engines understand this too.

SEO tip: Remember to link your blog to the relevant pillar page to help boost its rankings.

Quote external sources.

If you have the opportunity to point to some authoritative data that will help you make your point, do it!

Search engines thrive on this sort of referencing. If you’re in luck, the content owners who you’re referencing may even link back to you.

Authoritative backlinks are the holy grail for SEO effectiveness.

SEO tip: Interview experts and quote them in your blogs. They’ll be driven to share your blogs and link back to you, boosting your domain authority and search engine rankings.

Good meta description.

This is a short paragraph that explains succinctly what the content is about.

It’s what the search engine will display when it serves up your article in search engine results pages.

Make it compelling.

SEO tip: Include your focus keyword and make sure your meta description isn’t too long. It’s best to keep meta descriptions long enough that they’re sufficiently descriptive, but not so long that they get curtailed. Between 50 and 155 characters is best.

[CTA LINKING TO OUR CONTENT SERVICES]

Social media.

Your prospective students are on social media.

According to research by McKinsey, Gen Zs are most influenced by social media when making purchase decisions.

This significantly outweighed other influences such as ‘online reviews, blogs & websites’, ‘traditional media’, friends and family’, and ‘traditional media’.

The power of social media to influence prospective students is clearly evident.

The challenge is coming up with innovative ways to tell them your story in a helpful manner.

What makes your institution or business unique?

Here are some things to consider.

Choose the right content for the right channel.

Before sharing content on social media, it’s essential to consider which channel to use and its purpose.

“Different channels can be effective for different audiences and objectives,” says Julia Weston, Head of Marketing and Communications at UCL Faculty of Life Sciences.

 

“Our researchers have strong voices and active communities on Twitter. We target job opportunities on LinkedIn. And all our audiences, including our alumni, get to see life on campus through the seasons by following Instagram along with over 140k followers.”

– Julia Weston, Head of Marketing and Communications at UCL Faculty of Life Sciences

 

Ensure you tailor the content according to the social channel you use.

If you’re targeting Gen Z, focus on TikTok and Instagram. (Simply sharing your blog posts on Facebook is soooo 2015.)

 

 

20 social media content ideas for education providers.

 

There are many creative content ideas you can do on social media.

You will have identified what works best for your institution during the social media audit phase mentioned earlier in stage one of this guide.

However, if you’re stuck for inspiration, here are 20 social media content ideas to set you on your way.

 

 

  1. News, achievements and milestones: How are your staff and students making a positive impact on the world? Have you won any awards recently?
  2. Current student and alumni reviews: Collect them through student surveys and academic reps.
  3. Video testimonials: Go one further and film the students and alumni talking about their positive experiences.
  4. Virtual tours: Get your students to showcase the university or campus grounds. Run the tour live with an opportunity for prospective students to ask questions.
  5. Use hashtags: Encourage current students to showcase life at your college or university via Instagram, using a specific hashtag.
  6. Offer careers advice and support: Create groups or pages that offer prospective students careers advice. This shows you’re invested in seeing them achieve.
  7. Student vlogs: Encourage students to vlog their academic and social life. This especially works for creative courses with a buzzing atmosphere as students will want to showcase their work.
  8. Introduce faculty members: Prospective students will be keen to see who their potential lecturers will be and what experience they have. Short intro videos are a great way of showcasing your faculty dream team.
  9. Student survival tips: For many prospective students, it will be their first time living away from home. Share tips on surviving Freshers Week, cooking, studying, or anything else they may be curious about.
  10. Alumni success stories: Share industry success stories of former students. Bonus points for any celebrity alumni!
  11. Events vlogs: If you regularly run social events for your students, be sure one of them is armed with a camera to film the fun.
  12. Guest speakers: If you have any interesting guest speakers, don’t miss out on the opportunity of sharing the highlights from their speeches on social media.
  13. Tours of accommodation: Do a ‘Through the keyhole’ style video showcasing student accommodation. Students can even provide tips on making it as homely as possible.
  14. Behind the scenes: Practical experience is important for prospective students. If your students are engaging in practical activities (filming in a famous film studio, for example) then encourage them to film some behind-the-scenes footage.
  15. Infographics: Showcase some of your university data such as student-to-lecturer ratio, percentage of graduates who get jobs, and other statistics that may set you above competitors.
  16. Campus beauty shots: As the saying goes, “If you’ve got it, flaunt it.” Show off your campus buildings. Show off the architecture and design.
  17. Results from student surveys: Ask students the top three reasons they love your college or university. Turn these into animated graphics.
  18. Blog posts: Sharing your blog posts is a great way to promote your content and drive traffic to your site. However, be warned, exposure will be limited as many social channels don’t want users leaving their platform via outbound links. Do not make this your main source of social media posts.
  19. Answers to common FAQs: Answer the most common questions you get asked by prospective students.
  20. Polls: Find out what matters to prospective students. Not only will this increase engagement but will also inform your marketing strategy.
  21. Bonus Tip: Educational content: Universities should use content to educate. With a whole wealth of research on multiple topics (that your prospective students are already interested in), sharing it with the nation will build a solid list of followers and increase exposure. Check out The School of Life – it has perfected educational content and has over 7.49m subscribers on YouTube.
Remember, your students are your marketing team.

Use your existing students to make posts and build a following.

They’re your best advocates and give a genuine human voice to your brand.

A nervous prospect is far more likely to engage with your message if it comes from a genuine peer; someone who has been where they’re and faced the same decisions.

There are some great examples of student-led campaigns out there.

The University of Salford #Salfie campaign is a shining example of using social media to generate exposure.

Polaroid-style frames were hung around the university campus.

Heart templates were included in welcome packs and students were encouraged to take a selfie with the frames and post it on social media with the hashtag #Salfie.

This was incentivised with a competition for the best photo.

Other ways you could get your students involved on social media is by appointing them to do guided tours of your campuses, or running competitions for the best Instagram shot of student life at your university.

A word of caution:

Yes, the student is the new marketer.

Yes, having student ambassadors in your marketing is essential.

However, ensure you have strong content creators to deliver on-brand content that’s vetted and checked.

Remember Pure Gym’s infamous ‘slavery workout’ social blunder?

This could have been avoided if the company had a stronger hold on content creation and vetted its franchise owner’s content before posting.

Years of brand reputation can be undone in an instant and bad news travels like wildfire.

Keep it under control.

Social listening platforms.

Social media marketing in Education is as much about listening to your audience as it’s talking to them.

There are many tools out there that will help you figure out what’s important to your different student personas.

Social listening apps like Critical Mention or SEMrush can help you evaluate how your earned media is performing.

CRM tools like HubSpot allow you to link popular marketing tech tools together to give a richer understanding of the motivations and views of your prospective and existing students.

Even without these tools, it isn’t too difficult to find out what conversations are trending on Twitter, TikTok, Medium, or Facebook.

Simply type “University Name” or “#CollegeName” into one of these platforms and you’ll see hundreds, if not thousands, of conversations you or your student ambassadors can contribute to.

Again, look for ways that you can truly add value – address needs with genuine solutions.

Social media influencers.

Getting mentioned by an influencer with a massive following can generate serious exposure for your institution.

There are two approaches you can take with influencers.

Firstly, micro-influencers are normal people that usually have 500-10,000 followers.

They’re hard to reach but are more likely to promote lesser-known brands.

Look through your alumni, and see if any of them has made a particular impact on the world (e.g. through research, the arts, media etc.).

Secondly, celebrity alumni can be fantastic advocates and broadcasters of your message.

Comic actor and University of Southern California alumni, Will Ferrell, gave a speech at the university’s graduation ceremony.

This was picked up by notable publications such as TIME magazine.

The musician, Example, attended Royal Holloway University.

Upon graduating, he regularly went back to play at their Summer Ball and other gigs.

He actively pushed this news and related content out through his social channels.

This focused thousands of young eyes on the gorgeous campus buildings and incredible Summer Ball scenes.

And who said Higher Education marketing was dry.

That’s a rap.

 

 

Creating memorable (and shareable) experiences.

Experiential marketing is a great way to capture the hearts and minds of prospective students.

The University of Melbourne’s ‘Made Possible by Melbourne’ is a prime example of successful experiential marketing.

They turned a large portion of the city into a giant exhibition to demonstrate the impact of its world-changing research.

The campaign featured 14 exhibitions dotted throughout the city, each telling different stories, including:

  • research that’ll improve half of the world’s diet
  • a way to turn any water into drinking water
  • the creation of robotic arms with a human touch
  • breakthroughs in prenatal care that will save thousands of unborn lives

The university developed a digital app, static and digital ads, and tram and train media as part of the campaign.

The campaign attracted 3.2 million visitors to the exhibition and had a 44 million global reach.

 

 

OOH Advertising.

Out-of-home (OOH) advertising is a form of advertising that can be found anywhere outside a prospective student’s home.

Think billboards, posters, digital signage on bus stops, and messaging on the side of buses.

The beauty of OOH advertising is you can get highly creative.

Just be sure to involve a strong copywriter who has the skills to write powerful copy – copy that will engage your audience in a matter of seconds.

Here are some examples of great OOH advertising used by universities.

Outreach.

University outreach programs involve instructional and professional activities by faculty and staff with individuals and organisations who aren’t enrolled in the institution.

These can be split into three categories:

  1. Ad-hoc events – Why your university? Student finance and budgeting. Personal statements.
  2. Programmes – Summer residential. Mentoring.
  3. Subject-specific – Masterclasses. Big quizzes. On-site visits.

For successful outreach, using a combination of all three categories proves most effective.

“Outreach goes beyond functional work in supporting decision-making, personal statements, and interview workshops. It raises aspirations and drives applications,” says Claire Matthews, Associate Director UK Student Recruitment at the University of Greenwich.

The university recently launched its new allied health programme in ‘Operating Department Practitioner’.

Workshops were set up in schools and colleges to raise awareness and support options in healthcare careers.

 

“Our sustained outreach work to support skills development and attainment of level 3 qualifications is providing further support and confidence in achieving grades required to secure a place. This outreach work directly generated applications. Standalone press releases and UCAS listings are not enough and will not truly engage prospective students.”

– Claire Matthews, Associate Director UK Student Recruitment at the University of Greenwich

 

Peter Riley, Head of Student Recruitment at Manchester Metropolitan University, also advocates empowering prospective students with the skills they need to succeed.

Riley has witnessed the Education sector transform considerably since COVID-19.

“In a ‘hybrid’ world, institutions need to consider the most effective channels to provide information and support to schools and colleges to ensure they are of maximum benefit for learners.”

For Riley, this includes partnerships between school/college teachers and universities.

“It’s likely that the time will be limited for any extra-curricular engagement. Therefore, institutions should design outreach that links directly to the curriculum,” he says.

“Such resources, especially if available on-demand, are more likely to be of use to teachers who can then embed them at an appropriate point in their teaching, rather than promoting on-campus events which require learners to come out from school/college.

“This would also build stronger links between the university and school/college subject leaders. Subject teachers are key influencers on applicants. So being a university that is trusted by teachers, understands the prior learners of pupils, and demonstrates it can adapt to the needs of students, could give such institutions a competitive advantage.”

 

“Going beyond self-promotion and, instead, focusing on how you can help students is the fastest track to outreach success.”

Peter Riley, Head of Student Recruitment, Manchester Metropolitan University

 

Engage.

So you’ve got prospective students’ attention.

Now what?

During the engagement phase, it’s time to turn interest into action and commitment.

Virtual tours.

Virtual tours give prospective students the opportunity to visit your institution without leaving the comfort of their own home.

The beauty is, they don’t require as much commitment as an on-site visit.

They’re also available to your prospective students on a 24/7 basis.

Use virtual tour providers such as CampusTours to showcase your campus, your halls of residence, or any other location you want to promote.

For example, if you’re a college or university that has excellent sports facilities, show your students your grounds and pitches.

Here’s an awesome example of an incredible panoramic virtual tour from the University of Bristol, showcasing a huge section of the city!

If you need even more inspiration, here’s a definitive list of college and university virtual tours from UCAS.

 

 

Lead flows.

Lead nurturing is a system that funnels your prospects through a “pipeline” to becoming an enrolled student.

These can be broken down into the following:

Lead capture.

This is the transactional stage of your engagement with prospective students.

Provide them with lead magnets.

​​These are pieces of content that entice the student to provide their contact information.

This could be eBooks, white papers, webinar sessions, live-video sessions, free content series downloads etc.

Don’t simply turn a blog post into a guide and gate it behind a form.

The lead magnet has to hold enough value for a prospective student to give their details.

People are wary of lead capture forms so they need to see the real value in handing over their personal information.

Landing page conversions.

Landing pages are crucial in converting visitors into warm leads.

Landing pages help funnel users from each of your channels to appropriate content or calls-to-action.

The goal is to promote your lead magnet on the landing page and encourage them to submit their details via a form.

For landing page best practices, see the ‘Landing Pages’ section in stage six of this guide.

Lead scoring.

CRM and marketing automation software such as HubSpot allows you to score your leads on how likely they’re to convert based on their behaviour.

For example:

  • Clicked on an ad (+5 points)
  • Opened an email (+1 point)
  • Clicked on a link in an email (+5 points)
  • Downloaded a course guide (+10 points)
  • Filled in a request for information form (+10 points)
  • Unsubscribed from a list (-7 points)

In the example above, their total journey now has a value of 24 points.

You could then decide to prioritise prospects with scores over 15, for example.

Lead scoring enables you to prioritise the warmest and most engaged leads.

Note:

Lead scoring can be quite rigid and doesn’t always tell a true story.

Use it as an extra tool in prioritising leads but don’t make it your main yardstick.

Lead nurturing.

A prospective student may have downloaded a course guide.

However, they aren’t necessarily in a position to apply.

This is where lead nurturing comes in.

Using marketing automation platforms such as HubSpot, you can create an automated email series.

The automation is triggered when the prospective student fills out the form to download the course guide.

It will automatically send them a series of emails that include content that will help them in their consideration stage.

Email marketing.

There are some who view email marketing as somewhat passe these days.

In some cases, it’s overlooked as a viable means of engaging prospective students.

However, a study by eMarketer shows the median email marketing ROI is 122 percent – four times higher than any other digital marketing channel.

So it definitely shouldn’t be ignored.

As with other channels and techniques already discussed, there is a science behind the art of email.

Here are a few tips to ensure you’re getting the best from this medium.

Understand your audience.

If you’ve done your research outlined in stage one of this guide, you’ll understand your audience and have some clear student personas.

To recap:

Survey existing students to find out what made them apply to your institution (and what makes them stay). This will inform your comms when it comes to writing out your nurturing emails.

Conduct focus groups with existing and prospective students to understand their buyer journey. What information do they need to ensure your institution is right for them (above all others)?

Student Personas: The Free Template

Create your student personas and get more student leads. This resource includes:

  • List a description of benefit 1 here
  • List a description of benefit 2 here
  • List a description of benefit 3 here
Cover
Set clear goals.

Sending emails with no clear goal in mind is a fruitless operation.

At the outset, it’s important to plan what you want your recipients to do.

They’re engaged (which is how they’re on your distribution list), so what steps do you want them to take?

If they’ve downloaded a course guide, you want the student to submit an application to the course.

However, you can’t rely on a simple course guide PDF to push them over the line.

There may be a series of questions that need answering before they’re confident in applying.

For example:

  • What’s life like on campus?
  • Who are the course lecturers and what are their credentials?
  • How well will this equip me in getting the career I want?
  • What do current students and alumni think of the course?
  • How has the course equipped alumni for success?
  • What’s the application process look like?
  • What’s the student accommodation like?
  • What about the city’s social life, is it right for me?

Run an email series designed to answer these questions and guide your prospective student towards applying.

Remember, each email should have one, clear call-to-action.

If you ask a reader to do too much, they likely won’t do anything.

The importance of careful segmentation.

Segmentation is of utmost importance when it comes to a successful emailing campaign.

Not all your list members will want or need the same things.

Some will be further in their journey with you than others.

Clearly defined segments linked to personas will ensure that your emails resonate and serve the prospect’s needs.

For example, you might have a segment of prospects looking at postgraduate distance learning courses.

In this case, you might send them information on how to fund their studies while still working.

This would be completely different from prospects for undergraduate courses that may have already attended an open day.

They’d be more interested in hearing about student life and receiving tips on the application or interview process.

Having a CRM that’s linked with your Email Service Provider (ESP) will make the process any easier.

A decent ESP-CRM combination will also allow you to use personalisation tokens in your emails, ensuring that they feel more human and targeted.

Look for opportunities for genuine connection.

As mentioned previously, your existing students are your best marketers.

If emails come from them, it can help frame subject lines.

For example:

“How I prepared for my interview” or, “How I managed my finances as a fresher”.

These sorts of emails are more likely to resonate with your recipients and improve the chances of meaningful engagement.

Subject lines.

Email subject lines should be such an important focus while you craft your campaigns.

They’re the difference between a user clicking ‘open’ or it ending up in a junk folder.

You have a few options for the types of email subject lines you send. These can be grouped as follows:

  • The “How to…” subject line – e.g. “How I survived Freshers Week” or, “One simple hack to effectively managing your finances”
  • The social proof subject line – e.g. “John now works for [insert reputable company here] thanks to our [insert course name here] course. Here’s how” or, “Freshers was the best week of my life”
  • The intrigue-creating subject line – e.g. “Clare, this is perfect for you” or, “See what’s inside our University walls”
Test and adapt.

Always build time into your campaigns to allow for testing and adaptation.

Any good email service provider will provide A/B testing as a feature of their product.

This is where you can send out two close variations of the same email, with slight differences (e.g. different subject lines, variations in the first paragraph etc.).

You can then monitor which email is more successful (by open rate or click-through rate, for example) and then send the remainder of the emails in the winning version format.

CRM and marketing automation.

Marketing automation means utilising marketing software to manage multiple marketing channels from one platform, as well as automating repetitive tasks.

CRM stands for “Customer Relationship Management”.

Your CRM is focused on collecting knowledge and data on existing accounts and managing new pipelines.

Many education providers have separate marketing and sales platforms.

However, this creates a misalignment between the marketing and sales teams.

For education providers who are serious about boosting student leads and recruitment, they should adopt a platform that incorporates both.

For our Education clients, we implement HubSpot as it has both CRM and marketing automation within one platform.

This enables the marketing and sales teams to work together, identifying what makes a great sales qualified lead.

It also enables both teams to make full use of its automation features, such as lead scoring, Sales Qualified Lead list generation and automating hand-off from Marketing to Sales.

Whichever CRM or marketing automation platform you choose, it’s essential that it addresses the various needs of both your internal stakeholders and students.

“By nature, large institutions are often fragmented and complex. Needs vary based on faculty, academic departments, innovation and enterprise, alumni, and so on,” says Julia Weston, Head of Marketing and Communications at UCL Faculty of Life Sciences.

For Weston, a CRM is more than a segmentation tool for email communication. Rather, it encompasses communication via all relevant channels.

“The best approach involves the range of channels our audiences use worldwide, including different social media platforms.”

Keeping up to date with modern trends is also top of her agenda.

“How often do we stop and review the products we use and check that we have adapted to the ever-changing channels and trends? Having a steering group, which brings together all the areas of a university, who regularly review the approach as well as the product, keeps the user journeys relevant and engaging,” she says.

“If we don’t adapt, we risk the dreaded ‘unsubscribe’ from one set of emails while another part of the university continues with its own set of communications. At best, this could be annoying for the recipient. At worst, we risk falling foul of GDPR.”

“The best CRM approach encompasses these many different needs. It isn’t a question of bringing in a ‘quick fix’ to manage the student journey in isolation. It’s about showing the customer we understand their needs and have acted on their preferences. This is the approach we are taking at UCL as we implement our new CRM.”

– Julia Weston, Head of Marketing and Communications at UCL Faculty of Life Sciences

Email automation.

Email automation is normally triggered by either time or action.

Time-based emails are sent automatically at different stages of a prospective student’s journey with you.

For example:

  • before an open day
  • after an open day
  • before application deadlines
  • during clearing
  • etc.

Action-based automated emails are triggered by user behaviour.

For example, they may download a course guide, or view a certain page on your website.

We work with our Education clients to automate lead nurturing using the power of HubSpot.

If a prospective student downloads a course guide, we set up email workflows that deliver a series of personalised emails.

This takes the manual effort out of the process, saving both time and money.

The email workflow sends the prospective student various emails containing useful content.

Here are some typical examples of automated email workflow we produce for our Education clients:

Course guide download.

Day 1: Thank you for downloading our course guide
Day 3: Course intro video (presented by faculty staff)
Day 7: Learn about life on our campus
Day 9: Hear from our alumni (videos and testimonials)
Day 11: What’s life like in [city name]?
Day 14: Speak to an admissions advisor
Day 18: Speak to current students
Day 21: Submit an application
Day 21: Thanks for submitting your application

IF the application is approved:

Day 23: Schedule an interview
Day 28+: Monthly newsletter

ONCE interview is scheduled:

Some tips for your interview

Completed enquiry form.

Day 1: Thank you for your enquiry
Day 3: Check out our courses
Day 7: Learn about life on our campus
Day 9: Hear from our alumni (videos and testimonials)
Day 11: What’s life like in [city name]
Day 14: Speak to an admissions advisor
Day 21: Submit application
Day 21: Thanks for submitting your application

IF application is approved:

Day 23: Schedule an interview
Day 28+: Monthly newsletter

ONCE interview is scheduled:

Some tips for your interview

Remember…

…email automation is only limited by the amount of content you can provide and your imagination.

Don’t be scared to experiment with content, messaging, and timings. Test, test, test!

[CTA: Chat to one of our experts about harnessing the power of email automation in Education]

Social media automation.

Social media automation tools allow you to create, store, and publish a bank of social posts over a period of time.

They’ll also allow you to make posts across a range of platforms without any manual intervention.

This minimises the time needed for manual tailoring and posting.

Good social media tools will also allow you to listen to social media conversations.

This is great for picking up positive comments about your institution or responding to questions.

Marketers can also reply, comment on, or interact with people who engage with your posts via a conversation hub.

You can also set up competitor analysis to monitor social conversations between students and other institutions.

Advertising automation.

Retargeting re-engages users who have interacted with your ads but haven’t followed through on a call-to-action.

For example, a prospective student visits a landing page but fails to download your prospectus.

You would retarget the potential student with another ad at a later date.

Marketers in the Education sector can use ad platforms such as Google Ads to serve retargeting ads.

Retargeted ads “follow” the user around the web until the user lands on a website that’s part of Google’s Display Network (such as YouTube).

Marketers can also run retargeting ad campaigns on social media networking sites such as Facebook or LinkedIn.

Retargeting drives action and helps visitors remember your brand in a saturated marketplace.

Mobile marketing automation.

SMS marketing has become an increasingly popular method for creating more engaging experiences.

Text messages are triggered by either time or action.

For example, sending a student a reminder for an interview or open day.

Ensure they have opted-in to receive these communications before sending.

The average open rate sits between 28 percent and 33 percent, according to data from HubSpot.

The average open rate of a text message sits at about 99 percent, with 97 percent of messages being read within 15 minutes of delivery.

The results don’t lie. However, use them sparingly as they’re far more intrusive.

Chatbots.

Students expect quick response times to information requests.

Even with the most efficient admissions team, this is a difficult expectation to meet.

Chatbots allow education providers to answer questions without the need for human interaction.

Marketers can create chat flows for different types of enquiries.

Chatflows funnel users through a series of questions before directing them to an appropriate answer/action.

Some examples of chatflows within Education include:

  • providing course details
  • connecting students with faculty staff
  • passing on custom enquiries to be responded to via email

Chatbots enable you to quickly respond to prospective students’ questions and provide a 24/7 concierge for when staff aren’t available.

Close.

Your prospective students now understand your brand.

They understand the value you provide over other institutions.

Now it’s about turning prospects into admissions.

At the ‘Close’ stage, they’re looking to make their decision.

Here, it’s about speaking to people.

Read on to discover how to push your prospective students over the line.

Open days.

Open days are the perfect opportunity for prospective students to experience your institution.

They can dive deeper into courses and speak with faculty staff, alumni, and current students.

Here are several elements to consider when organising successful open days.

This section focuses on Higher Education open days.

However, many of the strategies cross over into Secondary Education so it’s certainly worth a read.

Pick effective dates.

The UCAS application deadline is mid-January – some can be as early as October.

This means you need to schedule them between July and October.

Get the word out.

Some great places to promote your open days are:

If you have good partnerships with secondary schools, then send out leaflets and posters.

These can be displayed in reception and social areas.

Dive deeper into the subject.

Your prospective students will be coming to the open day wanting to evaluate what your course offers over competitors’.

Highlight what each module will entail and the types of examination.

Also, a great way to extol the benefits of your case is a “This course is perfect for you if…” slot.

For example:

This course is perfect for you if:

You want to become a [insert role here]
You have a passion for [insert interest here]
You want to gain practical experience in [insert practice area here]
You are [insert quality here]
Etc.

Pack a power punch by inviting alumni to come and speak.

There’s no greater social proof than an alumni success story straight from the horse’s mouth.

Remember to reserve some time for a Q&A session at the end of the presentation.

Campus tour.

Show your prospective students around campus.

This is an opportunity for them to see the academic lives of current students face-to face.

It’s also a chance for them to see the facilities and architecture.

Get existing students to show them around.

This will put them at ease when asking questions and provides further social proof.

Highlight the fun stuff.

Let’s face it, it’s not just the studying that gets students excited.

One word:

P.A.R.T.Y

Highlight the great moments and activities they’ll experience.

This includes, but isn’t limited to:

  • Freshers Week
  • social events
  • the Student Union
  • local bars, clubs, restaurants etc.

Produce info packs.

Provide an info pack they can refer to with all the important details.

Hand them out in tote bags and include branded stationery items.

Everyone loves a freebie, but ensure it’s something they’ll actually need/use.

For example, pens, mugs, planners, and sports bottles always go down well.

Virtual open days.

Virtual open days are great for giving your prospective students a flavour of your institution.

They’re particularly beneficial for international students who may not be able to travel to visit.

Use a virtual event provider such as vFAIRS or Hopin to create incredible experiences.

These platforms provide virtual lobbies, exhibit halls, in-event webinars, and auditoriums for presentations.

They also provide networking hubs, should your students want to chat with faculty staff, alumni, or current students.

Examples of the desired itinerary may include:

  • an introduction from the headteacher
  • a tour of the campus
  • a tour of the buildings/accommodation
  • a feature video on life at your institution
  • course presentations
  • a ‘meet & greet’ with current students
  • testimonials from former students
  • a Q/A session with members of the faculty
  • taster sessions of classes

Speak To Students and Staff.

Don’t just rely on your prospective students to attend an open day to speak to students and staff.

Embed this functionality on your website.

Build a ‘Chat to students’ function on your website like the University of Bradford.

The University of Bolton has an excellent ‘Chat to Staff’ feature.

Prospective students can filter by ‘Teams’, ‘Subject Area’, and even ‘Topic’.

There’s also a great FAQ section. This answers commonly asked questions but also provides insight into the student journey to inform their buyer personas.

Delight.

Consider how you’re going to provide an incredible experience after your students enrol.

Why?

So they recommend your institution to others.

Your goal here is to turn students into evangelists who market for you.

Let’s dive in.

Events.

Events are a great way to create experiences your students will want to share on social media.

Here are some college and university event ideas guaranteed to capture the imagination of your students.

Customisable Escape Rooms.

Create customisable Escape Rooms based on your subject/course.

Challenge students with course-based questions and puzzles.

Customisable Escape Rooms are also a fun way to revise for exams.

Selfie booths.

Is your institution “Instagrammable”?

Set up fun selfie booths and props around the uni.

This not only creates a fun experience but also encourages students to share on social media.

Encourage students to use a campaign hashtag too.

TEDx talks.

TEDx started as a campus event at the University of Southern California in the U.S. in 2009.

Now, the talks have spread across the globe.

Start a campus TEDx talk where both professors and students can present and share their ideas.

Invite students, faculty, staff, friends, family, and alumni to join the educational party.

 

 

Pub/bar crawls.

Come on, it’s college/university after all.

Just make sure you get student reps/ambassadors to run them…

…you don’t want any of your faculty staff incriminating themselves with embarrassing drunken antics.

Mind you, who are we to judge.

Live music performances.

Music unites.

Music is memorable.

Music lights a fire in us.

So perhaps there’s nothing better to engage students than a live music performance.

Back in 2002, Eminen played a surprise show at the University of Michigan

The rapper sang for the moment to 1,700 lucky students.

Most colleges and universities have a (ahem) ‘slim’ chance of attracting such a bankable star.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t host live music events on a more modest budget.

Get creative.

 

marketing in education eminem

 

Adulting classes.

When you’re proud of the fact you’ve just boiled pasta, you might need to level up your adulting skills.

Many students attend university lacking the basic life skills they need upon graduating and entering “the real world”.

Run events that teach students how to do a range of useful tasks, such as:

  • cooking
  • budgeting
  • paying taxes
  • creating a CV/resume
  • participating in a job interview
  • maintaining a home

De-stressing activities.

Students can get pretty stressed when it comes to exams.

Run meditation or yoga workshops on campus.

Other ways to destress could be through campus sporting events.

Gaming tournaments.

According to Forbes, gaming appeals to 87 percent of GenZ, more than any other generation.

Run gaming tournaments on campus for a grand prize.

Fortnite, anyone?

Networking opportunities and careers services.

As the old adage goes, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

While having a solid education puts you one step ahead in the job market, having the right contacts puts you 10 steps ahead.

Consider a ‘Networking’ web page like Imperial College London.

This updates students on key networking opportunities, such as employer events and careers fairs.

If students are able to get a great job straight out of HE, then they’re more likely to promote your institution.

 

university networking events

 

Careers services.

Careers services in Education are designed to help students build their ideal careers.

The University of Oxford has a great careers services web page, tailored to where the student is in their journey.

This spans from simply ‘exploring ideas’ right up to ‘having a plan’.

The university provides a range of careers services, including helping students to build skills, generating career ideas, careers fairs, careers advisors, career connect platforms, internships and more.

Student profiles.

Want your students to feel special?

Make them the star of the show.

Feature student profiles on your website.

Ask students questions such as how they’re finding the course, their lecturers, and social life.

This not only stops you from looking like a faceless institution but also creates loyalty.

Student profiles show you care about the students and want to show how great they’re.

They also show prospective students what life’s like at your institution.

Remember to include a filter on your student profiles web page which includes ‘subjects’, ‘students’, and ‘alumni’.

Campus chatbots and mobile apps.

There have been some great examples of the use of this technology in recent years.

Staffordshire University released “Beacon” in 2019.

It claims to be the first university in the UK to deploy an AI coach.

This mobile-native app enables contact with personal tutors and provides answers to 400 frequently asked questions.

These cover campus facilities, support services, and more.

Use campus chatbots and mobile apps to create a fun, frictionless experience for your students.

For example, during Freshers’ Week, use your apps and chatbots to help answer common questions such as, “Where’s lecture hall 18?” or, “What time is my Freshers Orientation?”

Gamification.

If you were born before the nineties you’ll remember good ol’ chalk and blackboards.

Fortunately, technology in Education has come a long way since then.

Interactive apps now make learning much more fun and engaging.

Use gamification to capture students’ attention and create an unforgettable learning experience.

“I’m currently using two simulation games with different levels of complexity, which are relative to their degree, undergraduate or postgraduate, says Michael De Domenici, Head of the Marketing, Events & Tourism Department at the University of Greenwich.

“Students play against each other in teams, rather than against the computer, which offers many benefits – for example teamwork and implementing practical skills such as marketing strategies and tactics they have learnt on their academic journey. Overall a win-win situation.”

 

“As educators, we need to consider a variety of learning experiences. Simulation games offer a great opportunity to create a near real-life marketing experience.”

– Michael De Domenici, Head of the Marketing, Events & Tourism Department, University of Greenwich

 

[CASE STUDY: Digital Leaders]

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Stage 9: Bring it to fruition.

Get ready for the launch.

So far, you’ve painstakingly planned your strategy for boosting student leads.

Now it’s time to put those plans into action.

To set out your marketing roadmap, you’ll need some good project management software.

For example, we use Productive to map out our marketing campaigns using a Board layout.

Whether it’s a Work Breakdown Structure (WBS), Gantt Chart, or Matrix – use what best suits your needs.

Set timelines, teams, roles, and tasks.

And remember, what gets measured gets managed.

Reporting is crucial in marketing and student recruitment.

Find a tool that utilises marketing automation to tie together reporting with individual campaigns.

We use HubSpot’s Campaigns tool to manage campaigns all in one place.

This enables us to associate every piece of digital marketing material we produce with a particular campaign, including:

  • emails
  • ads
  • blog posts
  • call-to-actions
  • landing pages
  • social posts
  • lists
  • website pages
  • workflows

This gives us a great view of how many student leads we’ve created and where they came from.

It also provides insight into what’s working so we can double down on success.

Let us show you how we transform education providers using the power of HubSpot and the inbound marketing methodology.

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Stage 10: Watch the student leads roll in.

We’d love to say you can sit back and relax now you’ve put in the groundwork.

But as you know, a marketing or student recruitment professional’s job never ends.

There will always be the next round of students searching for their perfect institution.

Constantly engaging students and keeping the wheels spinning is a challenge.

This is compounded by a lack of staff and resources to truly execute your vision of a well-oiled student recruitment machine.

That’s why we exist.

We help education providers streamline their efforts to do more with less.

Through the power of marketing automation, website optimisation and content creation, we’ve helped the world’s leading education providers rapidly boost student leads.

Let us show you how we can do the same for your institution with a free website and marketing review [NEED TO LINK TO LANDING PAGE]. We’ll show you how to optimise your website to generate more student leads.

 

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The definitive guide to marketing in Education

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