Universities around the world rely heavily on traditional marketing strategies—direct mail, college fairs, physical ads in public transit, billboards, campus visits and other antiquated best practices—to attract candidates to their programs. Despite the advent of the internet, big data and the mobile revolution, higher ed recruiting has remained unchanged for decades.
Few universities have begun to invest in digital marketing to build brand awareness or increase program penetration, despite the effectiveness of search engine optimization (SEO) strategy, social media initiatives and email marketing campaigns.
With the emergence and growing popularity of new online and mobile media, marketing strategies for higher educational institutions are in need of a complete overhaul.
Social media falls directly under the umbrella of digital marketing, as it requires consistency of keywords, ongoing analysis of competitors and strategic timing of relevant and engaging content. Research from Ruffalo Noel Levitz shows that 15.7 percent of private universities and 16.9 percent of public universities employ just one person whose job focuses solely on social media.
This is a staggeringly low number given that 67 percent of students use social media to help select a university and 75 percent indicate social media as a major influence on their college choices. Social media marketing allows universities to better reach their target applicants through look-alike modeling, retargeting efforts and segmented demographic messaging; yet, due to the slow pace of technology adoption, most schools simply do not take advantage of these opportunities.
Why Mobile Marketing?
1. It’s a language today’s students understand
According to a survey conducted by GMAC, 96 percent of business school applicants own smartphones and more than 50 percent own tablets. Additionally, Forbes found that the average student spends 2.8 hours on the phone each day, and GMAC reports that 90 percent of this engagement occurs through mobile apps.
Yet, mobile channels are often considered as an afterthought, or not at all, in universities’ marketing strategies. Levitz also found that only 23.6 percent of private universities take advantage of mobile channels, compared to 45.8 percent of public universities. Since public universities are under more pressure to attract students, it stands to reason that private schools are simply missing out on these effective and efficient marketing channels.
2. It allows for tracking
Traditional marketing channels typically do not allow for accurate tracking or analytics, significantly reducing their comparative value in the digital world. Mobile marketing campaigns allow universities to implement an entirely digital recruitment campaign that offers measurable success metrics: overall engagement, click-through and message open rates, event attendance, social engagement and more.
These analytics allow universities to assess campaign effectiveness on a tactical level, providing immediate insight into campaign performance and the ability to adjust strategy accordingly.
(Next page: 2 more ways mobile is changing the student recruitment game)
3. It can target specific users
Many universities’ recruitment plans include targeting specific geographic areas, whether domestic or international. Mobile channels offer a host of location-based segmentation options, such as geo-targeting, geofencing and location-specific messaging.
Market segmentation can also be designed based on demographics, including age, years of work experience, education level, test scores, social habits, leisure activities and much more. Typically, look-alike models are built with a specific user profile in mind, eliminating the guesswork in identifying ideal applicants.
All of these user-specific data points can be aggregated to create campaigns that reach only the most important groups of potential applicants. This means that mobile marketing allows universities to interact with candidates in a more personalized way, differentiating their offerings according to what will be most appealing to a specific student.
4. Mobile marketing fuels capacity for international recruiting
Research from the Institute of International Education found that the number of international students attending school in the U.S. has increased by 78 percent in the last decade; as digital strategies for international recruitment are still largely undeveloped, these students are often engaged through indirect channels.
Recruiters continue to spend time and money traveling to meet international candidates rather than investing in digital channels, but it is impossible to identify all of their most qualified applicants this way. Recruiters only spend a short period of time in any given location, and maintaining relationships with potential students after these trips is difficult, making costs disproportionately greater than benefits.
Reaching out to qualified applicants through mobile channels greatly reduces the time and money universities must budget for travel. In meeting students where they already spend a majority of their time—on their devices—recruiters are able to engage prospects in a space that feels comfortable to them, regardless of their physical location.
GMAC reports that 70 percent of full-time MBA programs allocate significant resources to international recruitment, and yet, international recruiting in its current form is both expensive and inefficient. The specialized targeting tools included in mobile marketing provide a solution to the problems created by current recruitment strategies, allowing schools to optimize their international recruitment marketing plans and better engage prospective international students through a less expensive and more successful medium.
In conclusion, look at it from the students’ perspective: they receive overwhelming quantities of recruitment materials throughout their university selection and application process—piles of brochures, dozens of emails and countless flyers from college fairs. Most, if not all of these materials end up in the garbage.
Mobile marketing circumvents this outdated process, allowing universities to reach target groups of students by highlighting program offerings that appeal to specific demographics and preferences.
But most importantly, mobile marketing allows universities to place all of this information exactly where the student wants it to be: on their devices.