There’s a problem that every institution faces, no matter its level of size or ranking: keeping students engaged, excited, and, most importantly, enrolled.

As increasing competition crowds the higher education marketplace, two questions continue to plague enrollment management personnel: How do we capture the attention of our target audience, and how do we keep prospective students engaged throughout the admission and enrollment process?

These questions are something that all institutions must consider, especially in today’s rapidly changing academic landscape. Many institutions also face the same challenges when responding to these questions: decreasing budgets and a lack of internal resources.

There’s no doubt that these challenges are frustrating, but there are strategies you can implement today to start making an impact. Through years of experience working with a broad spectrum of degree programs, we’ve identified three scalable strategies that boost engagement and keep admitted students excited about their education.

1. Define your story and find unique ways to share it
One of the most critical components of your marketing strategy is defining your story and finding unique ways to share it. That doesn’t mean spewing facts about the institution’s long history on your Facebook page. It means effectively communicating the institution’s mission, vision, and culture in a way that connects with both prospective and current students. Is your institution working toward social change? Does it have a strong foundation in researching cures for currently incurable diseases? Institutions can tap these powerful, mission-driven sentiments to energize a prospective student’s true motivations and foster engagement.

Past generations used to be lured by an institution’s status and history, but the tides are turning. Big promises and generic advertising no longer motivate mission-driven consumers. Most traditional enrollment marketing efforts are no longer effective, and simply being on social media won’t provide you the results you seek.

Follow these 3 smart marketing strategies to boost student engagement and retention

Just as consumers are shifting toward companies that stand for something, prospective and current students want to know their institutions are socially minded and working toward making the world a better place. Younger generations, especially millennials, are turning to degree programs and institutions that are authentic and purposeful. We’re increasingly seeing this shift in demand, no matter the size or rank of the institution or degree.

How do you apply mission-based marketing into higher ed marketing and admissions? By turning your email nurture campaigns into powerful storytelling platforms. Email nurture campaigns are nothing new, but most institutions’ campaigns miss a valuable opportunity to interact with and engage prospective students by sharing the institution’s mission and culture through the work it is doing.

Many times, after students are admitted, email becomes a means to communicate dates, contacts, and other transactional information messages. These details are important, but they overlook the opportunity to continue telling your institution’s story and get prospects excited about your mission and their futures. Keeping the nurture campaigns going through the life of the student is a meaningful way to keep students engaged and make them feel a part of the institutional community.

One way to share your message is through faculty profile pieces. Arizona State University provides a great example of this. It publishes engaging profiles on all incoming faculty members. The profiles connect students to new faculty and get students thinking about what their own educational futures hold.

Whatever your organization’s story is, find it, and broadcast it far and wide.

About the Author:

Clayton Dean is the co-founder and chief operations officer of Circa Interactive, a digital marketing agency specializing in higher education.

Virginia Bagley is senior consultant and partner at Bluestocking Education, an operations consultant company for online higher education.


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