6 Reasons Universities Need a Digital Marketing Strategy

It’s a beautiful, chilly November day. You realize you’ve been staring at your laptop screen for over an hour with no recollection of what you were doing. There are several spreadsheets open with rows and rows of numbers that look like they should make sense, but they just aren’t today. After refocusing your mind, some of the numbers pique your interest: 843,892 impressions, 2,014 clicks, 0.24% click through rate, etc. You think: “why aren’t people clicking on my ads more? We have our ads on all the right sites. We should be overwhelmed with new students.”

/end scene

Maybe that’s not you exactly, but I think it’s pretty easy to see yourself in that situation with little effort. You need to get more form submissions and more applications. You know Gen Z is on all the social media channels and do most, if not all, of their research online. Your ads are running and people are seeing them based on the number of impressions, but they don’t seem to be resonating with them.

Maybe you’re the complete opposite. Maybe you know you need to start running ads on Google or Facebook, but you’re just not sure how to get started or even if those are the right places to be.

Either way, I think you’re in a good place. Let’s take a look at a few reasons why you should focus on “strategy” in “Digital Marketing Strategy” instead of “digital marketing.”

1. Why do you want to “do” digital marketing?

We always like to start a conversation with a question. “Why?” Why do you want to start running digital marketing campaigns? A lot of what we hear is, “we need to be able to reach our target students better” or “we need more traffic” or “we need to increase enrollment.” Those are good answers, but we think digital marketing is a very useful piece to a much bigger puzzle. If you want to run Facebook ads or Google Ads, great, but don’t forget about other channels like SEO, organic social, emails, etc. Think bigger than tactics. Think bigger than channels or platforms.

2. Bigger numbers don’t always mean better results

Trying to get the most impressions or visits from your paid campaigns isn’t always going to yield the best results for you. Maybe you’re running a brand awareness campaign and more impressions = better results. Maybe, maybe not. (hint: I’ll touch on this later) Throwing more cash at your ads doesn’t mean you’re going to get even more results. Take a moment to define what success looks like for you. Are you a medium-sized, regional university who can’t compete against the large state schools? Then don’t try and market to the entire country. Determine your core target market and/or any markets you’d like to break into. Your overall numbers won’t be as big, but they’ll tell you a clearer story on how well your ads work with an audience who knows who you are (or at least has heard of your university).

3. Think about who instead of how

Who are you trying to target? What types of students are your university’s bread and butter? Building a persona or two will help you get into the mind of your prospective student. Think about their high school academics, extracurriculars, home life, etc. Make a few personas that are extreme or aspirational and then a few more of the “average” student. Going through this exercise will help you determine who to target and the next step would be to find where those prospective students “live” on the internet. Are they on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc? Focusing your marketing efforts will help your budget do more for you.

Wow. That was a lot. Let’s take a breather really quick and then we’ll jump right back into it by taking a look a few practical reasons why you should be running digital marketing campaigns.

Breathe. Digital Marketing Works for Higher Education.

Excellent. Now that we’re both refreshed, let’s take a look at a few practical reasons why digital marketing is key to your success as a university.

4. Brand awareness = ???

Do you want to break into a new market? Running a brand awareness display ad campaign is a great way to get your brand in front of the most people possible. This type of campaign isn’t just for getting your brand in front of new people; it can help reinforce other digital marketing campaigns. If you think people don’t know your university, get it out there.

5. Retargeting

You know what retargeting is even if you think you don’t. If you’ve ever looked at anything on Amazon and then a day or so later see an ad somewhere else on the internet, you’ve been retargeted. But just in case you aren’t sure what retargeting is exactly, retargeting (or remarketing) is when you show your ads to people who have visited your university’s site before. Maybe they didn’t fill out the form or application. Since they’ve been to your site and know your brand you can target them with a different message. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.

6. Measurable metrics and results

Traditional advertising promises general “readership” or “eyes on impressions” metrics, but are we sure those metrics are accurate? How can we measure those numbers to truly know if the ad campaign was effective or not? We technically can’t. With digital marketing, we can measure basically anything and everything. 🙂 That makes me smile so big that I’m surprised you can’t see it while reading this. Digital marketing campaigns can have different success metrics depending on who and what they are trying to accomplish.

Tell Us What You Think

Well hello! Nice to see you all the way down here. Which reason resonated with you the most? Did you have a “eureka” moment? We would love to hear from you and please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions or if you just want to talk a little more about your digital marketing campaigns.

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