Strategic Marketing for Schools & Higher Education

Over the last few years, marketing has proved to have a large influence on how schools recruit new students. In this article, you will learn how traditional marketing tactics can be used for modern education marketing. From the time a potential applicant becomes aware until they are ready to make their decision, strategy is key.

Amber Frederiksen

February 7, 2019 · 10 minute read

Today’s schools are experiencing increased competition for new students. One can no longer expect a full classroom without some form of modern marketing. Whether you are a private school, boarding school, secondary school or university, it is necessary to take extra measures when looking to attract new students.

Educational marketing is becoming a higher and higher priority among schools. For us at CompanYoung, it is a big focus – we have almost a decade of experience in attracting students and parents.

Building an educational marketing strategy for schools is a unique challenge. It requires thinking outside the traditional marketing box that was made for consumers. Marketing of a school is, of course, not the same as selling a Coca-Cola – it requires a different approach. An education choice, whether made by the student or the parent, is a complex, one-time decision. To consider purchasing a Coca-Cola takes split-second minimal effort.

So how does one approach marketing a course, exchange program, or entire institute? By investigating traditional marketing methods, we will take a look at the three different phases students of tomorrow find themselves in, and how to make a strategy that works for schools in 2019.

Making a choice concerning education takes longer than choosing a consumer product at the supermarket. As an educational institute, one must ready themselves with patience and try to keep in touch with potential students as they consider their options.

1. The Awareness Phase

Today’s youth are faced with a ridiculous amount of choices for schools and higher education. The question this generation asks themselves is not what they want to be, but who. Those who have yet to make the decision are considered in the Awareness Phase. Potential students that find themselves here have a need that can be difficult to define.

Traditionally, school and high education marketing consisted of participating in education fairs and meeting potential students face-to-face, or putting poster adverts in the places young people gather. This strategy still holds value — but it is necessary to think digital in order to be influential in the modern world.

There are two ways schools can get in on the digital marketing action: Use social media channels flawlessly, and be sure to advertise with the right media.

A) Use & choose social media channels effectively

It’s no secret that the younger generation spends a lot of their time on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Youtube. It is therefore important for schools to be aware of these channels and understand how they can be used to become a part of young people’s daily newsfeed. Understanding the ins and outs of social media is becoming increasingly complex — it isn’t just about likes and follows. Higher Educational institutes have to fight with all kinds of organisations for the attention of youth. Building a foolproof digital marketing strategy that stays on trend and relevant is vital to stay ahead of the competition.

B) Advertising with the right media

During the Awareness Phase, it isn’t expected that the youth find a school’s website or social media pages on their own. It is important the schools make a conscious effort to put themselves out there and be seen — in the right places and by the right people. Therefore, advertising on the channels that the target audience frequents is the most effective. If they prefer to find information by googling, then it is important to use Google Adwords and ensure a position near the top of the page. CompanYoung’s in depth understanding of young people, means we understand how to communicate via platforms such as Instagram and Youtube. We are also experts on making attractive content reflect a specific brand.


2. The Consideration Phase

Deciding which education path to take is no easy matter. That is why, throughout the Consideration Phase, schools must be prepared to exercise patience as they continue to try influence potential students. Again, there is an art to continuously nurturing them, as opposed to just advertising a good offer and then sitting back. This phase is all about being present.

‘Presence’ is easier to achieve now more than ever. The digital world never turns off or goes home. However, the target audience is accustomed to being bombarded with all kinds of products and organisations that are trying to maintain ‘presence’ in their lives. So there is still the problem of maintaining their interest — the best way of doing this is by being helpful. During this phase, the target audience needs questions answered and clear information. A school’s communication should be so concrete that potential students could think ‘this isn’t right for me’. At this point, education marketing is not only about promotion, but also about making what is being advertised very clear. It is better to recruit the right students as opposed to those who drop out after three months because it wasn’t what they were expecting.

The Consideration Phase often requires a change of media focus. In our experience, it is especially important to optimise one’s website, newsletters, and other media channels, so that they are helpful to a young audience facing an important decision.

A) Build a website that works as a guide

It is always important to have a website that gives a visual, mobile-friendly and user friendly experience. It’s purpose should be to assist the target audience in coming closer to a decision – remember, this sometimes includes the parents. Include simple and modern ways to get in touch on your website, for example a live chat function. Once they are in contact, there is a bigger chance they feel comfortable with you as a choice. Consider making a contact form or using a chat box to answer questions.

B) Use ambassadors on social media

Many of today’s youth may never make it to a school’s web page. Often they use social media to get a more authentic picture of the school. Communicating with youth on social media advertises that this is a modern, open-minded institution. Using ambassadors that represent the target audience can show them how fun and exciting it is to be a student there. This often has a great effect on student recruitment.

C) Make a mail flow to those considering

One way to market your educational institute to today’s youth is with a newsletter – and yes, they still read emails! A newsletter does not necessarily need to be a monthly affair. It can be developed as an automatic email flow that starts as soon as a potential student or parent has reached out (and agreed to receive them). This means less work for school administration, both in the way that is automatic and easily customised to the different segments of readers. Guide the target audience towards making the right decision by nurturing them with information.


3. The Decision Phase

As potential students approach the Decision Phase, they will likely have a few offers in mind that they know they will choose from.

Today’s youth have many schools and programs to choose from — many of these offers look similar to others. They will wonder: ‘What’s the difference between getting a degree in Economics at the University of Leeds vs the University of Warwick? Does it have the same course content if I study abroad?’

When marketing a higher education or school, it is important to strategically stand out from the others. An educational institute must do more to influence the youth to make the right decision.

A) Increase their confidence in you at Open Days and other events

Open Days are a longstanding tradition where students can physically visit the school in order to experience the environment, lectures, and daily life firsthand. With the advancement of the internet and access to information, Open Days are attended as a confirmation of earlier research more than out of initial interest. Potential students attending Open Days are usually close to making a decision on enrolment, and it is therefore vital that each attendee is given the necessary attention.

B) One-on-one dialogue

It is well worth your while to chat personally with your target audience, to make to sure the right is choice is choosing you. It isn’t always easy, but today, there is no reason to just sit by the phone and wait for a ring. Encourage them to book individual meetings or personal tours via the website or on social media. Ensure that if you are keeping in touch via email or phone, that they are contacted by the same person whenever possible, and there is always a follow up (a little advice taken from our sales department at CompanYoung).

C) Send the important stuff over a text message

Text messages are an effective way to get important information out to the target audience; for example, deadline reminders or Open Day details. Everyone opens a text message. At CompanYoung, we saw the need and developed SMS marketing. The tool must be used with caution – used too frequently or for the wrong purpose, SMS could do the opposite of what it is meant for. Make sure the content is relevant to the receiver.

A solid marketing strategy for schools

Marketing education to students looks different than marketing a simple product, like Coca-Cola. Traditional marketing does not account for the complexity and fragility of making such a decision. The importance of segmentation and targeting still applies – but with education marketing, it is also vital to communicate accordingly through each individual phase.

Educational marketing is about more than just effectively reaching the target audience. It includes analysis, developing content, and creating attractive offers at the same time as understanding the phases and segments the target audience lies in.

Depending on whether you are a private school, secondary school or university, your target audience will differ. An educational marketing strategy must be tailored to the individual organisation – this is why you cannot read articles that advertise ‘10 effective methods for success’ and expect to see results. The field of education is complex and requires taking a good look at what could be the right solution for your institution.

Feel free to contact one of CompanYoung’s education specialists to find out more about how we can help you.