Higher education institutions, like many industries, have faced a challenging year. As schools switched their classes and programs to a virtual model, so did many recruitment and marketing events. Critical initiatives for attracting and retaining students, such as prospective student days, campus tours, shadowing, and in-person interviews, needed to be re-considered. Schools were quick on their feet, shifting to virtual recruitment opportunities, interacting with students online.
But now, as the long-awaited “new normal” is quickly coming to fruition, it’s clear that many of these online initiatives were beneficial outside of the pandemic’s circumstances. And beyond virtual events, interacting and reaching students in an online manner presents excellent opportunities for schools moving forward.
The bulk of today’s prospective students fall into the digital native generations of Gen Z and millennials who are keen to find new brands – or in this case, school and educational programs – in an online setting. They are online research wizards, social media mavens, and omnichannel shoppers, allowing schools to converse, reach, and interact with them across various digital advertising strategies.
These online opportunities quickly made a splash with students, meaning that schools without an online digital advertising presence may soon fall behind, losing out on prospective students to their competitors. If your internal team doesn’t have the expertise or resources to implement a strategic digital marketing strategy finding a higher education marketing agency might be the best solution. Below we’ve outlined five benefits your organization will experience when deciding to outsource your digital advertising with a digital advertising partner.
5 Benefits Higher Education Marketing Agencies Provide
1. Think Outside the Box
Higher education institutions naturally lean on the ideals of tradition and consistency to shape their messaging and marketing strategies. After all, these strong legacy ideals are what students are attracted to when applying to programs. Although the tone and messaging may provide success for the institution, traditional advertising channels and tactics may not hit the mark anymore.
Hiring a digital marketing agency will allow an outside party to look at your marketing strategy, see what’s working well, and identify areas for opportunity and growth. Then, with a fresh set of eyes and a deep dive into your school, a digital marketing agency is poised to take your marketing efforts to the next level, with a fresh set of ideas, channels, and tactics to ensure you’re reaching the right students for your school.
2. Implement an Omnichannel Experience
Just as consumers lean on omnichannel shopping experiences when buying their everyday goods, students also prefer an omnichannel “shopping” experience when browsing for potential schools. In 2018, a group of high school students was asked how they first contacted or made an initial inquiry about a school. Top answers included in-person college fairs, television ads, display ads, social media, and OOH ads. Clearly, there isn’t one overarching strategy that reaches students across the board.
Omnichannel Advertising strategies ensure that your school has a presence across the most critical channels that students use – search, social, OOH, CTV, display, and more.
The benefit of hiring an experienced higher education marketing agency is that they have the subject matter and channel experts to implement the best campaigns across the different channels. Rather than using internal resources to learn the intricacies of each platform, an agency has an expert or team of experts for each channel to ensure your campaigns are optimized, compliant, and targeted.
In addition, having all your campaign under one roof gives the agency the ability to shift budgets and strategies quickly and efficiently to ensure the best use of your media budget (more on this to come).
3. Lead with Data-Driven Decisions
When making decisions about where to invest time and digital marketing budgets, many organizations rely on industry trends or where they think their audience is. When partnering with a higher education marketing agency, they’ll push you to shift this mindset to data-driven decisions. In turn, these decisions will provide a more comprehensive, successful strategy, setting your organization up for long-term success.
Recently, we spoke with our client, Ross Pearo, the Executive Director, Strategic Planning and Marketing at the Division of Continuing Education at Harvard University, for a webinar covering the importance of data analytics. He stated that his team’s instincts about what they thought would work – drive conversions and engage their market – weren’t reflective of the data’s story. Since working with our team, Harvard DCE has shifted its mindset towards following actual data to inform their decisions. Now, knowing that data and optimization back their always-on strategies, they’re empowered and able to take strategic risks when appropriate, whether it be a new creative direction or channel.
“We’ve found that data is the single best tool we’ve got to make good use of what budget we have.”
– Ross Pearo, Executive Director, Strategic Planning and Marketing in the Division of Continuing Education at Harvard University.
4. Cost-Effective Digital Marketing
Marketers are pressed more and more to justify their media budgets – working with smaller budgets but expected to drive the same ROI. Higher education marketers are no different. The entire organization needs to feel comfortable with how marketing dollars are spent.
When working with a digital marketing agency, you get a complete picture of your marketing strategy, how the budget is allocated to ensure the best results and return.
An experienced higher education marketing agency will provide comprehensive reports and dashboards that enable you to see this data in real-time. Rather than piecemealing reports from different vendors, freelancers, and your internal materials, you will able to see how the data-driven decisions you’ve implemented are working to not only better reach your audience but also optimize your budget.
5. Implement a Holistic Approach
It’s essential to maintain a strategic, high-level view of how all your marketing and advertising initiatives are working together to benefit your organization. As mentioned above, working with a higher education marketing agency ensure that nothing slips through the cracks due to a lack of resources and time.
Going back to our recent conversion with Harvard DCE, Ross summed up the benefits of higher education marketers experience when partnering with an experienced digital marketing partner:
“Nothing works well in isolation. You have to take a holistic view of how everything is working together to achieve your goals. With a [partnership], you can see SEM, social, and display all at the same time. That way, you aren’t sacrificing one for the detriment of the other.”
– Ross Pearo
Interested in learning more about how we’ve helped the Harvard team use marketing analytics to drive growth during a pandemic? Watch our on-demand webinar here.
Ready to Invest in a Higher Education Marketing Agency?
According to Checkfront, 90% of enrolled students search for, discover, and choose higher education institutions and courses online. So, if your organization doesn’t already have an online digital advertising strategy in place, the time to invest is now.
Digilant’s Expertise in Higher Education Digital Marketing
We understand the challenges that higher education marketers face: as students grow savvier with their research and decision process, the challenge to stand out from the competition increases. Pair this with tighter budgets and high expectations from the organization, and higher education marketers need to be strategic and thoughtful with where they invest.
The Digilant has ample experience helping higher education institutions, large and small, across various program levels. Learn more about how we helped a prestigious university drive enrollment for their professional education programs by nearly 25% here.
Our campaigns start in the hands of our planning and insights team. They dive into audience research, ensuring we have a complete picture of your audience and uncover any potential groups or audience attributes that may have overlooked in the past. From there, we use this data to inform and create a data-driven strategy across appropriate channels – programmatic, search, and social.
As mentioned above, we know transparency into data and analytics is essential for marketers. We use holistic dashboards and analytics, updated in real-time to ensure our clients have a complete picture of their digital advertising strategy throughout their campaigns. Our team strives to empower our clients to make informed decisions, backed by data to push their advertising campaigns from now to next.
Are you interested in learning more about Digilant’s expertise in higher education digital marketing? Let’s talk.