Leverage your alumni
No form of marketing is stronger than word-of-mouth. This is no different with schools. Prospective students are far more likely to go to a school if somebody else told them about it — especially a family member. The highest marketing ROI will come from investing in your alumni. Make your alumni happy and give them collateral (viewbooks, brochures, etc.) to promote your school. Talk to alumni; ask them what they need and ask for advice. If you’re trying to recruit students from out of the province, your alumni are your most valuable assets. Encourage alumni to share school videos and photo galleries through social media.
Create different text ads that highlight the benefits of attending your school. You’ll only be charged whenever someone clicks your ads, and your ads are guaranteed to be on the first page of search results. Don’t simply send students to your website. Instead, create a “landing page” advertisement that highlights the key benefits of your school. Offer something of value on this landing page — like a viewbook or course calendar — in exchange for a phone number and/or e-mail. Once you have this information, your recruiters can follow-up.
Create at least 2 landing pages and randomize which one gets displayed. This allows you to determine which landing page is most effective; abort the losing landing page. Create 2 further iterations of the winning landing page and then drop the loser once again. Keeping repeating this process as you work towards the landing page that generates the most inquiries from prospective students. The types of iterations you’re going to test include imagery (e.g., multicultural imagery vs. all-caucasian), headlines, offers (e.g., free booklet vs. free video), and colour.
Talk to your students
Ask your current students why they chose your school and find out what your main benefits are. Use that information in your promotional material. Also talk to people who applied but went to other schools. Mitigate your deficiencies and emphasize your strengths through video and advertising.
Segment your students
Efficient marketing requires that your campaign be targeted. Students who travel across the country to attend your school will have things in common that students in-province will not. If they want freedom from their parents, then your marketing should focus on case studies of students enjoying their free lifestyle. Geography is not the only segmenting tool. Students with the highest grades will have different motivations than average students. Break your market into many different markets and personalize your advertising to those groups. Create separate sell sheets for each of the various groups. Make sure your most expensive promotional material is delivered later in the engagement process — when the prospective student has shown a high degree of interest.
Flame Design is a branding and web agency with experience in promoting academic institutions such as Dalhousie University and the ProCare Institute.