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by Sarah Seigle and Jason Bakker, COO,Campus Media Group
Campus Media Group is a national college marketing firm based in Bloomington, Minnesota that specializes in all things campus advertising. One of their specific areas of expertise is helping colleges and universities further segment their enrollment marketing tactics to appeal to specific prospective student groups. Because segmentation is so so critical in helping institutions stand out in today’s competitive market, I recently sat down with Jason Bakker, the Chief Operations Officer at Campus Media Group, to dig a little bit deeper into his expertise on creating segmented content and messages and how to deliver them.
Here's what Jason had to say.
Taking a Closer Look at Your Marketing Channels
Sarah Seigle: For four-year institutions, what are 1-2 specific strategies for gaining the attention of prospective transfer and adult students?
Jason Bakker: Don't overlook community colleges! They offer an excellent opportunity to gain and hold a captive audience. The marketing environment at the community college level is much more relaxed compared to that of a 4-year institution. Because community college students see less advertising on their campuses, they tend to be more likely to notice and engage with marketing messages when they are present.
There is a misconception that there aren't many media channels that can reach community college students, but this is not true. Higher ed marketers are actively using geo-fencing around a physical campus address to target ads on mobile devices and in-apps, as well as using online display and video advertising to target the campus IP address (web traffic on campus).
Sarah Seigle: What have you found to be the best marketing channels to appeal to advanced or specialty degree-seeking students (i.e., students looking to enter graduate or professional school)?
Jason Bakker: The first step is identifying the right undergraduate schools that have the most students you need for the programs you are trying to promote. We like to do this by using a tool called Mytasca, which provides access to institutional program information alongside degree completion data. Once you have an idea of the right schools to focus on (and you may be surprised which ones might be untapped gems!), you can look at the media opportunities that exist at those schools, reach out, and start a dialogue. When combined with a hyper-targeted mobile, Facebook or online advertising campaign, sending prospective student emails that are well-segmented by major and school are a very effective way to reach your target audiences.
Sarah Seigle: Jason, how about social media—what can institutions do more effectively on social media channels to communicate with prospective students?
Jason Bakker: There is a temptation across the board to want to be on every social channel, but one can do that effectively. Find the channel that best allows you to communicate your unique messaging and focus your energies there. Just be sure it's a channel your perspective students are using!
Having a staff person who is dedicated to social media engagement is key. This person should be given permission to speak to and engage with prospective students freely via social media without having to run every word through some prolonged approval process. Find someone passionate about your program who can speak authentically to perspective students and then let them go do it. Trust them!
Sarah Seigle: Are there mediums of digital advertising that you feel are currently being underutilized by enrollment marketers in terms of reaching their target prospective student groups?
Jason Bakker: Mobile marketing is one strategy that falls into this camp. Higher ed marketers continuously underestimate how much time students spend on their phones. They want to be able to view your web content on their phones, and if that user experience is clunky and painful with long text and a gazillion data capture fields, they will move on to another site. And that site might just be the homepage of a competitor institution. Dedicate 2015 to building a better user experience on mobile and start exploring more advertising opportunities across mobile content.
Taking a Closer Look at Your Content
Sarah Seigle: Jason, what do institutions do effectively in marketing to traditional students that is also replicable for marketing to other student groups?
Jason Bakker: On an institutional level, colleges have gotten better about engaging prospective students with social media with unique content and stories. However, a need still exists to market to more specific student groups by bringing individual programs to life at the departmental level. 68% of students use social media to research colleges and nearly ¾ of them find social media to be very influential in their decisions (2014 Uversity/Zinch Social Admissions report). Why? Because this is how prospective students consume and share content.
You can help bring your institution’s specific programs to life by supplementing your overarching social media strategy with more personalized content creation. By using the same content creation blueprint designed for traditional undergrads, a specific department can tailor its messaging and visuals to speak to other prospective student groups such as adult learners or international students. Stories that speak directly to these groups can then be shared on the appropriate departmental Facebook pages, Youtube channels, and/or Instagram feeds.
Institutions do, of course, have vastly different structures for managing their social media content, but in many cases hiring a social media manager that can help create this type of compelling content (i.e. blogs, photos, videos, infographics) and push it out on a regular basis can be tremendously helpful. Once this tailored content has been published, you can continue to use the direct marketing and advertising tactics you already have in place to drive more targeted student group traffic. Things like advertising on Facebook and sending targeted student emails can support this inbound marketing and get new prospective student groups engaged and into the funnel.
Sarah Seigle: What mistakes are enrollment marketers making when promoting their programs to prospective student audiences?
Jason Bakker: In too many cases, colleges and universities continue to fall back on antiquated methods of marketing out of fear of being bold and trying something new. Investing large amounts of money in campus newspaper ads that students aren't reading, for instance, is an outdated marketing strategy that simply isn’t effective. Take the money you would spend on printing and mailing full-color gigantic booklets and brochures that look the same from school to school and create some engaging, humorous, or thought-provoking digital content, video, or guerrilla marketing. Be okay with failing or being silly. Your audiences will appreciate the unexpected and will reward you for trying even if it doesn't quite hit the mark the first time.
Sarah Seigle: Thanks, Jason!
Want to learn more about tailoring your enrollment marketing to your various prospective student audiences? Check out Jason Bakker's work with Campus Media Group.