When post-secondary institutions convince people to attend their schools, they’re not just gaining a student – they’re also gaining a long-term customer. For the duration of their educational career, the students will be buying from their bookstore, eating at their cafeteria and lounging in school-branded sweatpants. Therefore, it’s in the best interest of the school to market themselves to potential students, most of who are in the Millennial and Generation Z demographic.
To market successfully, universities have to use strategies as multi-faceted as the students they are trying to attract. Youth want to feel involved in campaigns therefore creating unique hashtags and generating an online presence fundamental to a successful marketing campaign. Yet, at the same time, some media outlets are suggesting that many young people are voluntarily going rogue and heading offline, following in the steps of young stars such as Lena Dunham and Jayden Smith and deleting their social media accounts. An offline presence is becoming just as important as the online one.
The Millennials are going offline – where can you reach them?
A good first step in attracting young students would be to make them a part of the conversation. Let them tell you what they want through a variety of campaigns, including a social media one and a grassroots effort, such as going to high schools and campuses to talk to students directly.
Marketing is more effective when the target market is understood, and unlike a blind date, universities can create the opportunity to speak with the target demographic and see what they find attractive in a potential university.
Another aspect that potential students desire is a unique experience. Most people do things for the Instagram likes, and the more opportunities there are for unique experiences that lend well to more selfies, the more attractive a school will be to some budding future student. This can be a grassroots campaign too, such as inviting students to campus, and making the experience unique for them – create games, show off the more charismatic professors and exemplify the unique opportunities that only your school can provide.
What’s the payoff?
Along those same lines, another factor to remember when marketing to students is to not forget about the payoff. Most people don’t want to commit to anything, even a Tinder date, unless they know that it will lead to a beneficial outcome.
Showing students the specific career opportunities that a school can provide, including after graduation, will be attractive to students. This effort can be supported through healthy alumni programs and showcasing the success of past grads. Dangling that carrot of success after school will help many students get through their education, especially during their long days drowning in caffeine and essays.
While there are many specific techniques that schools can use to market their institution and programs, arguably the most important thing would be to penetrate the mediums where the students are having their daily conversations.
Again, this will take both online and offline efforts. Think Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and the like in terms of social media. For offline conversations, look to the media outlets where students get their information. Many don’t read traditional newspapers, so what good would an ad in the Globe and Mail do, unless you are trying to attract their rich uncle that will sponsor their education. And let them tell you where they are having their conversations. If will be easier to penetrate the mediums if you know what they are in the first place.
Students get it: sharing IS caring
Another factor that defines the demographic is their desire for a strong community feeling. Millenials and Generation Z don’t like to buy when they can share, and this has rattled some industries. A school that promotes sharing will be more attractive than ones that don’t – car-share programs, text book exchanges and other programs that encourage sharing, reduce costs and promote recycling are a deciding factor for many youth. If two schools were equal in all other categories and qualifications, but one had successful share programs while the other was lacking in that area that just made for an easy decision for the students weighing their options.
Sure, marketing universities can be challenging, but when done right, the various efforts can create a synergy, and work together for an optimal result. The campaign efforts should complement each other, like Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson on the red carpet. By convincing a young person to attend a university not only creates a student, but it creates a long-term customer and promotes the school to their peer group – if you want to learn more about university marketing strategy, it might be valuable to read Matthew’s “How To Build A Tribe Of Brand Followers“.
Header Photo: Plixs
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