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A Complete Guide To Marketing Strategy For University

Marketing a college or university can feel like a daunting task at times. Promoting the mission of such a large institution while appealing to prospective students, current students, and alumni — there’s a lot to take into consideration! But with the right ideas, you’ll breeze through your strategy. Follow some of the top university marketing tips to effectively increase awareness of your school and its prestigious programs.

Universities are not one-stop shops.

Your marketing strategy should focus on the following:

Potential students current students alumni employers

In most cases, you’ll find that the majority of your leads, revenue, and interest comes from the first category — potential students. Why? Because it’s easier to convince interested individuals about how great your university is than it is to convince current students who have been attending for a few years. That’s why the majority of your marketing budget should be allocated toward advertisement, recruitment, and outreach in the wider community.

What you spend the rest of your funds on is completely up to you. Not every university has the budget to offer the same level of benefits, services, and perks to current students or alumni. However, what’s most important here is that whatever you do spend funds on generates an ROI. If your stipends don’t translate into successful retention or a boost in academic performance, students won’t care for them. So before you know it, there won’t be any funding left to give to other student groups.

Your communication strategy should match your goals.

What are you targeting — prospective students or current students?

With current students, keep in mind that you’re going to have to offer them something in order to make them feel engaged and satisfied. No one wants to feel like they’re attending a high-priced institution where they’re just another number. If you’re new to creating a marketing strategy for a college or university, use the following strategies at your disposal:

Email newsletter: An easy way to stay in touch with current students is by sending them an email newsletter. Not only is this a handy way to promote events and programs, it’s also a great way to test and start strengthening your brand personality. If the school is known to be fun and friendly, your content should reflect that. If you want to convey a sense of professionalism, you’ll have to reflect that tone in your emails too.

An easy way to stay in touch with current students is by sending them an email newsletter. Not only is this a handy way to promote events and programs, it’s also a great way to test and start strengthening your brand personality. If the school is known to be fun and friendly, your content should reflect that. If you want to convey a sense of professionalism, you’ll have to reflect that tone in your emails too. Student group funding: Often times, student groups will be responsible for improving the student experience at your university through various activities. For instance, you might have an equestrian club at horsing around. Still, you’ll need to allocate a small university marketing budget to these groups in order to fund their activities. You’ll want to allow your student groups the freedom to do what they want or to avoid potential problems that come with university funding. However, you do ultimately want to control the content and marketing strategy to look like it’s coming from the school, not the student group. Establish a set of guidelines for what information you’d like to be included in their publicity efforts.

Often times, student groups will be responsible for improving the student experience at your university through various activities. For instance, you might have an equestrian club at horsing around. Still, you’ll need to allocate a small university marketing budget to these groups in order to fund their activities. You’ll want to allow your student groups the freedom to do what they want or to avoid potential problems that come with university funding. However, you do ultimately want to control the content and marketing strategy to look like it’s coming from the school, not the student group. Establish a set of guidelines for what information you’d like to be included in their publicity efforts. Current student ambassadors: As a university, you might be hiring locally or have a campus right in the middle of a big city. If you do, offer a stipend to have students act as ambassadors for your school. Through their efforts, you’ll be able to connect with the local community and have student ambassadors direct interested individuals to you.

As a university, you might be hiring locally or have a campus right in the middle of a big city. If you do, offer a stipend to have students act as ambassadors for your school. Through their efforts, you’ll be able to connect with the local community and have student ambassadors direct interested individuals to you. Student clubs and organizations: Similar to current student ambassadors, student organizations are a great way to get students out into the community and talking about the university in a positive way. Student groups have a lot of freedom — especially if your university hasn’t been around for very long and they’re used to doing things a little differently than your peer institutions — and might be more inclined to do something a little off the beaten path. For instance, they might be on campus a lot and aren’t connected with the community, in which case they can partner with the development office to run a fundraiser that will ultimately go toward student development, such as stipends.

Similar to current student ambassadors, student organizations are a great way to get students out into the community and talking about the university in a positive way. Student groups have a lot of freedom — especially if your university hasn’t been around for very long and they’re used to doing things a little differently than your peer institutions — and might be more inclined to do something a little off the beaten path. For instance, they might be on campus a lot and aren’t connected with the community, in which case they can partner with the development office to run a fundraiser that will ultimately go toward student development, such as stipends. Student activities: Similar to student clubs and organizations, student activities are a great way to build a community on campus between current students and alumni. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong alumni network. Universities, for the most part, aren’t as old as corporations, so it’s hard to have an alumni network that goes back 30 years. With that in mind, many universities will have alumni associations and a variety of organizations on campus that will still help recruit students and build the university brand.

Similar to student clubs and organizations, student activities are a great way to build a community on campus between current students and alumni. That’s why it’s so important to have a strong alumni network. Universities, for the most part, aren’t as old as corporations, so it’s hard to have an alumni network that goes back 30 years. With that in mind, many universities will have alumni associations and a variety of organizations on campus that will still help recruit students and build the university brand. Sports: Although not all universities have sports teams, those that do have the chance to build that campus feel. There’s nothing quite like cheering on your school with your friends and peers. It’s a great place to build community. And, if your university is successful, you’ll have opportunities to go to conferences, which will build your school’s network outside of the region.

Although not all universities have sports teams, those that do have the chance to build that campus feel. There’s nothing quite like cheering on your school with your friends and peers. It’s a great place to build community. And, if your university is successful, you’ll have opportunities to go to conferences, which will build your school’s network outside of the region. Athletics: Similar to student activities, athletics are a great way to bring alumni back on campus while recruiting students. Athletics are a great way to build community and recruit students. And, if sports are a big deal in the area you’re in, you’ll be able to look like the local favorite quite quickly.

Similar to student activities, athletics are a great way to bring alumni back on campus while recruiting students. Athletics are a great way to build community and recruit students. And, if sports are a big deal in the area you’re in, you’ll be able to look like the local favorite quite quickly. Sports venues: Similar to sports, sports venues are a great way to bring alumni back on campus while recruiting students. Also, if sports are a big deal in the area you’re in, you’ll be able to look like the local favorite quite quickly.

Similar to sports, sports venues are a great way to bring alumni back on campus while recruiting students. Also, if sports are a big deal in the area you’re in, you’ll be able to look like the local favorite quite quickly. Conferences and events: Aside from athletics, conferences and events are a big part of campus life and can be a lot of fun to be a part of. If you want to build a camaraderie throughout your school, this is a great way to do it. However, you’ll want to make sure that you’re not doing too many events or conferences, because your university marketing budget will be limited (as it should be). University marketing should be focused on building a variety of assets and marketing channels, with the result being a stronger brand and a stronger school. You might have a very successful career with a company because the company does a ton of events and conferences, but you’re not going to be able to run a university the same way.

B2C: Corporate Image vs. University Image

When it comes to business-to-consumer (B2C), marketing strategies and tactics are very different from university marketing strategies and tactics. Trade this: B2C is all about making your company look better and getting your company into the hearts and minds of consumers. With a company, you want them to feel a sense of pride in your brand and an association with it.

University marketing, however, is very much focused on driving your applicants and securing admission for your prospective students. Your campus atmosphere and school pride are going to be more of a factor in that than building your brand as a university.

Using the university Nike commercial as an example, it’s very clear to see the difference between university marketing and business-to-consumer branding. The company’s main goal is to tout their brand, while university marketing is more about telling a story for prospective students, communicating a desire for community, and generally building a “campus feel”.

In other words: Your campus is your business.

It’s important to realize, however, that anytime you talk about your university as a brand asset, it’s a matter of balance. On the one hand, you want to operate it as a business that focuses on the bottom line, like everything else you own and operate in your position. On the other hand, you need to keep in mind the mission of the university.

The university’s mission is to educate students, inspire them to be leaders, and prepare them to be part of the workforce. Many universities were found by founders with noble missions in mind, and they continue to hold on to those missions decades later.

As a result, your university can’t just operate as a business. Rather, it must operate with the mission in mind at all times. That’s why you need to be approachable, engaging, and regularly reach out to your communities.

The bottom line: You are the one speaking on behalf of your university, so you have to show the world that you deeply care about what you do on a day-to-day basis. It might not always be the case that business comes before mission, but you need to be able to live with yourself.

Further Reading

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