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Aug 23, 2016 | 4 Minute Read

Choosing Higher Education Marketing Automation

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Higher education marketing automation is a choice. And marketing teams at colleges and universities are realizing how different marketing automation is from what they've done in the past. Choosing automation and then selecting the right tools and ways to go about it is the real task at hand. but like most things, we should ask: what's compelling this choice anyways?

I've covered 12 Higher Education Website Features Marketers Need. Let's explore higher education marketing automation.

Why We Should Automate Higher Education Marketing

The demand for higher education in the United States and other countries continues to grow. According to U.S. News and World Report, the average enrollment rate for young adults has increased from 26% in 1980 to 41% in 2012.

At the same time, the cost of attending college has skyrocketed. Therefore, parents and students want the university or college with the best reputation for the price of tuition they can afford, especially because they must pay off student debt for years to come. And institutions of higher education face competition that did not exist decades ago, like online schools and Massive Open Online Courses or MOOC's.

Radically in 2013, Clayton Christensen of Harvard Business School predicted half of all American universities would enter bankruptcy within 15 years. Institutions of higher ed need to become proficient in automated marketing techniques in their rigorous effort to recruit students.

Today Schools Spend More to Attract Customers

This article in Inside Higher Ed points out the trend of higher education institutions to spend more money on recruiting students than ever before. For decades, the schools spent just 2% of their total budget on recruitment. He predicts American universities will increase their spending on recruitment 10X, from $10 billion annually to $100 billion. The rising cost per applicant will further drive up the cost of higher education. Just as acquiring new customers costs more than keeping old customers, the rising cost of recruiting new students also forces schools to retain current students.

Rising competition encourages schools to attract and retain students by providing better educations. However, it also creates a marketing mindset. Because many parents and most high schoolers are comfortable online, much of the marketing funds colleges and universities spend will go to online efforts, much like all online marketing and e-commerce.

Marketing Starts With Personas: Students & Parents

Or, in this case, the applicants and recruits. Therefore, schools create applicant personas, the specific though fictionalized characters that represent their most typical applicants, their "ideal" new student applicants using demographic data and other information.

Blog-Graphic-Higher-Ed-Students-Discussing-480x480.jpgMarketing departments use personas to develop content and plans for marketing to their real-life counterparts. The specifics vary by school. The Ivy League schools seek higher income personas than most. MIT student personas will differ from those of a liberal arts college. Personas also include parents and high school counselors.

Although most college students are serious about learning and getting degrees that prepare them for highly paid employment, they also look for other aspects of college life than do their parents.Higher education marketers keep up with trends in youth culture, technologies and social media to adapt to the inevitable changes.

Just like consumer and B2B customers online, students and their parents seek out information online before interacting directly with a salesperson. According to LinkedIn 72% of students create their shortlist of schools to apply to before they contact any of them.

Schools Need Data to Evaluate Marketing Campaigns

Because specialists working in higher education use Business Intelegence (BI) practices just like commercial marketers do, to woo students just as businesses woo prospects, to turn them from prospects to applicants by nurturing them like leads. It's no longer enough to send out informational brochures to everybody who requests them. Now recruiting consists of maintaining websites, starting digital conversations about school courses, professors, departments and campus culture, email nurturing, and social media campaigns.

Universities Marketers, Recruitment Managers, & IT

If higher education marketing is going to work, marketers, admissions need to get together. Attracting, engaging and converting Millennials and Generation Z and their parents demand new and innovative, personalized strategies. Integrated ones.

Tools wise, next year's freshman class are not always hanging around on the same social media sites as the kids already attending college. Snapchat is a rising star, but there will be more. Many more. All three teams have to be ready to leverage these tools for the good of the institution.

Some articles on higher education marketing trends predict telling actual student stories will become more common and popular in recruitment marketing. Testimonials have always worked well in consumer marketing. Case studies or customer success stories are a popular form of content in B2B marketing.

Higher Education Marketing Automation Choices

Marketing automation tools organize, track, and direct the many ways of using content to nurture people from mere visitors checking them out to customers, or university applicants. It uses blog posts, landing pages, thank you pages, email, and social media posts to target high school juniors and seniors and their parents with the right message at the right time. It uses personalization and segmentation to strengthen relationships.

One well-known marketing automation software is Hubspot. However, there are alternatives , though all except WordPress are also proprietary, despite being less expensive.

Drupal as a Marketing Automation Solution

For many reasons, Drupal is one of the best platforms for universities to use for their websites.

And Drupal has many modules universities as well as businesses can use for their marketing automation and customer relationship management software on its sites. You can use Drupal CRM Core to create your own CRM system. This page contains instructions on using Drupal with CRM. It also has modules to connect you with just about any other tool, from Google Analytics to Twitter and Hubspot.

Last Words on Automatr

Volacci created its own Drupal automated marketing program called Automatr. It's the only business automation tool built specifically for Drupal and other open source programs. It tracks web visitor and form submission information.

Therefore, in addition to all its many other benefits,Drupal serves higher education institutions in their marketing to new recruits by keeping costs down while providing the same integrated marketing automation tools marketers need to nurture visitors into recruits. 

About the Author
Nathan Roach, Director of Marketing
About the Author

Nathan Roach, Director of Marketing

Germany-based consumer of old world wine and the written word. Offline you can find him spending time with his wife and daughter at festivities in the Rhineland.

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