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3 of the Top Marketing Challenges That Higher Ed Marketers Face Today (And Their Solutions)

Zach Busekrus

I think the most challenging pressure for higher education professionals today lies in getting senior leadership to explore new ideas and be open to real change.

Today’s higher ed marketers are often pressured by senior leadership to produce regular reports on their marketing strategies for student recruitment. Directors and VPs want to know what’s working and what’s not, what new channels are worth entering into and what marketing channels are worth abandoning.

Here’s the problem, though: many enrollment management teams often lack the resources to know what specific elements of their campaign strategies are actually working, what content prospective students care about, and how to launch a modern marketing student recruitment strategy like inbound marketing.

While higher ed professionals face a number of marketing challenges, here are three of the toughest — and some suggestions on how best to tackle them:

1. Providing the ROI of Your Marketing Activities

Measuring the return on investment of your marketing activities has been, and likely will always be, the top marketing challenge for higher ed marketers. Budgets are tight and enrollment managers need to prove that their marketing strategies are producing real results.

One of the most significant problems for many higher ed professionals is that they simply don’t know what they are really getting from all of their digital communications. They know general information — like how many clicks a web banner received — but often do not know which communications are generating new leads and re-converting existing inquiries.

Understanding the effectiveness of each component of a marketing campaign (blog posts, landing pages, email blasts, digital ads) has never been more crucial. Higher ed marketers need to know which student recruitment tactics are working well, why they’re working, and which personas they’re best working for.

Here’s a Solution:

When it comes to providing ROI, higher ed professionals need to be able to readily access the data surrounding their marketing efforts. Google Ads can be helpful, but only up to the point of entering your website. After that, it’s up to your website to continue the story.

Leading higher ed marketers check their marketing analytics frequently and can point to ROI indicators in both their marketing software tool (like HubSpot or Marketo) and their CRM tool (like Hobsons, Salesforce, or Jenzabar). In HubSpot’s annual State of Inbound (SOI) Report, respondents who achieved greater ROI in 2015 than the previous year were approximately 20% more likely to check their marketing analytics 3+ times per week (or have someone on their team do so).

2. Identifying the Right Technologies for Your Needs

Finding the right technologies to support enrollment marketing efforts is a continual challenge for higher ed marketers. Often, enrollment managers employ myriad software, all of which require specific training, security, and management.

Many institutions use one tool for social media management, a different tool for email marketing purposes, another tool for CRM and application processing, and a fourth tool for their blogging and content marketing efforts. This makes regular analysis of marketing efforts incredibly taxing.

Here’s a Solution:

For those of you looking for a tool to solve a specific marketing problem, we recommend taking a look at Capterra (which some tech bloggers have called “the Amazon of software”).  

Our experience is that most enrollment teams are looking for one all-encompassing tool. As inbound marketing is growing fast in the higher education market, many schools are turning to comprehensive software platforms like HubSpot or Marketo, which enable them to use one tool for all of their marketing efforts (blogging, social media, emails, email automation, SEO, etc.).

3. Securing a Sufficient Budget

Securing a bigger budget is always a pressing challenge for enrollment marketers, especially if you work for a small institution.

Respondents to HubSpot’s SOI report who tracked their marketing ROI were over 20% more likely to receive a higher budget than their counterparts who failed to keep tabs. Higher ed marketers can't afford to be loose about their ROI tracking (again, we can’t express how essential it is to have marketing technology that keeps track of everything in real-time!).

And it comes as no surprise that, according to the same report, respondents whose teams demonstrated positive marketing ROI in 2015 are more than twice as likely to receive higher budget in 2016!

Here’s a Solution:

Even if you don’t have powerful marketing platforms powering your website, landing pages, forms, blogs, and social content, you can start by getting an immediate handle on your monthly averages for key performance indicators (KPIs). In order to get monthly averages, you have to know what you’re getting right now.

Start establishing baseline statistics for the following metrics:

  • Monthly website visitors (to your school-specific pages)
  • Monthly leads (anyone filling out a form for anything)
  • Monthly inquiries (anyone requesting more information about applying or one of your programs)
  • Monthly social posting (across all social networks)
  • Average number of interactions per post (shares, likes, re-tweets, click-throughs, etc.)
  • Email open rates and click-through rates for prospects (non-applicants)

Believe it or not, many higher ed professionals don’t know these metrics for their department or school.

If you want your student recruitment strategies to succeed, and if you want your programs to grow in quality and quantity, it’s only a matter of time before it will be essential for your enrollment team to adopt a comprehensive inbound marketing strategy.

By having the necessary tools, strategies, and processes in place, your enrollment management team will be able to make smarter, data-backed decisions on how best to allocate your annual marketing budget.  

Interested in learning more about Inbound Marketing?

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Topics: Higher Education, Higher Ed Marketing, Inbound Marketing

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