December 17, 2018

Must-Know Higher Ed Marketing Trends for 2019

Rapidly Changing Student Journey

Prospective student behaviors have changed dramatically over the last year. As a result it takes a more efficient strategy to stand out in the increasingly competitive market, and schools that don’t adapt will struggle to keep student inquiry costs at bay.

As the journey prospective students take to find and select schools continues to take on a new shape, digital strategies need to adapt with forward-thinking advertising campaigns. To keep inquiry quality up, and cost per inquiry down, pay close attention to these must-know higher ed marketing trends.

Post-Inquiry Data Potential

Trend Summary: The student journey extends beyond the initial inquiry to include enrollment, starts and even alumni data.

It’s no longer news that last-click inquiry attribution is dead. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg in moving beyond incomplete data. When you only track and report on initial inquiries, you’re not looking at the true path to enrollment and starts. And that complete student journey view is essential to optimize your higher education campaigns to generate more students, for less spend.

Both ad platforms and CRM systems (including many popular education CRMs like Velocify or Radius) have made it easy to connect data and measure deeper-level conversions. Imagine being able to see which keywords and ads resulted not just in inquiries, but in enrollments, starts, and eventually alumni. And then imagine being able to see those same student metrics in the ads platform, and telling the ads to optimize toward a target cost-per-student on them versus just inquiry metrics. This technology is here and ready now, and schools need to implement it in 2019 to keep up with growing enrollment demands and heavier competition in higher education search.

The New Media Consumption Diet

Trend Summary: A modern video strategy can reach cord-cutting prospective students who watch less and less traditional TV.

Video is an often-overlooked part of a successful higher education digital marketing strategy. It’s hard to believe, considering that Google reports one and a half billion monthly users logging in to YouTube alone. The search giant’s most recent Education Insights study even reports that more than one billion daily views of learning-related content.

Prospective students simply aren’t consuming media the same way anymore, with traditional television viewership on a continual decline. Thus, reaching cord cutters and streamers requires a more modern video ad strategy. Make use of short-form content to adapt to the attention spans on streaming media. Six second “bumper” ads are a great top-of-funnel effort. You can rely on the longer “skippable” ads to tell a more complete story about your school to remarketing segments, nurturing initial engagement based on each prospective student’s intent. Using video to focus on testimonials and brand equity will help this higher-funnel effort instill trust and interest in your school. Test out tailoring video content to the mediums your prospective students are actually using to get a step ahead of the competition in 2019.

The Growth of Online Learning

Trend Summary: The fastest-growing queries for both specific education programs and for degree-type queries both involve the search term “online.”

A 2018 Online Education Trends Report report found that nearly 80% of online students felt that the online method of learning was at least as good, or better than a traditional on-campus route. And more than half of schools believe that employers feel the same. From hybrid offerings to fully-remote classrooms, the next generation of students are seeking schools that evolve with their expectations in technology.

This surge in online education popularity is reflected in search behaviors being reported by Google. Their most recent quarterly education insights found that the fastest-growing query for both specific education programs and for degree-type queries both involved “online.” In addition a full seven percent of all degree-specific queries last quarter had the term “online” in them. The evidence was becoming clear in 2018, and is now harmful to ignore. If you aren’t maximizing potential in the online sector, 2019 will see you missing out on a large chunk of prospects seeking a new type of higher education.

The Takeaway: Meeting enrollment goals in 2019 requires adapting to new opportunities in higher ed marketing.

Education regulations and technologies continue to change, and prospective student behaviors will move just as quickly.  Forward-thinking higher education campaigns are the best route to increasing inquiries, enrollments, and starts, while lowering cost per inquiry.

Want to prepare your school for higher ed trends that can help drive more, and more efficient inquiries? Get in touch with our digital strategists.

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