In the ever-evolving landscape of higher education, marketing and admissions directors and decision-makers are facing a complex web of challenges that directly impact enrollment, retention, and graduation. With the digital age reshaping how prospective students make their educational choices, institutions are now compelled to rethink and revamp their marketing strategies. Let’s delve into the top 7 marketing issues confronting higher education marketers today and explore strategic digital marketing solutions to overcome these hurdles.

1. Diminishing Differentiation

Challenge: Higher education institutions often struggle to distinguish themselves in a saturated market. This makes it challenging for potential students to understand what sets one institution apart from another. At the most basic level, many institutions (small and large) struggle to describe their ideal student and match their unique value propositions with students’ needs.

Solution: Leverage digital storytelling through social media and content marketing. Create compelling narratives around unique features of the programs, faculty, the learning experience, campus life, and successful alumni to showcase your institution’s unique value proposition. If the proposition is not clearly distinguishable, it is time to rebrand or evaluate your purpose. Engage professionals such as agencies, consultants, and experts who can provide a fresh look and give guidance. Include your entire organization in your organization’s planning.

2. Changing Demographics

Challenge: Prospective student demographics are changing, with a shift towards non-traditional students, including adult learners, online, and international students. Traditional marketing channels often miss these segments or fail to address their needs effectively.

Solution: Employ targeted advertising on platforms where these demographics spend their time. Use omnichannel-programmatic advertising to reach potential students based on their browsing behavior, interests, context, location, and demographics.

3. Increasing Competition

Challenge: With the rise of online courses and alternative education platforms, competition is fiercer than ever. Institutions must compete not only with each other but also with non-traditional education providers. It is time to think about how to reach the growing population that is discounting higher education as legitimate foundation to not only earning higher income but also developing a fulfilling career as a well-rounded professional.

Solution: Optimize search engine marketing (SEM) to capture intent-driven searches. Use search ads and SEO strategies to ensure your programs are visible when prospective students are searching for their next educational opportunity. Incorporate content that highlights the unique benefits of earning a higher education degree compared to or in collaboration with certifications and technical training.

4. Rising Costs and Shrinking Budgets

Challenge: Marketing budgets in higher education are often tight, making it difficult to execute comprehensive campaigns.

Solution: Focus on cost-effective digital marketing strategies like retargeting, which allows you to re-engage individuals who have shown interest in your institution, improving conversion rates without a significant increase in spending. Allocate realistic budgets and resources to your marketing and strategically grow your marketing investment to match your goals. DO NOT resort to enrolling easy-to-enroll students who do not match your student persona just to make the numbers. Everyone knows that this is a failing strategy for everyone. Craft a realistic plan, fund it, measure results, optimize your campaigns, and watch your institution grow. Develop a longer-term orientation.

5. Lack of Personalization

Challenge: Prospective students expect personalized communication that speaks directly to their interests and needs, but many institutions still use a one-size-fits-all approach.

Solution: Utilize data analytics to segment your audience and tailor your messaging. Personalized email campaigns, dynamic website content, and personalized programmatic, display, native, and social media ads can significantly increase engagement and conversions.

6. Underutilizing Data Analytics

Challenge: Despite the wealth of data available, higher education marketers often struggle to gather, analyze, and act on this information effectively.

Solution: Invest in data analytics tools and training for your marketing and admission teams. Do not simply purchase or subscribe to data analytics software as many institutions do. If you do not have in-house experts, hire a consultant to train your teams and facilitate data analysis and interpretation to develop actionable insights and strategies for improvement.  Use insights from your data to refine your marketing strategies, targeting efforts, and content creation, ensuring that your resources are directed where they will have the most impact.

7. Neglecting Student Success Stories

Challenge: Institutions fail to leverage the power of student and alumni success stories, which can be a potent tool in attracting prospective students.

Solution: Create a comprehensive campaign around student and alumni achievements using video testimonials, case studies, and featured stories across all digital channels, including social media, email marketing, and your website. This not only provides social proof but also humanizes your brand.

Implementing Effective Solutions

To navigate these challenges, higher education marketers must embrace a multi-faceted digital marketing strategy, including the following:

Search Ads: Capitalize on the power of Google Ads and Bing Ads to capture the attention of prospective students actively searching for educational opportunities.

Prospecting Display & Native Ads: Use visually engaging ads on relevant publisher websites to build brand awareness and capture the interest of potential students who are not yet actively searching.

Social media: Engage with prospective students on platforms they frequent, using targeted ads and organic content to build relationships and drive interest.

Programmatic Advertising: Automate the purchase of display, native, and CTV/OTT video ads to target specific demographics across the web and on streaming media, optimizing for reach and efficiency.

Retargeting: Advanced retargeting strategies can re-engage visitors who have shown interest in your institution or your competitors. Retargeting boosts conversion rates by more than 145% compared to regular ads alone. Leverage the power of CRM, site, CTV/Cross channel, search, and impression retargeting, along with lookalike audiences, to dramatically improve conversion rates.

Content Marketing: Develop valuable and informative content that positions your institution as a thought leader and a desirable choice for prospective students.

By addressing these challenges with strategic digital marketing solutions, higher education institutions can not only overcome the hurdles of today’s competitive landscape but also thrive, attracting and retaining students in an increasingly digital world.

About RealXposure
Real Xposure is a digital marketing agency that specializes in higher education marketing. Our unique team of highly trained specialists possesses diverse backgrounds in higher education management, including Campus Deans, Directors, Marketing Directors, Admissions Directors, Faculty, and Student Success Managers. No more exploring with agencies and consultants that lack the knowledge to understand your college.

Schedule a free consultation to discuss how we can help you grow your enrollment.

Learn More About our Higher Education Marketing Services.