Higher Ed Marketing: Navigating A Changing Landscape
In the digital marketing realm, shockwaves from the COVID-19 pandemic—or the “Great Disruption,” as we like to call it—are still reverberating nearly three years after the fact, particularly in the higher education sector.
The sudden and unprecedented shift to remote learning (along with pandemic-induced economic challenges) has required institutions from small, rural liberal arts colleges to large, urban research universities to recalibrate their marketing approach.
Cyberwoven has been at the center of this challenge, helping schools that are large, small, and somewhere in between navigate this complex, unfamiliar terrain with responsive enrollment marketing support.
Recently, we sat down with Dan Hoover, our Director of Strategy, for a wide-ranging discussion about higher education marketing. Dan touched on everything from the priorities of today's nontraditional students to the importance of a high-quality website for colleges and universities.
Nontraditional is the Norm
Linear pathways through higher education are a thing of the past.
Whether they’re PhD candidates at research universities or certificate seekers at technical colleges, today’s students pursue their degrees episodically, gathering course credits in piecemeal fashion at a range of institutions, sometimes over a period of many years.
“People are coming in and out of educational contexts at different points in their lives, and with different goals,” Dan says. “We’re seeing the average number of institutions someone attends going up. We’re also seeing people want to take smaller bites of education.”
Flexibility and adaptability are top of mind for today’s students, who usually face scheduling constraints and financial limitations. Dan says that higher ed marketers must bear these realities in mind—emphasizing how the school supports students on their journeys, without making any false promises.
“At Cyberwoven, we try to create appropriate expectations,” he says, “authentically positioning schools so when people enroll, they’re satisfied because they understand what they’re buying. This is a real investment, and I think that flexibility and adaptability are things that people really zero in on.”
Web is (Still) the Way
From TikToks to text messages, when it comes to prospective student outreach, colleges and universities have tried it all—to varying levels of success.
To say the digital landscape is in constant flux—that the list of platforms higher education institutions use to engage new students is ever-changing—would be akin to saying “Water is wet.” But, amid all this transformation, there has been one constant on the marketing front.
“There are a lot of digital channels by which people acquire information about schools,” Dan says. “Still, if you survey prospective students, they’re gonna list the school’s website as a primary mechanism for evaluating whether it’s a fit for them.”
An easy-to-navigate site with clear pathways to conversion—one that clearly (and succinctly) outlines what differentiates it from other competitors in the marketplace—is a vital component of any successful enrollment marketing strategy.
“What is this entity? How is it different from others in the world? That’s the kind of brand marketing that gives school websites heft and distinction,” Dan says.
“Clients love working with us because we exist to solve problems,” Dan says. “From small liberal arts colleges to major flagship universities, we’re going to bring all our curiosity and problem-solving skills to the table to get them where they need to be.”