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Gearing Up for Higher Ed Marketing Goals: 2019

Happy new year! You know what this means. New goals for higher education. Greater expectations, time for a fresh start, new perspectives—and a chance to think outside the box when it comes to your marketing. Meaning, thinking outside the box of just “increasing enrollment” as your #1 goal. Ask yourself, what’s the more aspect you could be doing to help your students in 2019?

Establish your SMART goals
If you’ve read our previous blog about hitting your marketing goals, you’ll remember that SMART is a methodology which stands for:

  • Specific
    Your goal should be unambiguous and communicate what is expected, why it is important, who’s involved, where it is going to happen, and which constraints are in place

  • Measurable
    Your goal should have concrete criteria for measuring progress and reaching the goal

  • Attainable
    Your goal should be realistic and possible for each team and department involved to achieve

  • Relevant
    Your goal should matter to your university and address a core initiative

  • Timely
    You should have an expected date that you will reach the goal

The beauty of this method is the adaptability—it can be applied to any business or institution. It’s a perfect fit to help a university align their past and previous yearly goals with where they want to be in the future.

Where to focus the attention this New Year
Ring in the new year with a new marketing strategy to help you achieve your goals. We’ve narrowed it down to the top three places you should be directing your attention to when it comes to attracting, engaging, and delighting your target audience in the new year.

Specifically, follow the data. This is the prime time to take advantage of what specific pages are drawing in your students or what’s driving them away. Translate the online analytics into the offline world—get feedback from students, their parents, and whoever else interacts with the website to identify any areas where there might be friction. Center an entire series of SMART goals around your website to help reduce any friction that may interfere with the potential student buyer’s journey. When it comes to your SMART goals, your topics might focus on:

  • Driving traffic to your site
  • Generating leads
  • Decreasing bounce rate
  • Becoming an authority in a certain department, school, etc.
  • Optimizing workflow automation
  • Starting a blog or increasing posting
  • Creating a more appealing design that is accessible and engages future students, current students, potential faculty/employees, and alumni

Brand identity evaluation
So now might be a good time to take a look at your entire brand identity system. Keeping in mind that your brand identity means the consistent elements used to communicate to your audience, it also means making sure these elements still resonate with your target audience. Logos, colors, typography, photography, tone and voice, you name it. These are all key elements which build public perception and reputation for your university. What may have worked as a typeface before, just might not cut it anymore. Or the photography style just doesn’t seem to come across as authentic. Regardless, it’s important to evaluate your brand identity elements to make sure they still properly communicate and resonate with your target audience. Some of your SMART goal topics for brand identity might include:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Identifying your newest target audience and developing student buyer personas
  • Making your brand identity elements more distinct to set yourself apart from competitors
  • Ensuring that each of your departments/schools have a cohesive identity system
  • Creating more authentic slogans and taglines that speak to your university and resonate with your students

Social strategy
We’re going to tell you right now, if placing more of an emphasis on social media isn’t one of your main priorities in the new year—it should be. However, the first question you have to ask yourself is: what are you hoping to achieve by using social media (We hope you have an awesome answer prepared for the board)? Seriously, with the scales of these platforms especially Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, AND the fact that your target audience lives there—why wouldn’t you want to meet them where they are at? Some of your SMART goal topics might include:

  • Communicating and engaging with potential and current students
  • Running a campaign on social
  • Gaining online authority with the incorporation of a social channel
  • Enhancing sharing of macro and micro content
  • Evaluating your presence on your current social networks to determine if you should be engaging on more or less channels depending on where your audience is
  • Optimizing your profile and strategic posting schedule
  • Determining your content mix

Our added tips

  • Start small
    The new year is a great time to take stock of what you did in previous years—evaluating what worked and what didn’t, and how to better strategize for the following year. Don’t bite off more than you can chew and don’t try to do everything. For instance, if you want to launch a social platform, go to the larger platforms like Facebook and Instagram where you know they will be. Develop content specifically for those platforms, then look into expanding to other channels.

  • Try something new
    It can be difficult for long-standing institutions to be completely open to whatever change is pitched; especially if their marketing has gotten by “just fine” for the past 10 years. If you think a student-run video series campaign on Facebook would be a good idea for brand awareness, be prepared to answer why—and if you fail, what can you learn from it? If you succeed, how can you keep improving? All we’re saying is, don’t be afraid to try.

  • Stay current
    Students have to stay current when it comes to their education—shouldn’t your marketing team do the same? Always know where your target audience is while following the trends for where they could be.