Student Recruitment Beyond Covid-19: Digital Strategies for Education Providers

Claudia Reiners
October 27, 2021

Student Recruitment Beyond Covid-19: Digital Strategies for Education Providers

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Student recruitment in the time of coronavirus is challenging and unpredictable. Today, our education sector is almost entirely online. Education providers are having to pivot to digital student recruitment, online training delivery and virtual engagement.

In addition to online training delivery, providers must shift their perspective on student recruitment. Many traditional models such as open days, radio or TV advertisements are quickly becoming obsolete.

To replace traditional student marketing activities, go for a digital-first recruitment experience. Here are three engaging and effective strategies for you to explore:

1. Make your students your go-to marketing tool.

Current students and alumni can be one of the most powerful marketing strategies in student recruitment. No one else is in a better position to persuade a prospective student than someone who’s already gone through the same journey and chosen your brand. 

To inbound students, your current students or alumni are seen as peers, rather than a marketing tool. This cohort can increase prospective students’ trust in your brand, prompting them through the enrolment process. 

A great learning experience speaks volumes. Students who enjoy their learning experience and are engaged with you are more likely to become your advocates. 

When adopting this practice, you should choose students who have experienced genuine, positive interactions with your institution. These are individuals who are more likely to be advocates and ambassadors for your courses through their own channels – generating word-of-mouth referrals, free of charge.  

If you want to go one step further, engineer environments where prospective students can access and communicate with students or alumni. Networking sessions, live Q&As, forums and messenger platforms are all great examples of this. These channels provide a more candid form of discussion, where prospective students can easily discover information and use it in their research and course comparison stage. 

2. Boost your digital marketing budget.

With most states and territories experiencing at least some form of lockdown over the past year, it makes sense for marketers to review and adjust their strategy and budget. 

As a first step, consider reducing your spend in areas like in-person events, traditional media, radio advertisements and guerilla marketing. Instead, increase your digital marketing activities to keep your brand and courses front of mind.

The most successful and robust education providers of 2020 and 2021 are those who have reviewed and experimented with their digital marketing mix.

A global study has found that 73% of marketing leaders increased their marketing activities between 2019 and 2020. They also reallocated 28% of their budget towards online advertising, 18% for content marketing and 12% on social media marketing.

In another survey, 90% of participants indicated social media was their go-to marketing tool, while 55% also praised email marketing for its effectiveness. 46% used dedicated web pages and 45% utilised instant messenger services. 

With more prospective students online than ever, it’s necessary to make pivots to increase your digital marketing spend and include more of the following:

While no-one is expecting a COVID-normal where student recruitment is done entirely online, we should expect online solutions to have higher prominence than their traditional/in-person marketing counterparts.

3. Invest in digital experiences like virtual open days or seminars.

Before the pandemic, virtual open days were practically non-existent. Within over a year, this has been flipped on its head. 

A new report has found 73% of education providers have run a virtual open day since the start of the pandemic. The same survey found that of the 27% who haven’t run a virtual open day, 67% were planning to run one in the next few years.

Arguably, virtual tours or open days can be exhausting and cannot emulate the same experience as in-person events. However, large-scale tours still enable you to curate a well-rounded personalised experience that is completely accessible. 

Providers who prefer to dip their toes into this space or don’t have the budget to create fully-fledged multi-day experiences should explore other alternatives, such as:

  • Informational webinars
  • Networking events
  • Industry-specific Q&As
  • Virtual mentoring sessions

The key to running webinars and workshops is ensuring it adds value to your institution and learners. The topic and speakers for each will depend on the action you want learners to take. For example: a webinar to generate awareness for your institution should be shaped differently to one that follows up with students after they’ve submitted their course enquiry. 

Regardless of which virtual events you end up choosing, they’re a great way to attract, convert and enrol prospective students.

While we adjust to a new digital era, there are still plenty of opportunities for education providers to interact and engage with students. Those looking to stand out from the crowd should be prepared to pivot their marketing strategies to include some of the emerging practices mentioned above.

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Claudia Reiners
Head of Strategy
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