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8 Things We Heard at the AMA Symposium for the Marketing of Higher Education

No Silver Bullet

This surfaced a number of times. We heard how effective marketing in higher education requires a coordinated and concerted orchestration of numerous strategies and tactics to drive desired metrics when reaching student prospects. Prospects are consumers of various mobile and digital media across many platforms. It is not enough to ride one platform. Getting this wrong will sub-optimize your outcomes. But it’s also important not to engage in the “social media arms race”- you need to be exceptional in the channels with which you engage.

Counselor Says, Prospect Says

We heard that what counselors think prospects respond to and what students actually respond to can be night and day. These mixed signals will result in creating plans that will not make connections between the institution and student. Listen to the consumer and educate your internal audiences.

Creeping Not Welcome Unless “Invited

Even getting the most active and influential digital channels right can be fraught with problems if the approach by which your organization is using to communicate is deemed as creeping. These platforms are only ripe for engagement if the student prospect first approached your institution to “invite” dialog. So be less prescriptive: personalize messaging to drive leads to landing pages and allow prospects to explore on their own and follow you. Then be a part of the conversation.

Marketing Your Marketing

Since your senior leaders do not fit your target profile, they will not see the fruits of or understand the impact of your communications plan. With most plans becoming predominantly digital overall and social in particular, metrics are readily available for frequent tracking and modifications. We heard how important it is to provide regular updates via dashboards so management and stakeholders can appreciate the impact of the marketing.

Turn the Funnel Upside Down

The acquisition funnel in the traditional sense is valid to use when developing strategies. However, qualified prospects don’t just flow through without additional focus and care. In fact, adding more prospects to the top of the funnel doesn’t ensure qualified prospects. It’s better to flip the funnel and put more focus on pre-filtering your target. So, we heard how spending time converting a wide prospect pool into quality respondents needs to be an earlier strategy in the acquisition process.

Your Website is Your # 1 Marketing Tool

The shift to mobile is real and has eclipsed desktop usage with 62% of Internet usage time on smartphones. While all your acquisition marketing plans may be solid, strong outcomes will fall apart if your website is not mobile optimized. Student prospects will not give you a second chance at a good first impression to be relevant to them. In fact, a commitment to develop a good mobile web experience is an opportunity to revamp your whole web strategy based on user data.

Optimize, Optimize, Optimize 

Variances in creative performance across mobile and digital advertising cannot be ignored. Always A & B test to arrive at the strongest messages in real time.

Senior-Level Focus for Real Change

When it comes to driving change for your institution, internal champions are key for success. We heard how building support among presidents and provosts is needed at the senior most level to have real and sustained impact.


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