Trends in Higher Education Marketing, Enrollment and Technology

Posted by Joe Pettirossi

2/10/16 11:23 AM


As a marketing agency that has a practice focusing on EDU, we are always reading reports and research papers that talk about trends in higher education admissions marketing.  While we are an agency that uses HubSpot as our standard marketing automation tool, we do follow other marketing automation companies like Marketo. Just this week I came upon a report from Hanover Research sponsored by Marketo called “2016 Trends in Higher Education Marketing, Enrollment and Technology."


The key findings of the report, related to branding and marketing are:

  • More attention has been dedicated to branding and marketing than previous years
  • This attention has shifted towards online and digital strategies
  • The website is the most important marketing tool
  • Recruiting strategies need to have a mix of channels
  • There is a growing importance of marketing automation tools

OK, none of these “findings” are earth shattering, but as you delve deeper into the report, there are other data points referenced that provide some interesting nuggets of information.  One such nugget is the Ruffalo Noel-Levitz report released last summer that reported on E-expectations of college-bound juniors and seniors.  Key insights from this report:

  1. Website plays a major role in shaping the perception of your school
    • 78% of seniors said the website made a different on their perception of a particular school
    • 80% said the website influenced their interest in a particular school
  2. Texting is a great way to connect real time with prospective students
    • 5% of seniors received text messages while 73% would be willing to allow text messages
    • 70% of juniors also open to text messages
  3. Social media is now the second channel of choice for information
    • 60% of seniors and 48% of juniors state that a school’s social media accounts are a reliable source of information
    • Top 3 platforms for college research are: Facebook, YouTube and Twitter
  4. Video and live streaming are becoming more important
    • 41% have watched a video on the website
    • 39% consider program videos as a way to demonstrate value
  5. Multichannel marketing and communications are critical
    • 40% of seniors and 45% of juniors noted that they are more likely to consider institutions that use print and phone communications

We also uncovered some good benchmark data in this report related to specific activities that we perform for our EDU clients.  Many of our engagements start with developing in-depth student personas.  As part of this exercise, we begin to understand how the prospective students view the “brand” of a particular college or university. In some cases, the perception of the school’s brand by the prospective student is not inline with the brand as seen through the eyes of the admissions team.  In cases like this more time and effort needs to be dedicated towards a branding strategy process.  This report indicates that this process can take 9 to 15 months and cost between $100,000 and $200,000.


Finally, this report states that “higher education institutions are relying more on marketing automation to establish and maintain meaningful relationships with students and alumni.”  Today’s marketing automation software has many powerful features and functions.  The chart below lists the key benefits from the users perspective.

Chart of the main benefits of marketing automation (according to adopters)

While the above benefits are more around process issues, we believe that marketing automation combined with the right integrated, multi-channel marketing stratetgy will allow higher education institutions to deliver personalized communications to prospective students.  As we all know it is about community and engagement that prospective students are looking for when they start the college search process.

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