How to convert more Applicants into enrolled Students

    How universities can increase enrolments by marketing to students effectively

    In this article, we’ll get you thinking about what your university’s vision is and suggest a few things that, if used well, are guaranteed to get your brand in the path of candidates. Who knows - they could even lead to an increase in enrolments too!
    Last updated:
    December 13, 2023

    With technology evolving at rapid rates, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest trends to ensure your message reaches your target audience in the right places. But instead of worrying about new apps and features, it’s more important to get your marketing plan right first. New methods come and go all the time, but key marketing tactics have longevity.

    In this article, we’ll get you thinking about what your university’s vision is and suggest a few things that, if used well, are guaranteed to get your brand in the path of candidates. Who knows - they could even lead to an increase in enrolments too! 

    Increasing engagement on digital platforms is key.

    Photo by Mimi Thian.

    Establish Your University's Marketing Vision for Increased Enrollment

    Before you even begin thinking about creating content and pushing out on different channels, you need to formulate a plan. It’s likely that your university already has one, but when was it last updated?

    It might make more sense to build a new marketing strategy document from scratch, using past experiences, insights from your university and competitors and what you want to communicate moving forward to inform it.

    Related: How to implement a successful student recruitment marketing strategy

    University of Manchester's example

    University of Manchester (UOM) has published its marketing strategy online. In it, they’ve outlined their vision and the key principles they want to communicate. In the main body of the proposal they explore how they plan to communicate these messages and measure their success.

    It’s made clear at the beginning that their marketing is going to primarily focus on promoting their ‘Reputation for Excellence’ unique selling proposition over the next few years:

    “To strengthen the power of The University of Manchester brand, nationally and internationally, by celebrating our achievements and distinctiveness, and by engaging and mobilising staff, students, alumni and other key stakeholders to achieve the three core goals at the heart of the Manchester 2020 vision.”

    University of Manchester’s marketing strategy document covers the following:

    • Mission statement & vision;
    • Reputation;
    • Emerging themes;
    • The role of marketing;
    • Resources;
    • Measurement;
    • Actions;
    • Key contacts

    It’s also important to outline what success will look like. UOM has translated their vision into tangible KPIs - see below.

    University of Manchester Marketing KPIs

    When you create your own marketing document, share it with all university's staff, not just the marketing and admissions departments. It’s important that everyone is made aware of your goals. This way, the message will filter down into to discussions with students and prospective students.

    Which brings us on nicely to the humble hashtag...

    Leverage Hashtags in Higher Education Marketing for Enhanced Engagement

    There’s a lot more to student marketing than a few hashtags, but it’s a good starting point.

    Use your marketing plan to inform what your unique hashtag will be (and we're not talking about #Universityof-). For instance, if your primary goal is to recruit more international students over the next couple of years, make this one of the focal points of your campaigns and link each with a #hashtag.

    The University of Sheffield are a prime example of how hashtags can have longevity and even take on an identity of their own. Their #WeAreInternational campaign first started in 2013 to help promote the city and university as a multicultural place that welcomes international students.

    Fast forward five years and the campaign was reinvigorated in response to international changes in student visas.  University of Sheffield published a series of socially shareable images and videos telling the stories of international students and staff to emphasise inclusivity across higher ed in the UK as a whole, not just the university itself. 

    Content was also shared on the #WeAreInternational website.

    Related: How Universities Use Social Media for Marketing 

    Utilize Faculty and Alumni for Effective PR in University Marketing 

    We've spoken a lot about the benefits of working with alumni to create great marketing content, but have you considered university faculty staff? A university's faculty expertise should form a crucial part of any marketing or PR strategy. These thought leaders can increase engagement and add value to marketing campaigns in many ways.

    Pitch to carefully chosen publications who would be interested in showcasing your institution's research. This could take the form of an video interview with a lead researcher or a press release. This kind of exposure will boost visibility and brand awareness for the individual, programme and institution.

    Potential publications and websites for digital PR opportunities are numerous. Let's take a look at a couple of examples.

    Stockholm School of Economics

    Stockholm School of Economics (SSE) sent its Executive MBA cohort on an annual field trip to the world’s premier tech hub, Silicon Valley and they were interviewed by The Local about their experience.

    University of Barcelona

    University of Barcelona researchers shared their new discoveries on the ankle's anatomic structure with EurekAlert, a widely-read online science publication. 

    Maximize Impact with Paid Advertising in Higher Education 

    Experimenting with different paid media can widen your reach and increase brand awareness, leading to more enquiries. Native ads on social media can be a great way to speak to your audience without being too obtrusive or pushy. Trialing different platforms can also reveal where students spend their time.

    Research shows that 70% of users would rather learn about products or services through content as opposed to traditional advertising, which explains why Social Media native advertising is proving so popular with brands who want to provide more relevant messaging and increase brand awareness.

    Utah State University

    Postgraduate courses are some of the most competitive, with universities across the globe vying for the best talent. Using LinkedIn’s demographic data, Utah State University was able to target their Display Ads and Sponsored InMail according to geography, expertise, and career level to reach their desired audience. 

    The result? The campaign drove 20-to-1 ROI and converted more than 70 percent of clicks into enquiries. 

    Related: University advertising for domestic and international student recruitment

    In Summary

    Alongside the four tactics outlined above, there are many other ways you can use marketing to drive up programme enquiries and enrolments. Visit the FULL FABRIC blog for more inspiration, and feel free to share your own successful marketing campaigns and ideas, by getting back to us on Twitter @fullfabric.

    Looking to improve your marketing ROI? See how FULL FABRIC can help you achieve success. 


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    Kate Tattersfield

    Kate Tattersfield is a former teacher turned content creator at FULL FABRIC, specialising in writing for the education sector.

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