What colleges can learn from corporate marketing about recruiting

The shift to outcome-based funding for higher education creates an interesting challenge for colleges and universities. While recruiting targets are more important than ever, it’s about much more than getting students in the door.

Illustration of professor speaking to students in a classroom setting.

It’s about finding the students who are going to find a good fit, stay enrolled, and graduate with a degree that helps them launch a successful career. It creates the need for a different approach to marketing colleges and universities – one that draws inspiration from the corporate marketing world (especially recruitment marketing).

Define your brand

The term “brand” gets tossed around a lot, applied to everything from laundry detergent to your LinkedIn profile. It might seem like overkill, but it’s an important way to define and communicate to the world what you stand for. When prospective students and their influencers understand what your school’s about, it makes it easier for them to identify it as a good fit for them, and worth further exploration.

So how do you do that, exactly? First, you have to understand your school’s strengths, as well as its challenges and the competitive landscape. Why do students choose your school? Why do they stay? Why do they leave? What do they like best about attending college there? What do they struggle with? What other colleges did they consider?

Talk about it

The best way to get answers to these questions? Ask, of course. Conducting some simple focus groups with current students, prospective students, and students who chose another school will provide valuable insights into your school’s real strengths – and its challenges.

Don’t stop there – ask the influencers, too. Talk to guidance counselors, parents, local business leaders, and your faculty and staff (that’s always a really fun – and outspoken – focus group – it’s one of our favorites to conduct!)

What you find may surprise you. You may uncover strengths you weren’t aware of – things that matter to the students who are succeeding at your school, but that might not seem important. And you might find out (painfully) that things you thought were really important don’t matter so much, or that things you thought were strengths are really challenges.

You’ll also gain great insights into what your students are really looking for – what they need, what they care about, and what they don’t.

Put it all together

When you know your strengths, and know what your students and prospective students are looking for, you have the foundation of your education brand – the sweet spot that brings those strengths together with your audience’s needs in a way that’s meaningful to them. That’s what sparks interest, drives engagement, and gets the right students in the door – the ones who will thrive, grow, succeed, and secure their own future. And secure your college’s future in the process.

Want to talk about your education brand, and what it can mean for your recruitment campaigns and results? So do we. Get in touch with one of our experts, and let’s get started.