Higher education marketers face an interesting dilemma – in many scenarios, the person who writes the check won’t ever use their services.
The buyer’s journey is replaced by the student journey, says Jonah Deaver of Vertical Measures, who has worked with 200 university programs in the past six years.
That’s why it’s critical to engage with prospective students starting from the awareness stage. “Prospective students are trying to level out emotions that range from fear, doubt, excitement, overwhelmed, motivated, and inspired. They are navigating a lot,” Jonah says. “Marketers should provide them with good information so that along the journey the students will think, ‘That X University is really helpful, I like them, and will listen to them going forward.’ This sets the stage for making a more impactful brand impression at the consideration/decision stages.”
Jonah’s insight mirrors results of the biannual CASE Educational Communications and Marketing Trends Survey. Prospective students (84%) are cited as the top priority audience by marketers who were asked to pick their top three audiences. Prospects are significantly ahead of alumni (53%), donors (43%), and parents (37%). Further down the priority audience list are current students, faculty and staff, community members, general public and media, governing boards, legislators, and athletic fans.
“Advancing our institutions must start with enrollment, and end with engagement and philanthropy,” as Theresa Flannery, vice president for communication at American University, says in the CASE report.