If your higher ed institution is constantly going back and forth when it comes to what you should be investing in marketing, you’re not alone. On one hand, you need to spend money to make money. On the other hand, you can do a lot with a little when your budget is put to good use. So where do you draw the line?

We can say with some degree of confidence that, yes, you should be investing more into digital marketing. Why? According to a study by Gartner, the average business spends just 2.5 percent of its annual revenue on digital marketing.

Granted, businesses have been spending more each year since these numbers were last gathered in 2013, but it’s still crazy to think that just a small percentage of revenue goes toward growing and promoting businesses.

Since each business is unique, we can’t say for certain that you’re in the majority. Perhaps you invest the appropriate amount of money to expand your institution. But it’s likely that you could be putting more into your marketing, especially when you break down how much is going to each individual channel such as digital advertising, content creation, social media, email marketing, mobile marketing, video production and more.

Digital marketing is essential for your college or university to survive, and no matter how creative or savvy you are, it costs money. Let’s go over five signs that your institution should invest more into digital marketing.

1. Your content is lacking.

Content is anything that exists online about your school, including:

  • Websites

  • Articles

  • Blog posts

  • Videos

  • Images

  • Infographics

  • Podcasts

  • Reports

  • Music

  • Apps

Your content could be lacking in a number of ways. For one, you may not have much at all. Or it’s possible that you don’t have a lot of varied content. Finally, your content may be old or outdated.

Content has changed a lot in recent years, and it’s not hard for people to spot material that is irrelevant or follows old practices (i.e., keyword stuffing, long blocks of text, etc.). If your content is falling short, it’s a clear sign you need to spend more on digital marketing.

2. Your competition is doing better than you.

Websites are ranked on the major search engines, and the “best” results are shown first. While it’s difficult to get into the top rankings, you still want prospects to find your website easily. This is how you get organic traffic, qualified leads and sales, which in your case, are qualified applicants. If you find that it’s your competitors that are continuously outranking you, it’s a clear sign that you need to step up your game.

In most cases, your competition outranks you because they have been doing more with their SEO. They may have better keyword targeting, higher quality content or a more optimized website. The search engines are able to understand their site, and it’s easy for prospects to find it in the search engines.

Luckily, the rankings are never set in stone. Outsourcing your SEO to an experienced agency is the best way to improve your placement. Not only will you be surpassing your competition in no time, but also you will see increased ROI as a result.

3. You’re not active on one or more social channels.

Social is the fastest growing marketing channel, so there’s no arguing with the fact that a large portion of your ad dollars should be going toward social media. If your institution lacks a presence on social media or on specific social media channels, you’re missing key opportunities to increase engagement with prospective students.

Social media is something that takes time and costs money to excel at. Many smaller colleges start off handling their social media needs on their own, but then they find that they can’t keep up and let the channels go stale. If this is the case with you, working with a digital media agency will get your profiles up and running so that you’re engaging with students, expanding your reach and promoting your social presence.

4. Your blog hasn’t been updated in quite some time.

If your blog hasn’t been contributed to in a month or longer, this is a sign that you could use some help. You’ve put posting off for far too long, and you’ve probably lost some leads in the process.

A blog is one of the best ways to improve SEO because the search engines prefer websites with fresh, relevant content. The best way to get this type of content is through your blog. Let’s not forget that blogs are an excellent way to communicate with your audience, move prospects through the funnel and establish yourself as an authority in your field.

Coming up with blog topics, creating the content, getting it posted and distributing it across the necessary channels takes a lot of time. Sure, you can save money by creating it yourself, but it’s obvious that you’re struggling to do so if your blog hasn’t been updated recently.

Invest in your blog and you’ll be grateful. It won’t be long before you see more engagement from students, better conversions and increased ROI.

5. You’re not doing any conversion optimization.

A final indication that you should invest more in marketing is a failure to engage in conversion optimization. Conversion rate optimization is the process of making changes to your website that increase conversions. Basically what you’re doing is taking more of your traffic and turning it into paying customers.

Since businesses could get away without conversion rate optimization years ago, it’s something that is still relatively new to a lot of organizations. Unfortunately, overlooking conversion rate optimization is only going to prevent you from acquiring the applicants that you could have. And, unlike other ways of acquiring customers that are expensive (i.e., clicks, impressions, etc.), converting leads into customers is economical.

Final Thoughts

If your higher ed institution is spending just a small percentage of your annual revenue on marketing, it’s time to reassess things. Some of the most successful brands spend far more than 10 percent of their revenue on marketing – some are in the upwards of 40 to 50 percent or more!

Naturally, you have to do what feels right for your college or university and what you can afford to do, but we’re certain some changes can be made to create more money for digital marketing. It’s something that will help take your institution to the next level, not thwart it.

When you learn what works and what doesn’t, you’ll be able to reinvest your dollars and successfully boost enrollment year after year. Also, with today’s tracking tools, there’s no reason to waste money. Your campaigns can be successfully tracked and monitored, ensuring that your budget is being put to good use.