How marketing demographically can increase college enrollment

What if we told you that your higher institution could increase enrollment just by targeting specific audiences in a given location? That’s exactly what hyperlocal marketing is doing for colleges and universities across the country. By reaching out to specific students in a specific location, you can deliver highly personalized messages that drive interest and engagement. Best of all, you don’t need to do anything fancy. Hyperlocal marketing can be effectively implemented alongside your existing marketing strategies.

College Enrollment is on the Decline

As you probably already know, college enrollment is on the decline and has been for the past four years. College enrollment for the spring semester fell nearly 2 percent from a year ago. The stakes are high and the playing field is more competitive, which is why you have to be more aggressive in your marketing tactics. At the same time, you must be sensitive to the challenges that many young students are faced with such as reduced family income, increased family debt and the nation’s shifting demographics.

That’s where hyperlocal marketing comes into the picture.

Hyperlocal marketing gives schools just like yours the opportunity to deliver effective, personalized messages to students in a given community. Perhaps it’s the community right outside your door, or maybe it’s a niche-specific community in a different region. The key is going after students who will make a great fit for your college or university.

SEO and Hyperlocal Marketing Go Hand in Hand

Implementing hyperlocal marketing into your marketing agenda starts with strengthened search engine optimization. Why? Consider that 84 percent of all queries about education begin with keywords rather than a school name. This means that prospective students will be searching for things like “East Coast design schools” and “best web design schools” rather than the specific name of your university. If you haven’t given your SEO attention in a while, it means that students may not find your school in the search results.

Strengthening Your SEO Strategy

Here’s a quick exercise to find out how your school’s ranking. Without using the name of your school, type in a few keywords that would be used to search for it. If your school doesn’t come up in the search results, you know that your SEO needs to be improved. Here are a few tips for doing just that.

  • Remove duplicate content from your website.

  • Personalize your web pages for each audience (undergraduates, graduates, etc.) rather than using the same content across each page.

  • Research keywords using Google’s Keyword Tool and include them throughout your content, headings, titles, etc.

  • Encourage link building and make sure that your website links to itself.

  • Maintain good site architecture and site speed.

  • Be natural and write for your audience.

  • Contribute content regularly such as blog posts, articles, infographics, videos and more.

Why Location is Important

So what makes location so important in the first place? Why does it matter if you target a certain location rather than the masses?

For one, Internet searches have become increasingly location sensitive, particularly with mobile devices. It’s much more practical to drive interest and engagement with customers when they can actually access the product or service because it’s in their local vicinity. Second, with more location-based marketing, you have more to compete with. Not only are you up against nationally recognized programs, but also smaller schools within students’ hometowns.

Bottom line: If you want your college or university to find, recruit and enroll more students, hyperlocal marketing will help you achieve your goals.

Simple Steps for Setting Up a Hyperlocal Marketing Campaign

Now let’s talk a little more about how to set up a hyperlocal marketing campaign. As with any type of marketing campaign, it’s best to start with the small steps and then work your way up. Here’s what we recommend doing.

  • Start with a few cities. Choose those where you want to increase recruitment and enrollment. Perhaps it’s the local community surrounding your college, or maybe it’s out-of-state cities you’re interested in. Whatever the case, select a few cities to focus on and stick to them. You can always expand your efforts later.

  • Create custom content and images for each location. Include relevant information for your prospects such as recruitment events in the area. Since not all students are able to attend these events or visit your campus, also consider offering virtual tours and webinars to get prospects acquainted with your program.

  • Locate alumni who are willing to meet with prospects. They can chat with students on channels like LinkedIn, Twitter or an email account set up specifically for recruitment. Nothing is more powerful than having alumni vouch for your school’s credibility.

  • Supply relevant comparisons of your school’s city to the targeted city. This way, students can get a feel for how their current environment will relate to the new one. Things like population, climate, attractions and more can be compared. An infographic is great for something like this.

A well-rounded hyperlocal marketing strategy includes email campaigns, lead generation sources and varied content. Be sure to include social sharing buttons on all content, and provide students with the opportunity to request more information. When your geo-targeted pages are complete, test them thoroughly and track your results. If you find that certain areas are successful and others are not, look for ways to strengthen what’s lacking.

Final Thoughts

Hyperlocal marketing is one more branch of your overall higher ed digital marketing strategy. It’s a wonderful way to boost your current marketing strategy and connect with students in certain locations. The goal is to deliver timely, relevant messages that speak to your audience.

If a student feels like you really understand where they’re coming from and why your school will make a good fit, they’ll be more inclined to listen to your message and explore what your school has to offer. If, however, your school feels too generalized and impersonal, they’ll skip right over you. No student wants to feel like a number. With the investment that college is these days, students need to know they will be valued at your institution.

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