7 Deadly Sins of Student Recruitment Enrollment Campaigns

Topics: Marketing Toolkit, Millennials + Gen Z, Digital Media, Higher Ed Marketing, Media + Advertising, Campus Media

Posted by: Marketing

Are your student recruitment marketing efforts failing? Do you need more leads, increased numbers of qualified applicants, and better enrollment numbers? Are you looking for better bang for your advertising buck? Avoid the seven deadly sins of student recruitment campaigns, employ truly effective advertising strategies, and you will achieve the enrollment results you’ve been seeking.

MSSmedia 7 Deadly Sins




#1 Not Establishing & Tracking Marketing Goals

What are you looking to accomplish with your marketing? How much is your outcome worth? How will you measure the results of your enrollment campaign? Well-defined marketing goals are essential for college recruitment success. 


+ See our proven three stage process for establishing effective marketing goals.


Marketing Worksheets



#2 Not Knowing Your Target Audience 

As a member of a higher education marketing team, your target audience likely seems pretty straightforward. You’re marketing your school or program to current and/or prospective college students (and those who influence their decisions), end of story. Or is it? 


“The aim of selling is to satisfy a customer need; the aim of marketing is to figure out his need.” 


The best way to successfully engage with any audience is to understand precisely who they are and what they want. When you take the time to identify detailed target market personas for your intended audience, you’ll have a more complete picture of who they are and how to reach them efficiently and effectively.


+ Create effective buyer personas for student recruitment.


MSSmedia Buyer Persona Worksheet-1



#3 Not Establishing a Budget for Marketing Efforts

Certainly there are no-cost ways to market your college or program, and we encourage you to include them in your marketing mix. However, they often aren’t particularly effective on their own, and still often require a significant investment of time.

We find a full-funnel digital and campus marketing strategy focused on paid advertising to be the most effective method for increasing the numbers of applications and enrollments. Together paid online and traditional advertising of all types propel winning student recruitment campaigns.

Ideally, you will maintain separate budget line items for digital advertising, traditional marketing efforts, and in-person events (like open houses).

By combining tactics from multiple marketing arenas, you will extend your reach while each part of your college recruitment campaign amplifies the efforts of the others. To ensure adequate funding and keep costs in line, you should budget separate amounts for digital marketing efforts, traditional advertising, etc.


+ Increase enrollment with an integrated marketing strategy.


Digital Student Recruitment

The world of digital marketing can be overwhelming. University marketing departments may be tempted to focus the majority of their time, efforts and budget elsewhere. However, this ever-expanding sector is key to attracting students in today’s crowded higher education market. Colleges cater almost exclusively to Millennial and Generation Z audiences, both digitally native demographics. To advertise to and connect with these demographics, you must include a digital advertising strategy in your marketing plans. 

It’s important to choose the channels that best fit your needs and are proven to deliver real results. For higher education institutions and programs looking to increase enrollment in today’s market, paid ad campaigns are an excellent way to optimize your ROI. Using location specific geo-targeted advertisements (local Pay Per Click) ensures that the impressions you’re paying for reach the candidates you’re pursuing.

Traditional Campus Advertising

Whether you’re trying to attract community college students to your four-year campus or recruit existing students for advanced education programs, specific degree programs or wellness services, effective campus advertising helps you meet your enrollment goals.

Targeting your advertising efforts geographically is a smart move. College campuses concentrate your target audience in a small area as students live, eat, socialize and learn within a few square miles. Build your brand voice and capture revenue through strategically placed outdoor and transit advertising, print advertisements, chalk art and graffiti.


+ See the top 5 campus advertising strategies for college recruitment.  


Budget based on your overall marketing goals. 

Clear-cut objectives enable you to make the most efficient use of your time, energy, and budget. When you base your budget on your specific marketing goals, you will eliminate wasted spending on efforts that are unlikely to produce your desired results.


MSSmedia 10 Steps to Reach Marketing Goals




#4 Not Having a Timeline

It’s important to establish starting points for your marketing efforts, reasonable and detailed milestones along the way, and deadlines for accomplishing your goals. A timeline will help you and your team visualize your route and destination clearly and ensure that you know when you need to arrive. 

By keeping application and admissions deadlines in mind, you eliminate rushing and overwhelm while guaranteeing maximum effect for your marketing efforts. Schedule preparatory work several months in advance and set advertising campaigns and in-person events to occur when they will have the most impact.


#5 Not Knowing Your Competition

One of the most efficient ways to understand your target market is to study your competition. Knowing who and what performs well and why will inevitably influence your marketing strategy (and can help you organize and prioritize related tasks). Who are your direct competitors? Analyze their strengths and weaknesses. Who are they selling to? How does your market position compare to theirs? What do they offer that you don’t? 

Analyze your competition’s marketing efforts. Try to understand what they’re doing right and what they may be doing wrong. In addition to checking out their traditional advertising, remember to look at their digital marketing efforts including their website and social media presence. What are they doing on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat? What are their engagement rates? How can you do better?


+ Engage younger generations with emerging media.


#6 Providing a Poor Online User Experience 

The advent of the internet was a huge boon for higher ed marketing departments who now have an easy way to showcase school details, amenities, pictures, virtual tours, news, events, application links and deadlines, and much more. If you utilize your website properly, you’ll also be able to collect information about prospective students, like what type of schools and programs they’re interested in, when they plan to enroll, etc.

Since colleges cater almost exclusively to Millennial and Gen Z audiences, a digital presence is vital for student recruitment success.  Furthermore, your digital advertising strategy should be largely focused on your target audience’s mobile experience with your website, emails, and online ads. Are they mobile friendly, quick to load, and easy to navigate? Do they contain clear and compelling Calls To Action (CTA’s)?


+ See 5 innovative ways to execute a successful college recruitment campaign.


Data from Statista shows that:

  • In 2020, mobile internet users accounted for 91% of total internet users, making mobile the most important channel for internet access worldwide.
  • 80.6 million users in the United States accessed the internet exclusively via mobile devices in 2020.

And according to a recent IBM Survey:

  • 75% of surveyed Gen Z members choose a smartphone as their electronic device of choice.
  • 60% of surveyed Gen Z members will not use an app or website that is too slow to load.

Tech giant Adobe points out that whether you’re focused on email, pay-per-click (PPC) ads, search engine optimization (SEO), content marketing, or social media marketing, to earn and maintain an audience’s attention your mobile content must be strategic, highly personalized, and mobile friendly. All mobile content should load quickly and without error and require no zooming or sideways scrolling.


MSSmedia Mobile Activities



#7 Content & Creative is Lackluster

It doesn’t matter how mobile friendly your emails are, how quickly your website loads, or how well placed your campus ads are if the content isn’t informative and engaging. Your website, advertising, and social media presence need to grab your target audience’s attention and drive them to take the desired actions. All digital marketing and traditional advertising must contain the information viewers need to learn more about your school and or program. Share your website or a link to a landing page at a minimum.

Your marketing efforts should also illustrate what makes your university special. How do you stand out from the competition? Do you have new or unique programs or amenities? Do you have an excellent academic reputation, an amazing athletic program, or an impressive graduation rate? 


Mock up on Phone


With proper planning, effective written content and graphic design, detailed competitive analysis, and a thorough understanding of your customer base, you will create truly powerful student recruitment marketing campaigns.


See our complete guide: Recruiting Students – A Marketing Plan to Increase College Enrollment




Here at MSS Media, Inc., we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSS Media, Inc. a full-service, one-stop shop for all your Media and Public Relations needs. Your goals are our motivation. And our mission is to propel your message, further and faster, to achieve the outcomes you’re looking for. If you found this blog post helpful, please share!

+ Search

We deliver the latest media tips + insider marketing advice straight to your inbox.