Develop Marketing Goals for Student Recruitment - Our 3 Stage Process

Topics: Marketing Toolkit, Higher Ed Marketing

Posted by: Marketing

In today’s increasingly crowded market, advertising is a necessity for educational institutions. Marketplace competition is based on many factors, including perceived status, programs, pricing, location, amenities, outcomes, and the opportunity to gain real-life experience. How do colleges compete when they all espouse similar benefits? To us, the answer seems obvious - advertise. However, we suggest advertising only if you have crystal-clear marketing goals and a properly designed marketing strategy.


Our student recruitment marketing series has touched on what a state-of-the-art student recruitment campaign consists of and has provided an overview of how to create a successful student enrollment campaign step-by-step. Today we take a deep dive into the nitty gritty of developing, establishing, and refining your college enrollment goals.



“Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success.” 



Well-defined marketing goals are essential for effective advertising. Clear-cut objectives enable you to make the most efficient use of your time, energy, and budget. Here’s our proven three stage process for establishing marketing goals that will enable you to run a successful student recruitment campaign:


#1 Develop Your Student Enrollment Campaign Goals 

To begin the process of uncovering your marketing goals, ask yourself these four questions:

  • How would you describe your school or program to someone who has no knowledge of its existence?
  • If your ideal student applicant came away with just two thoughts about your school or program, what would you want them to be?
  • What are your favorite things about your school or program? What sets it apart from other schools or programs?
  • What style do you envision representing your school or program? What adjectives do you hope to communicate?

MSSmedia Uncovering Marketing Goals

+ Download the “Uncovering Your Marketing Goals” worksheet.


#2 Establish Your Student Enrollment Campaign Goals

The second step in defining winning marketing goals for student recruitment is to create crystal-clear objectives with a systematic process called S.M.A.R.T goals. S.M.A.R.T. principles are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-Bound.

Let us walk you through S.M.A.R.T. goal refinement.

S - Specific

Drill down into your goals. What are you looking to accomplish with your marketing? Be exacting with a specific purpose. This could be as simple as “within six months, we want 250 online information request forms completed.”

M - Measurable

How will you measure the results of your enrollment campaign? What tools do you have in place? As the old cliché says, “what gets measured gets done.” By creating specific goals and ensuring you have tools to measure your results, you know what success will look like.

A - Attainable

As you are establishing your marketing goals, you must be realistic. For example, if you have an average of 100 monthly website visitors, you should not expect to multiply that by 100x overnight. Set realistic goals and benchmarks so that you can attain the goals you are establishing.

R - Relevant

Relevancy is another key factor that cannot be overlooked. Make sure your goals are in line with what you can measure. For example, if you are looking for application completions, make sure you allow for application form completions to be tracked through the conversion tracking methods you have set up on your site. If you do not, pick another measure or put the appropriate tool in place.

T - Time-bound

Establishing deadlines for accomplishing your goals is equally important. A timeline will help you and your team visualize your destination clearly and ensure that you know when you need to arrive. Just remember, real results take time.


MSSmedia SMART Marketing

+ Download our free S.M.A.R.T. marketing goals worksheet.


#3 Refine Your Student Enrollment Campaign Goals

In addition to establishing S.M.A.R.T. goals, we have one more exercise to get you closer to setting those crystal-clear marketing goals: The Journey to Change principles. The Journey to Change process will dig deeper into your marketing strategy and the steps you need to take to reach your goals.

Let’s get started.

Define the problem.

  • Examine your existing marketing strategy or lack there-of.
  • What’s working?
  • What’s not working?
  • Strengths? Weakness?
  • How do you measure up to your competitors in the market?

Define the desired outcome.

  • What are your goals?
  • Awareness: Are you looking to amplify awareness of your school or program in the market?
  • Considerations: Are you looking to win over (using features and benefits) prospective students who know what they want?
  • Conversions: Are you looking for engagements (applications)?
  • How much is your outcome worth? (For example, each student enrolled full-time might equal an additional $20,000 of revenue for your school.)

Outline actions to attain goals.

  • What steps are you taking to reach your goals? Paid digital campaign, print campaign, campus advertising and so on?
  • How much are you investing to attain these goals?
  • What is your time commitment?

What are the criteria for success?

  • Are you looking to attain specific results? This might be a specific number of website visitors, interest form fill-outs, social media followers, or open house attendees.
  • Put an amount to your success criteria based on the data you currently have on hand. Every successful marketing plan needs a North Star. Define your North Star so that your marketing team can surround that goal and make it happen.

MSSmedia Refining Marketing Goals

+ Download our free “Journey to Change” worksheet now.

We hope these tools will help you develop appropriate marketing goals so that you can create a successful college recruitment campaign. If you invest in the process, choose the right partners to help get you there, and commit to your goals, you will meet them!

Would you like to learn more about how to create a successful student recruitment campaign? See our complete guide to marketing for student recruitment.




Here at MSSmedia, we’ve been providing Education, Government, Real Estate & Lifestyle clients with succinct, optimized, and successful marketing solutions for more than 15 years. Consider MSSmedia 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!

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