How can universities maximise their student recruitment campaigns?

Joe Chetcuti, Director of creative agency Front, reveals his top 10 tips to help university marketers recruit students successfully

We work with universities on their student recruitment campaigns and results confirm that an insight-led approach works and genuinely delivers results so it got me thinking about codifying our methodology to help university marketers. The key is to be bold and to draw on successful strategies from beyond the education sector – especially from retail and destination marketing.

  • Start with the ‘customer’ need and align your offer to them. All too often universities start with their features – what, where and how – rather than understating their prospective students point of view; namely the ‘why’
  • Draw insight from research but make sure you also make leaps of faith with it. Just because your research from last year said students liked x, y,z it doesn’t mean that it should be simply be repeated. All you’re doing is repeating the past and things move quickly.
  • Plan through the line: what is the customer journey from beginning to end and at every touch-point?
  • Know when to sell and when to support. There’s a huge difference between a prospective student and one that has already applied. Know how to fine-tune your comms to build both trust and rapport over time.
  • Understand the barriers that your customer must overcome. A-levels, moving home, pressures of growing up, friends, family and finances are all part of the decision making process.
  • Understand different students have different ‘shopper missions’  so flex your recruitment and comms campaigns to meet their needs.
  • Beat the competition – review what has worked well in the education sector and what is just wallpaper. Leapfrog the best ideas and have the ambition to be the best.
  • Review best in class in other markets. How do retailers, online stores, destinations, product brands, food and drink and FMCG  attract and retain customers? As higher education becomes more competitive those who can learn from other highly competitive sectors are more likely to succeed.
  • Have a truly creative process to design and build your campaigns. Bring in new ideas, fresh thinking and dispense with the easy solutions. Stop asking faculties what makes their courses interesting. Make students want to come to your university first and focus on the course detail later. You can do this by standing up for something and create signature actions that make you stand out and resonate with contemporary culture.
  • Don’t stop reviewing and renewing – learn from what’s gone before and keep going back to insight.

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