Roundtable: How to run a successful student recruitment campaign

With the student firmly placed as the buyer and universities fiercely competing to attract new students, in the last in our series Cathy Parnham talks to Steve Evans about student recruitment

Steve Evans is CEO at student marketing specialists Natives

Q. How has student recruitment marketing changed over the last five or so years?

There has been a much greater focus on data – both micro and macro. There is now a clear understanding of the importance of collecting individual, GDPR-compliant data as well as the need to combine this with all the relevant sector-wide data to plan effective campaigns.

Q. What are the key ingredients a successful student recruitment marketing campaign should have?

Firstly, you need to understand your audience. Look at the review sites (like Student Hut) and forums (such as Student Room) to see what students think of your institution. Secondly, use what data you have to build your audience (from enquiry to application, every data point is useful). Thirdly, be certain that your creative will cut through to your audience. And, finally, test and track everything – both brand campaigns and direct response.

Q. What has been the most effective channel for targeting this September’s intake for UK-based students – and which for international?

There is no specific channel, so the key is to have a blended approach and track everything through to enrolment. But there is a reason why Facebook/Instagram and Google/YouTube dominate the advertising landscape and so should be on every student marketing plan.

Q. How important are digital tools to your recruitment strategy and what have you found to be the best-performing digital channel(s)?

It’s not that digital tools are important – they are essential. These days, it is inconceivable that a student would choose a university without searching online and looking at their social media channels, so they will always form a key part of any student recruitment strategy.

Q. When do you typically start your student recruitment marketing campaign and how?

The most effective universities start planning well in advance; the very best have 18-month plans in place. It’s essential to start early to ensure that recruitment marketing campaigns are well planned, integrated and, ultimately, effective.

Q. Are there any key learnings you can share from your 2019 cohort recruitment drive? And how will these shape your current recruitment drive?

More and more students are willing to wait until after they have had their results and use clearing to apply directly. The most savvy universities are already planning in their direct application recruitment strategies and that will only increase in the coming years.

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