Small College Marketing: How to successfully market your college

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March 29, 2017

Small colleges face several unique marketing challenges. While large public and private institutions inherit strong name recognition, small colleges must actively build their own brand awareness. In this blog, we’ll look at a few of the many marketing tools small colleges can use to build their name recognition and college marketing.

Marketing your college is more important than ever to keep recruitment rates high. There is more competition than ever—especially with the ubiquity of online college degrees—which makes strategic marketing vital to recruit students who are willing to pay full tuition for a liberal arts education.

While the marketing process is challenging, all universities from the smallest of community colleges to the largest public institutions have something that makes them attractive, which is called their Unique Selling Point.

Every college has a USP. For large institutions, it could be their vast financial resources; their enormous endowments that fund ground breaking research. For other educational institutions, a unique selling point could be small class size, which allows professors to build one-on-one relationships with their students.

Before crafting any marketing plan, your marketing team should have a clear understanding of what draws students to your college. You should highlight these specific aspects—no matter the marketing medium.

Start with the Website

Your website is the digital front door to your university, so your website must be current, well designed, and full of informative, engaging content for both prospective and current students.

Just a few things to keep in mind:

– Avoid stock photos AT ALL COSTS. Stock photos are inauthentic and will not fool prospective students. Everyone will know that crowd of people, all sporting plastered grins, were hired for that photo. Not saying you can’t show happy people on your website, just make sure they’re real students who were actually happy.

– Keep your website organized. Most websites today are well organized with “buckets” holding information and buttons. The reason is simple. Most people who visit your website will do so on their smartphones. Clean, well-organized websites are the most mobile friendly and are the easiest to navigate on 5-inch phone screens.

– See how your website matches up with your competition. In this blog,

Best and Worst Design: 50 University Websites From 50 States,graphic designer Joshua Johnson surveys the best and worst elements of college website design. See how your university’s website stacks up to the competition. If yours is an “attack from the ‘90s,” it’s time for an update!

Then, Consider the Content
After building an awesome, well designed website, it’s time to consider content. Your future students will conduct most of their research online, especially for small colleges. For content to be successful on any level, your marketing team must devise a plan and stick to it!

Some important things to keep in mind:

– Make sure your content goes back to your college’s USP. What aspects of your college make it unique? What are your biggest draws? In the past, what have students said they love most about your particular college? The answers to these questions are a great place to start when producing content.

– Keep your tone soft. Remember: At the end of the day, as an educational institution it’s about the degree and the skills students acquire in the process. Hard sells won’t work. You are selling an education—not a physical product—so a tone that’s professional, approachable, and authentic always wins the day.

– Unify your message across all platforms. Publish a variety of content, both digital and print, with your message to have the most impact. For more tips and advice on building a content strategy for your college, check out this blog:

12 Content Marketing Best Practices for Schools and Colleges.

Lastly, Diversify Your Media Mix

Your future students are everywhere — in the coffee shop down the street, at another university, or even in another state — so putting your marketing content on multiple platforms is absolutely essential for maximum reach. As a small university, the more the better. A diverse media mix, encompassing social media, print, and digital platforms, will maximize your college’s overall name recognition.

A few tips to consider:

– Keep in mind that every medium will serve a unique purpose. Online blogs might answer specific, detailed questions that prospective students may have, while a billboard builds brand awareness at the top level. Make sure your content reaches prospective students at every point throughout their decision making process. Brand awareness campaigns are just as important as in-depth campus guides.

– Cross-pollinate your digital and print marketing. QR codes are a great way to move prospective students from simple awareness to researching your particular institution.

– Steer clear of stock. Be sure that all of your marketing is authentic. Every image should portray your university and the reality of the student experience.

– Don’t be afraid to reuse and recycle. Compile a content bank that you can draw from when crafting a new piece of marketing. Avoid “reinventing the wheel” every time your team needs a new marketing piece. Aside from saving time and energy, recycling your content is a great way to maintain a consistent message across all of your media.

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