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Why Is Higher Education A Lot Like B2B Marketing?

b2b marketing - higher education

The space of higher education has seen tremendous change in the past few decades. With the increase in the number of higher education institutions, there is steep competition amongst universities to secure students. The competition is not just limited to other universities. Online MOOC certification courses which give the freedom to students to pursue their course of interest from the comfort of their homes at a much lesser tuition fee are fast gaining ground and adding to the competition.

Prospective students now behave like customers, shopping for the right university based on what the institution can offer – better facilities, innovative courses and exciting employability opportunities.

Current trends in higher education marketing

Due to the massive competition in securing students, higher education institutions are introducing themselves early to their prospective customers – school students. Colleges now start interacting with school students as early as the eighth and the ninth grade. Early university interactions help students bond with the university and makes the school to college transition smooth. Handholding students through the college selection process also ensures less dropout rate during the admission cycle.

Higher education institutions routinely visit schools across continents to connect with prospective college students. The physical presence of college faculty and staff in schools require a high level of planning and expense to the university. However, the results are not always in proportion to the incurred expense and efforts.

Higher education institutions recognize the inefficiency of physically marketing their universities and are now leaning towards digital media marketing as an efficient alternative marketing solution.

The similarities between higher education and B2B marketing

Although the end customer for universities are students, which makes universities an accepted B2C model of business, the marketing strategies of higher education institutions are increasingly leaning towards the B2B model.  Here are some areas where higher education and B2B digital marketing are similar:

Conversion time – For businesses, selecting a B2B product is a time taking process for it involves decision making at various levels and after careful consideration of several factors affecting company’s ROI, product implementation time, required resources, etc.  This is very similar to selecting a higher education institution – a decision not made by the student alone (since it often involves parents and other family members) and definitely not based on a single AdWords click. In order to have constant visibility in front of the target audience, higher education institutes must repeatedly appear as banner ads (through AdWords and other such campaigns). The best digital marketing strategy concentrates on continuous and systematic visibility of the education institutes targeted towards students and their parents. This is in direct contrast to the random banner ads placed by universities to get admissions which results in no conversions. Universities just end up spending a lot of money and without knowing the reasons for their campaign failure.

Targeting a variety of audience – In a B2B sale, the marketing ads are targeted towards a variety of employees in the organization just like higher education university ads must be targeted towards students as well as parents, although most universities doing digital marketing on their own make the mistake of solely targeting students. Also, it is not the best marketing strategy to target both students and parents using the same ad. The messaging for both these types of audience should be different since they have different perspectives and questions. This is where most novice digital marketing campaigns are rendered insufficient in getting the desired admission conversions.

Marketing automation – Just like in B2B sales, Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and marketing automation plays an important role in post engagement of business association; in higher education too, CRM has a big role to play since a student’s association with the university does not end with the admission. On the contrary, the student-university association goes on much after the student has graduated from the institution. Universities are fast recognizing the value of continued association with the alumni and their strong impact on prospective students’ opinion. There is also the need for marketing automation in universities where the student drop rate post admission is high.

Most universities are sitting on a database landmine without the knowledge of how to leverage it to optimize their student recruitment process. Student recruitment must be planned well in advance and engaging with a digital marketing agency is the first step towards it.

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