Personas: The Key to Success in Digital Marketing

Charles RamosVice President, Graduate and Online Enrollment ManagementMay 26, 2022
Digital Marketing Personas
Developing multiple personas for your program recruitment maximizes engagement with your prospective student audiences.

As colleges and universities continue to look at graduate and online as one of their primary enrollment growth opportunities, understanding how to effectively attract, influence, engage with and convert these prospective students is paramount. At the same time, more and more schools recognize the need to invest further in digital lead generation to further strengthen their top of funnel.

The challenge: Identifying and capturing qualified student leads

The investment in digital marketing is a best practice, since more than half of all graduate and online leads come from two sources: digital lead generation and search engine optimization. But digital marketing is not a cheap undertaking. The cost of ad spend continues to rise, particularly for programs with the greatest demand. In discussions with schools, we too often see a one-size-fits-all approach to digital marketing, which invariably provides little return while still incurring hefty expenses.

Institutions need to establish more precise methods to identify and capture not just leads, but qualified leads, to ensure success. But how?

The key is knowing not only where people reside geographically, but also digitally. What are their online and buying behaviors? Which influencers drive forward momentum and action? Digital marketing efforts also need to engage with prospects more personally and authentically in order to garner interest. One of the best ways to do this is by building prospective student personas for each program you offer. 

The answer: Developing multiple marketing personas

At RNL, we work with partner schools to develop as many as three personas for each program we market based on geographic, psychographic, and demographic data and information that become a key foundation of all that we do. Unfortunately, we see many schools (and the agencies they work with) creating only one persona (if any) per program. Such an approach reduces a school’s ability to attract more than one type of student (as reflected in the persona), when almost any program attracts individuals from multiple composite backgrounds.

For each type of individual a program attracts, there will be differences in how to effectively connect, attract, and convert them throughout the funnel. Take a typical MBA program for example. While there are widely differing audiences for an MBA, most schools market, message, and leverage creative that reflects the program rather than the audience (or audiences).

But there are many types of potential students who would seek an MBA program. Two common personas are:

  1. Students graduating from undergraduate studies and looking to immediately transition to graduate school.
  2. Individuals interested in attaining an MBA after spending some years in the business world.

Both are interested in the same program, but each have very different experiences, influencers, buying behaviors, websites they frequent, social media platforms they use, etc. You need to develop the right persona approaches to those groups if you want to maximize their engagement and enrollment potential.

Build a multi-persona approach for each program

By building a multi-persona approach, you take the recognized strategy of program-specific marketing and enhance it significantly by managing a multi-persona specific marketing strategy under each program. These personas then drive the creative and messaging an institution should employ as well as the channels and digital locations where we know these unique markets/personas reside. One can therefore enhance the likelihood of engaging the right students, in the right channels, with the right messages.

At RNL, once we identify how, where, and to whom we will be marketing to, we look at channel optimization. Google ads, social media sites, etc. are continuous sources you can leverage, but video continues to become more influential (see our latest online student recruitment report for more on this). Your ability and capabilities to meet those needs and demands will be key—whether by including video in your advertising, to ensuring you leverage sources like streaming TV. A multi-persona approach for each program can effectively guide your strategy, along with messaging and creative—all while better resonating with each persona and effectively capturing more, qualified, prospective interest and therefore maximizing your overall investment.

Want to learn more about how you can develop personas? Reach out and request a complimentary consultation with us. We can discuss your recruitment goals and how you can engage the right audiences more effectively.

Generate qualified graduate and online leads

RNL’s lead generation for graduate and online enrollment can produce the qualified leads you need to fill your programs and reach your enrollment goals. We help you attract more qualified student leads through paid digital advertising and search engine optimization.

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About the Author

Charles Ramos

Charles Ramos is a veteran of higher education, with over 24 years of experience as an enrollment professional and consultant. He has affected positive change that has equated to increased enrollment and sustainable revenue growth...

Read more about Charles's experience and expertise

Reach Charles by e-mail at charles.ramos@ruffalonl.com.

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