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Incorporating new strategies to increase response for college direct marketing

Pegi Anton

Vice President

November 7, 2013

Co-written with Michael Lofstead, Senior Consultant, Noel-Levitz

How can you maximize the responsiveness of your direct marketing campaigns? You can start by giving students more opportunities to respond.

Strategies such as retargeting can give your traditional direct marketing efforts a boost by increasing your brand awareness and giving students another avenue to connect with your campus.
Strategies such as retargeting can give your traditional direct marketing efforts a boost by increasing your brand awareness and giving students another avenue to connect with your campus.

That’s a simple answer for an admittedly complex subject, but it’s also a strong philosophy to follow when it comes to campus direct marketing. The more opportunities you give students to connect with you, the greater the chance they will reach out.

As I have written before, direct marketing should be a process and not an event. When we work with college campuses through Noel-Levitz Direct, we conduct coordinated, creative mail and email campaigns throughout the year. We also devise strategies for connecting with fresh prospects as much as possible. The key is to develop marketing campaigns that build awareness of your campus, engage prospective students, and maintain a steady flow of students who apply and enroll.

It’s also important to branch out and augment traditional direct marketing methods with new initiatives that support and work with a college marketing campaign. For example, Noel-Levitz Direct conducted a campaign for a four-year private university that added another option for increasing campus brand awareness and lead generation: retargeting through paid interactive ads.

In general, retargeted ads use cookie data from previous sites you’ve visited to trigger an ad for that site while you are browsing elsewhere online (you may have already encountered these). Here’s how retargeting works for college direct marketing campaigns:

  1. A student visits your campus website.
  2. When they leave your site, a cookie is placed on their computer.
  3. Later, when browsing on another site, a paid interactive ad pops up for your institution.
  4. The student, already familiar with your campus, clicks on the ad.
  5. They arrive at a landing page, where (hopefully) you have given students a chance to make contact and convert to a lead.

The recent E-Expectations research shows that nearly one in three college-bound high school students has clicked on a paid interactive ad, such as those that run along the side on Facebook or appear with search engine results. Retargeting can help get those ads in front of prospective students who have already shown an interest in your institution.

Adding an effective element to a coordinated, cross-channel marketing campaign

Here’s a real-world example of how this worked for one of our campus partners. We developed a cross-channel direct marketing campaign for the previously mentioned four-year private. This campaign included coordinated print, email, and website initiatives with plenty of personalization to increase engagement. The campaign also included a retargeting initiative on Facebook, where students who had previously visited the campus’s website would see a targeted ad when they logged into Facebook. This produced another way to get the campus in front of a prospective student. One advantage of this type of advertising is that you are paying for an ad that is only triggered by someone who has previously visited your site.

Note that the coordination was crucial. We timed the retargeting initiative with the search mailings and emails. The print pieces and emails reinforced the retargeting efforts and the retargeting supported the print and email communications. Those elements all worked together to generate awareness for the institution as well as response from prospects.

Create diversified college direct marketing campaigns that take advantage of all methods that could impact enrollment

The reason we’ve highlighted retargeting is because it illustrates the importance of having a diversified higher education marketing campaign that’s coordinated, creative, and compelling. Strategies such as retargeting can reinforce your traditional direct marketing campaign. The bottom line is that new strategies and initiatives work best when they complement your existing efforts and are carefully designed to work together.

Send me an email and I will gladly answer any questions you have about how you can elevate your direct marketing efforts through new strategies such as retargeting. Or, if you want to learn more about other data-informed direct marketing techniques such as predictive modeling, join us for a free webinar on November 21, Taking College Marketing to the Next Level. These innovations are certainly not a replacement for a well-constructed direct marketing campaign, but they can provide a boost to those tried-and-true methods. I encourage you to look into them so that you can stay competitive in today’s higher education environment.

2013 Marketing and Student Recruitment Practices Benchmark Report


About the Author

Pegi Anton has worked in higher education marketing for 25 years. She offers extensive experience in campus marketing, market research, communication flows, and digital and print strategy. Her specialty is developing branding and marketing communication...

Read more about Pegi's experience and expertise

Reach Pegi by e-mail at Pegi.Anton@RuffaloNL.com.


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