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Education sector marketing is notoriously challenging. Well-known hurdles include budget limitations and having to appeal to a completely new audience each year – and with the rise of digital marketing channels, marketing your educational institution effectively is becoming even more competitive and complex.

Students (and their parents) now expect online entry forms and a presence on social media, and candidate recruitment becoming a year-round activity – and as digital channels continue to evolve, even established educational suppliers should be re-evaluating their marketing strategy annually.

So how can you ensure your education sector marketing strategy is set for success? Some of it will always be down to the context and objectives of your school, college or university, but here are some of the general things to bear in mind

1. Consider key timings
Look at when in the year you can best plan or review your marketing strategy, also allowing time for implementation. Recommended timings are preparing for the new academic year in JUNE and getting ready for the new financial year and spring term in NOVEMBER.

Regardless of your budget, setting aside time at critical points in the year to work on your marketing strategy will help you generate demand that leads to fill those spaces. It’s also worth remembering to keep future candidates warm throughout the year. Don’t just see candidate recruitment as a one off ‘open day’, as competitors will find it all too easy to creep up and steal prospective students from you when you least expect it if you’re not at the top of your game year round.

2. Understand (and use!) social media
Prospective students now expect you have a strong social media presence across key channels, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Being present on these channels helps you keep your college front of mind so make sure you’re making the most of social platforms. To make sure you’re making the most of the latest channels.

3. Become a ‘page one’ search result on Google
When parents and students are researching suitable education providers online, it’s essential that you’re a top result. As Google is the most popular search engine, Google AdWords is the most effective way to help drive traffic to your website. There is of course a huge amount of relevant competition in AdWords, so it’s important you know what you’re doing when setting this up! It’s also a good idea to work with someone who is experienced in SEM, otherwise it can become very expensive.

4. Take a multi-channel approach
Prospectuses remain key and still the best place to tell the story of your college / university, from results to reputation and facilities to extra curricular activities – but they shouldn’t be seen as a document in silo.

Print is most definitely not dead (especially in the world of education), but make sure your prospectus is also featured on your digital, social and email communications as well as any promotional items you give out at events. Keep your theme joined up throughout to make the most of your investment.

5. Get some cred (-ibility!)
Testimonials from past students, awards you’ve won as well as your latest results are crucial to building up the credibility behind your story. These are all great endorsements which can be incredibly powerful, just like the ‘Trip Advisor’ effect on the leisure industry.