For years higher education institutions have faced an ever-changing market landscape fueled by technology, competition and changes in prospective students’ preferences. But no force or trend has come close to matching the speed and dimension of what we are facing right now with the COVID-19 crisis.
According to the American Council on Education, on-campus college enrollment will fall by 15% in the fall semester, costing institutions about $23 billion in foregone revenue. It is improbable that online options will make up for this loss, and uncertain if things will ever go back to “normal.”
On the other hand, the ongoing digitalization and automation of work will only accelerate with the pandemic, increasing even faster the need for high-skill jobs. In that sense, Higher Education will be even more important than before. Educational models need to change. People will need more access to higher education and vocational training programs, even if it is under a more online, socially-distant model.
Therefore, even though things will be harder in the next few months, we need to increase our efforts to capture the attention of our prospective students and find innovative ways to minimize the impact of the situation on our institutions’ enrollments.
We need to keep in mind that right now prospective students are confused, and as a result are postponing decisions, and in some cases changing their selection criteria. Therefore, selling cycles are being disrupted and institutions are being forced to reframe their value propositions and their sales and marketing techniques.
In this scenario, digital marketing and sales strategies play a larger-than-ever role. People are at home, spending more time researching online. Campus tours, student fairs, and other traditional selling tools are not available right now, but there are still many ways to connect with our target students.
Large universities with high digital marketing budgets might be well prepared for this. Their websites and other digital assets are (in most cases) fine-tuned, their sales teams are well-staffed, trained, and equipped, and they have the best and most expensive technology in place.
But small and medium higher education institutions, with more limited resources, might have been caught of guard. Now, more than ever, they need to double down on their digital strategy, but with the same (or fewer) resources than before.
In the paragraphs below we will go over the most important strategic and tactic issues that need to be covered to achieve high-performance in digital marketing enrollments initiatives at this time. It is based on my (and my team’s) more than ten years of experience helping 30+ universities internationally achieve and exceed enrollment goals, as well as an exhaustive investigation on what is happening right now, what is working, and what isn’t.