Higher ed enrollment marketers have it tough. Each year you are asked to do more with less, in an increasingly competitive student pool. For some higher ed marketers, this means the likelihood of hitting your enrollment goals is less and less.
If you find yourself in this predicament and are curious why you’re not meeting your enrollment goals, one important thing could be holding you back: your budget. Following, we offer 6 ways to make your budget work for you to maximize your dollars and meet your higher education enrollment marketing goals. Take a look.
1. Evaluate, Estimate, and Plan
What they say is true, “A goal without a plan is just a wish.” One key way to maximize your budget is to plan effectively. This means, before you carry over last year’s budget, or immediately move to cut tactics, it is important to review last year’s plan and results. Analyze to understand: Did you meet your goals with the budget you set? What tactics had the strongest ROI? What was your cost per lead? How many leads did it take per enrolled student? Based on this, how many leads do I need for the upcoming year to meet my program enrollment targets? These questions will provide insight as to what aspects of your previous year’s budget you should carry over and whether you’re investing adequately for the goals you have.
The most common issue holding schools back from reaching their enrollment goals is under investment. You can work all year long to optimize your campaigns, messages, and creative, but you can’t predict everything that will happen (Hello, 2020!). Going from one year to the next with the same budget can be detrimental to the health of your marketing plan, which brings us to our next tip.
2. Build in Discretionary Marketing Funds
Contingency or opportunistic budget gets allocated in the plan but is spent on items that are identified along the way (things that pop up, a refresh of content, new test channels). This should be in addition to existing budget to enable you to continue to stay with channels that are working, rather than pulling from those budgets.
3. Leverage Digital Marketing
Digital marketing has become a critical part of enrollment marketing for higher ed institutions (and, if it’s not a part of yours, make sure it is!) because it is effective for generating leads, nurturing those leads to become applicants, and ultimately, students. What some marketers forget is that digital marketing is also highly scalable, making it a fast and efficient way to test along the way (but make sure you don’t take away from what’s working). And with an infusion of media dollars from your Contingency Budget, it can also generate a lot of leads in a short period of time, if needed to reach application and enrollment goals.
4. Conduct Ongoing Optimization
Set it and forget it campaigns are a thing of the past. If you’re not continuously evaluating metrics, testing, and tweaking to further optimize each campaign, then you’re missing a huge opportunity. Ongoing conversion optimization is key to effectively allocating your budget.
A/B testing is a great way to test concepts, messages, or designs to improve the conversion rate of any campaign. For some campaigns – digital advertising, for example – might require daily management and weekly or monthly optimizations. Don’t just wait for the end of the year to shift budgets and optimize campaigns.
5. Nail the Overall Investment
A common reason we see higher ed institutions not meeting their goals (or any industry, for that matter) is due to under investment. Right- sizing your budget can be difficult. If you’re doing the things listed above and still not meeting your goals, chances are you could be under investing. Need help with planning? Check out our higher ed budget worksheet here or request a consult.
The goal is to make each of your campaigns profitable, but that doesn’t mean your budget should stop there. If you’re getting a positive return on investment from a specific campaign and you invest more, it will still be profitable, and it could help you meet your goals. We find digital marketing campaigns are often underfunded, and sometimes it can take one planning cycle to get things right-sized. Alternatively, if you build in a discretionary higher ed enrollment marketing budget like we mentioned above, you won’t have to wait until next year to execute and reach your goals!
6. Work with a Partner
For many, collaboration is the key to success. Partnering with a digital marketing agency helps many higher ed schools reach their enrollment marketing goals and maximize their budgets. Why? Because the steps 1-5 above require resources and expertise and it’s not always realistic to manage it all in-house. Partnering with an agency adds capacity and industry-specific marketing expertise without expanding your in-house team.
Whether you are building your budget for next year, or are actively executing an existing budget, maximizing your higher education enrollment marketing budget is a year-long process. Focus on where and how you spend your dollars and consider increasing your spend to meet your goals. It might take some time to right-size and optimize, or it might require bringing in a partner for an expert opinion. Looking for help in reaching your enrollment marketing goals? Request a consult.
About VONT Performance Digital Marketing
At VONT we believe that change is the only constant in the digital world – and that excites us. Over the years, digital marketing has played an ever-growing role in higher education recruitment. From lead generation for inquiries, campus visits, and applications to increasing brand awareness and student yield – digital marketing and ongoing optimizations can have a significant impact on the objectives that confront today’s higher ed marketer.
We believe in this idea of continual fine-tuning so much that we named our company VONT, which means to achieve exponential improvement in incremental steps. It is our core belief, and the reason why we are not simply a web design company or simply a digital advertising agency, but rather a long-term, single source partner providing a comprehensive array of web development and digital marketing capabilities for higher education clients.
In short, we’re here so that our clients achieve success in the ever-changing digital world. If you’d like to learn more about VONT and the work we’ve done with our higher education clients, visit our Work page. Or, if you have a question, contact us. We’ll get right back to you!