For-Profit Colleges: Reaching Non-Traditional Students Through Non-Traditional Marketing
As a for-profit college, you likely have a website. You also likely have a Facebook page and also send marketing emails to prospective and current students. We’re not here to cover the basics of what you should be doing to attract applicants and increase enrollment. What we are here to do is give you some non-traditional marketing methods that you can use to target your non-traditional students—the people who are working part- or full-time, who have a family, who are older or who just otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to get a post-secondary education.
Education campaigns for… higher education
Deciding what college or university to attend is not a decision that most take lightly. The impact of that decision resonates for years afterward, not only while a student is enrolled, but also as they pursue a career and pay off loans. Therefore, marketing to these students requires a longer sales cycle than quick-win ecommerce campaigns. To account for this, consider implementing a more subtle lead nurturing process by providing value in a “help, don’t sell” effort.
What does this mean? It means that instead of directly marketing your school, run unbranded education campaigns that serve to answer more general questions key audiences might have.
- Benefits of attending a for-profit college
- Dispelling myths about for-profit schools
- Navigating the student loan process
You can get started on these campaigns by looking at what internet users are already searching for online (and what results they currently see).
Expand your content reach with guest posting
Guest posting can take two forms—having well-known industry names write for your site or posting your articles on third-party sites. The latter is a great way to widen the reach of an audience, build authority on a topic and drive backlinks to benefit SEO. Especially if the site has a trustworthy domain authority and respectable recent post history.
These efforts don’t have to be confined to blogging. Thought leaders and students can also contribute videos, webinars or podcasts. Publishing content on external sites drives referral traffic back to your own site over time and creates long-lasting SEO benefits from backlinks placed strategically with your top keywords in guest articles, podcast transcripts and other media.
Sites like Medium and Huffington Post allow anyone to publish content and are a great place to start with a guest posting strategy. The readership of online publications like these also skew younger and tech-savvy.
More industry-specific sites like the Chronicle of Higher Education allow external writers to submit opinion articles and manuscripts for possible publication. (Check out The Chronicle’s submission guidelines.) Another option is through University Business and their Thought Leadership Advertising, which invites you to establish your school’s position in higher education through a 500 word “advertisement.”
Rethinking social media for non-traditional students
As we mentioned earlier, you likely already have a Facebook page or LinkedIn profile for your school. These resources are great for students and potential students who are actively looking for your brand. But what about those who don’t know what they don’t know?
Targeting Parent Support Groups on Facebook
We’re not talking about parents of students. We’re talking about students who are parents. Facebook is the best platform to reach these non-traditional students, like stay-at-home moms and dads. You can do so by connecting with members of local parent support groups by being an active participant in the conversations taking place there. This tactic must be executed well, however. We’ve all seen questionable (at best) posts in comments sections baiting us with promises of making millions while working from home. Don’t be that poster.
Targeting Professionals with LinkedIn Advertising
For-profit colleges aren’t only for undergraduate students. In fact, enrollment of graduate students has quintupled in the last 15 years, according to a study done by americanprogress.org.
Consider targeting specific job titles in your area on LinkedIn, the professional’s social network. Through paid ads and sponsored content, you can promote your school’s graduate degree programs that are relevant to their current title. If you don’t offer online programs, you could further home your audience by narrowing the target list to those within a 30-mile radius of your campus.
Monitor your reputation online
As a for-profit, pay attention to review sites like www.niche.com as well. This site, in particular, provides data about K-12 schools, colleges and neighborhoods across the country. College-specific data reviews academic, admissions, financial and student life data from the U.S. Department of Education, as well as student and alumni reviews. These review sites will help you know the “pulse” of how your students see their school.
Your next steps
As a marketing professional at a for-profit college, your job is to create and promote enviable experiences that drive potential students to apply at and enroll in your school. By innovatively connecting with these applicants, you can support your narrative of being the place where they can better themselves through unique educational opportunities.
At Pyxl, we have experience in the non-profit and for-profit higher education space. We would love to talk to you about what marketing you’re currently running for your college or university—whether traditional or non-traditional—and how ideas like these can help you stand out and succeed. Contact us!
Learn more tactics in our on-demand webinar Managing Digital Media in Higher Education.
Updated: Oct 26, 2020