Maximizing conversion. That’s just one challenge Steve Evans, the CEO and founder of Net Natives, has identified for admissions and marketing teams in 2023. 

“According to our higher education marketers survey, converting students in their recruitment funnel was one of the biggest challenges for senior marketing directors,” he added. “Universities that have a plan in place to overcome conversion obstacles are the ones that will gain a competitive edge in the upcoming year.” 

Other trends Evans expects to see next year include more platform and content diversity. 

“The most innovative institutions are moving away from ‘big media’ platforms like Google and Twitter, leading to a change in advertising spend and an increased dependence on their own live CRM data,” he said. “And we’re seeing changes in content, with more universities leveraging their position as purposeful publishers and sharing their unique brand stories.” 

To help you work smarter and not harder in 2023, Evans and the Net Natives team have offered their trends, suggestions, and challenges to have on your radar. Read on to see what they said.  

Murray Simpson, Chief Growth Officer: Cost of Attendance

In our Student Pulse Survey, due to the cost of living, we found that 44% of current first-year students in the U.K. needed to secure additional funding before attending college. About 27% of students even deferred their application because of cost. This means institutions need to be smarter about how they promote and convert their prospective students — and more importantly, retain them after enrollment. Also, we may find more students opting to go to cheaper, more local, community colleges, as opposed to larger private and public institutions.

Jennifer Lonchar, Vice President, Strategy and Partnerships: Retention

I think we’re going to see even more focus on student success and retention. Understanding how you can incorporate retention strategies into your marketing efforts — and making sure you’re partnering with an agency that also understands this — will be key. Chatbot functionality; digital marketing directed at current students and families; and increased, customized email communication should all be part of a university communication plan for the new year.

Matt Byerly, Vice President, Marketing: Collaboration and Transparency

Historically, many university marketing and admissions teams have often worked in a silo. But, with the enrollment challenges we’re all facing in higher education, prioritizing a set of shared goals and core values, team-wide collaboration, and data transparency is becoming more and more critical. Moving forward, I believe universities that understand this need for added synergy, and work to integrate and align their marketing and admissions efforts — while leveraging MarTech to centralize their data, add visibility, and improve their conversion rates — will come out on top. 

Charlie Penrose, Creative Director: Experimentation

My hope for 2023 is that we’ll see more experimentation with new channels, ad types, and content topics. More specifically, universities eager to steal a march on their competition will build brand awareness by considering the whole breadth of the media landscape: paid and unpaid, broadcast and digital, events, influencers, and their entire cultural calendar. Instead of focusing solely on the obvious education cycle milestones, they’ll promote their brand through creative, attention-grabbing activations aligned to their values. Through our own Student Hut community, we’re constantly experimenting and pushing the boundaries of creative student content. I’d recommend our free Culture Report as your first port of call for inspiration. 

Carrie Hopkins, Director of Client Growth and Media Strategy: Power of Education

While there’s a wavering sentiment around the value of pursuing a degree, a college education is still a powerful driver to higher earning power. I expect to see more institutions leveraging their marketing content to tell this story, illustrate program outcomes, and show the true value of education. I also believe we’ll see more innovative types of content that span across all media channels in different formats.

James Brown, Head of Client Growth: First-Party Data

First-party data collection has become increasingly important. Tightened tracking restrictions, combined with a growing reluctance from students to part with their data, are making it harder for universities to increase lead volumes, connect with pre-applicants, and deliver personalized communications earlier in the decision-making process. I expect to see more universities working to find creative ways to collect data from prospective students in 2023. 

Gus Bolognesi, Head of Client Services: Artificial Intelligence

I think big developments in the use of artificial intelligence — AI — are coming. With exciting — and somewhat scary—– new advancements in AI, such as ChatGPT, there’s a clear need for universities and colleges to leverage the technology. I expect early adopters will use these advancements to help colleges streamline their administration processes, optimize their marketing/enrollment funnel, and even improve the student learning experience. 

Amelia Pavlik, Content and Campaigns Manager: Wellness

From COVID-19 to recessions to wars, prospective students have been through so much — and are dealing with an unbelievable amount of stress that past students couldn’t even imagine. Providing resources and services to support their well-being is more important than ever. Highlight the wellness supports that your institution offers (ranging from counseling services to free well-being workshops) in the initial communications you send to these incoming students. Showing them that you want to provide them with more than just an academic experience will go a long way in developing a genuine relationship that could ultimately lead to them enrolling (and graduating) from your institution. For some examples of supports other institutions are offering their students, check out this recent Net Natives blog. 

Justin Duff, Senior Account Manager: Streaming TV Advertising

I believe that we’ll continue to see a shift in advertising dollars from linear to streaming TV. For example, we’re one of a handful of direct partners with Amazon and can leverage billions of shopping and streaming signals powered by their first-party data. With this information, we can discover other audiences that our own audience is a part of, leading to more effective reach. Couple that with Amazon’s expanded network of Twitch, Freevee and Fire TV News, and we have access to completely new touchpoints for potential students and parents.

Megan Herdson, Senior Marketing Manager: TikTok Support

With the cost-of-living becoming a growing concern, especially in the U.K., I anticipate seeing more well-being and student support content on channels like TikTok. Universities should ensure their future prospects and current students are making the most of the support available to them. I recommend working with charities or support networks to do live takeovers and Q&As on TikTok to get this incredibly important message in front of the right people.

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