“We don’t really need help with our marketing. We get many more applicants every year than we can accept.” We hear these statements time and time again from marketing decisions makers in higher education.

On the surface it makes perfect sense. Why invest time and budget resources into marketing when you are already turning away 50 percent (or more) of your applicants?

It’s a good question. But here are some other questions that we ask of those marketers. Wouldn’t you like to have your admissions team spending more time with highly qualified prospects? Would you like to be in the position to be even more selective?

Done right, a strong higher education marketing program can do much more than just drive MORE prospects. It can, and should, drive the RIGHT prospects.

Who are the right prospects?

The ones that best align with your brand
When you read your mission statement, what type of students come to mind? Which students are the ones that your institution is best prepared to serve? Those are the “right” students. Your brand is different than your competitors’. The experience at your institution is unique. It isn’t for everyone. The right students match your brand. And vice versa.

The ones that finish their degrees
Retention is important to every institution. The “right” students are the ones who have the best chance of being successful at your institution. From the outset, these students just “fit.” They belong there. And they stay there to graduate with a degree.

Why do the right prospects matter?

Positive representatives of your institution
When your students graduate and enter the real world to start their careers, they carry your institution’s name with them. When you have the “right” students, you are proud to have them represent your brand. And they are proud to be associated with your institution.

Positive influencers
The “right” students leave your school satisfied and excited about their experience. When others are looking for input, your students — the ones who align with your institutional strengths and focus – are likely to share those positive experiences and serve as brand ambassadors for your college or university. We know that prospective students often seek input from current students and graduates. If you have the “right” students, they will say the “right” things.

Long term engagement
Lastly, the “right” students are likely to stay engaged with your school for years to come. They become members of your alumni association. They help with mentoring and career services programs. They may even become financial supporters. This long-time relationship pays ongoing dividends on the investment that you’ve made in the students.

How do you find them?

Here are a few ideas to help you find more of the “right” students, and keep them:

  • Segment your market and defining the specific kinds of students who align with your institution’s direction and strengths.
  • Define your brand strategy — your student experience — specifically for those targeted students.
  • Form an integrated, metrics-driven communications program that engages those students in a way that is relevant and meaningful to them.

In the end, you’ll end up with better alignment between your institution and your students. You’ll have more students who are positioned for success. And you’ll form those long-term relationships that continue well beyond graduation, and benefit your institution for years to come.