Universities must adopt a marketing mindset – here’s why

Marketing mindset
How does a marketing mindset make a difference? Source: Diggity Marketing/Unsplash

What motivates our international student target market?

How can we keep our brand message consistent?

What’s the best way to market our new courses?

These are the sorts of questions a university that has adopted a marketing mindset may ask itself at the start of each year. In this day and age, it’s important for academic institutions to keep track of their global outreach and student recruitment figures.

marketing mindset

Some universities are encouraging staff to adopt a marketing mindset. Source: Shutterstock

A lifelong partnership?

This year, The Guardian discovered that UK universities are spending millions of pounds on marketing to reel in students from all across the world through adverts, campaigns and promotional materials.

From in-house marketing teams to outsourced agencies, it’s isn’t just UK universities that are measuring their annual student recruitment statistics against their annual marketing costs.

Acknowledging its influence, Vice President and Provost at the University of Texas at Austin, Joey Williams, and Digital Project Manager, Henry Tijerina III, discussed the ways in which a marketing mindset can totally transform a university’s success.

“As it turns out, marketing, a field that academics view with high levels of skepticism and sometimes outright mistrust, may hold the potential to help university leaders strengthen their faculty workforce.

“Institutions are searching for a competitive edge. They need to stand out to attract and hold the attention of promising candidates. It may not be enough to sit back and wait for faculty applicants. To address these talent gaps and recruit the faculty talent needed to compete for grants, funding and students, colleges must think like marketers,” they outline.

Marketing mindset

Marketing mindsets enable universities to demand global attention. Source: Austin Chan/Unsplash

The motivation behind the marketing

Yet, for Dr Helen Carasso, a teacher and researcher of higher education policy in the Department of Education, University of Oxford, there’s a reason why so many universities are adopting a marketing mindset, splurging millions on student recruitment campaigns and branded content.

Outlined in her Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) blog post, Carasso explains that, “Universities find that they are competing to get their messages across in a very noisy environment. Although the clearing house system of recruitment that operates through UCAS has many advantages – for applicants and for institutions – the downside is that everyone is working to the same deadlines.

“So, universities are all trying to reach, often similar, audiences at the same time. That inevitably puts up the cost of advertising space – whether it is posters at bus stops or pop-up ads on social media. It is certainly not unknown for different parts of the same university to end up, unknowingly, bidding against each other to buy prominence on Google search results,” she adds.

Universities across the globe face web pages and billboards filled with the taglines of competition.

As they battle it out for advert space, universities are also seeking to hire quick-thinking marketing teams with strategic knowledge and a desire to target specific student crowds; this could range from location-based targeting to course-based targeting.

The motivation to enhance their marketing activities is spurred on by student statistics, trying to boost the annual intake and keep learners flowing in through their faculties.

But whether all universities should foster a marketing mindset is dependent on their mission.

If they’re humble and have enough applications to last a year, then maybe not.

But if they’re hungry and wish to become a household name or a go-to study abroad destination, maybe a marketing mindset is what they’re already encouraging among staff…

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