Insights Article

How to Increase Student Enrolment With Segmentation and Improved Targeting Techniques
23rd March 2021

How to Increase Student Enrolment With Segmentation

Higher Education, like every other sector, has been dramatically affected by Covid-19. Every aspect, from marketing to learning format and student accommodation, has changed in light of the ‘stay at home’ order.

This can make the task of attracting new students extremely tricky, especially when open days and interviews have moved online. However, though the past year has undoubtedly brought on new challenges, the sector is still dramatically different to how it was five, 10 or 20 years ago, as are applicants’ expectations. With the world changing rapidly, and competition for students strong, you’ll need to target your marketing campaigns more precisely than ever to deliver ROI.

Clearly, there’s no ‘one size fits all’ approach. Different prospective applicants have different needs, and universities cannot tick every single box. The key lies in understanding what’s driving students’ decision making when choosing your university in particular.

Student segmentation is a powerful way to get the insights you need, since it allows you to group audiences according to their barriers, motivations and influences (such as peers or parents), rather than simple demographics. These groups can be profiled in a wider sense to understand their media habits, subject interests and academic background, so you can cater your offering and sharpen your communication to appeal to the student groups most suited to your university.

At Clusters , we’re experts in using customer segmentation to drive success. Here we’ll explain some strategies for increasing student enrolment, using insights from the numerous campaigns we’ve run in the sector.

Establish a clear vision

The first step is to review your goals and refine, or even re-write, your targeting strategy accordingly. Student segmentation research might reveal that students are applying to your university for reasons you’d not considered. Or that there are groups seeking something that you’re not currently putting front and centre in your marketing materials. This could even present new opportunities to target under-served segments.

  • Not all students want the same thing – different universities are suitable to different prospective applicants
  • Clusters uses leading segmentation techniques to understand applicants in terms of groups of students with similar barriers and motivations
  • Clusters also works closely with universities to help them better understand their profile in the eyes of applicants

By understanding who is most likely to apply, and why, universities can focus their resources on these groups of students, rather than trying to attract people who are not a good fit for them. Plus, by attracting more students early you reduce the need for costly advertising and clearing processes, with are administratively taxing, to fill out courses.

Knowing why people choose your university is also important for student retention, another key indicator of a university’s success. Students whose needs are well met by the university are happier and more productive: they require less remedial/pastoral attention, are more academically successful and continue to engage with the university as an alumnus
Understand the competitive landscape

A key part of a segmentation project is looking beyond your current student base, to people within the wider market. Where do you sit in the minds of students versus your competitors? Once again, student segmentation helps you establish the USPs of your university – which type of students are best aligned with what you can offer, and what drives those students to go there?

  • This stage helps us consider the profile of universities: for example, we may see that universities that are considered ‘practical’ fall into a group that also have good transportation links and a great location
  • We can also assess what drives a particular factor for universities: being considered ‘innovative” is closely correlated to good scores for ‘good sports facilities’ and being ‘state of the art’
  • Knowing what kind of a university you are can help to select your target applicants and cater your message to them

Finding out why people are choosing other universities over your own also enables you to gain a deeper understanding of the competitor landscape. Getting an overview of the wider UK student population, beyond your own university, is just as important to establish common behavioural drivers for students as a whole, and identify new opportunities.

Refine your offering

Look beyond your top-level marketing tactics to truly boost your strategies for increasing student enrolment. Even something as niche as how your courses are named can have an impact on who you attract.

  • Universities have to go out and make their case to applicants: existing measures (usually detailing research output or graduate destinations) only cover a small fraction of student needs
  • Clusters works with universities to make the most of its segmentation work, helping them to develop an effective communications strategy

This is exactly what happened during a project we completed with a leading UK university. Using intensive student segmentation research across a broad section of students, we learned why people would, or would not, choose to enrol there. With this knowledge, messaging, creative, and even the way a course is presented, can be updated to target those most likely to apply.

Switch up your social media

Every university is active online, but it’s not enough to simply post on every social channel. Using student segmentation it’s possible to identify the platforms that are best aligned with your institution and where your audience engages most. With this information, you can ensure you’re investing in the right areas.

Once identified you can engage new prospects by sharing videos and insights into university life, highlighting the benefits that matter most to your target groups. Focus on delivering the messaging that will resonate the most with your core audience, helping to create a clear goal and vision.

The great thing about social media is you can get instant feedback on the type of content that works, and you can use this across your wider communications.

These are just a few ways that segmentation can be used as a strategy for increasing student enrolment but really, the possibilities are far ranging. Without it, even the most well-established universities risk seeing poor returns on their marketing campaigns and beyond.

Learn more about segmentation for higher education institutions here.

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