Non-traditional Student Audiences: Can’t Find Them? Build Them!

Carnegie Higher Ed May 25, 2016 Carnegie Higher Ed Persona The Visionary Frontrunner

So you’ve got a marketing budget to reach your prospective online or adult students. Great. Now what? Where are they? How do you build an audience to market to when you don’t have the luxury of a list to buy or students with a set timeline to take a test and enter school?

This is one of the greatest frustrations in getting in front of non-traditional students. You could buy millions of ad impressions and saturate the area—but your budget probably isn’t Super Bowl ad size. Enter technology. There are some great ways to use data to identify the people you want to get in front of and then target them where they live and work. No more spray and pray!

First, what do you currently do with the visitors you already have who come to your site, learn about you, and leave? They are your most valuable audience because something you already did made them find you. If you aren’t at least Retargeting them, you should be. Start that right away so you can communicate with the people who have already identified themselves as prospects.

Second, you need to build a bigger audience to get in front of, one that looks like the one you already have—birds of a feather flock together, right? Site Visitor Attribution (SVA) can help. This little piece of code gathers the IP information of those who visit specific areas of your website. That in and of itself doesn’t seem like much, but the data that can come from it is very powerful! That information can produce a profile of your visitors across hundreds of data points. What are their demographics, income, education levels, etc. Once you have that profile, you can market to households that look like those that are already finding you. Similarly, you can use historical student information to create this type of profile. By gathering this profile information, you can build an audience of similar “look-alike” households to market directly to.

Third, consider where your prospects may be employed. Are there specific businesses or industries where your students have worked at in the past or that your programs or courses may be especially appropriate for? Consider building your audience at those locations through rooftop targeting. This technology allows you to display online advertising to the devices connected to the WiFi of particular businesses/buildings. If they engage with your ads while at work and visit the pages on your site, they now become part of your Retargeting audience (see above!).

These are just a few ways to let technology do some of the work for you as you try to focus your efforts—and budget—on marketing to the right audience. By building that audience based on behavior and data, you can be more effective in whom you get in front of and the message you are there with.

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