4 Certified Strategies for Higher Education Marketing

graphic of education related items like books and apples, to illustrate higher education marketing

Higher education marketing is increasingly looking toward digital marketing as a strategy for increasing enrollment and bringing prospective students into programs. Through programmatic channels like connected TV (CTV) and programmatic audio, marketers can fill their enrollment funnel, at a cost.

Below, we’re covering higher education market trends, and how higher ed marketers can leverage digital marketing to reach their ideal audience. 

In recent years there’s been significant changes in how higher education is delivered and marketed. Below, we’re exploring two key developments that are shaping the higher education market.

Growth of E-Learning

One of the biggest changes has been the embrace of online learning. In 2019, the global e-learning market was measured at nearly 200 billion US dollars. By 2026, it’s projected that the market will grow to almost 400 billion US dollars

The growth of e-learning is expected to continue, because this form of higher education is such an accessible way for people to access training and education. E-learning is typically more cost-effective than in-person learning. It’s also more accessible because it can be accessed from any location–students aren’t limited to enrolling in courses nearby their geographic location. 

Online learning is also an effective way for institutions and brands to deliver education. With new solutions making it simpler than ever to create online courses, e-learning is quickly becoming a go-to format for higher education. 

Embrace of Digital Marketing

Digital solutions aren’t just transforming higher education formats, they’re transforming the way higher education is marketed. Education institutions and brands are increasingly shifting away from traditional, in-person marketing, towards digital marketing and virtual events. This is because prospective students need to be reached where they are, which is online. 

One of the best ways to reach online audiences is with programmatic advertising. Through a programmatic platform, higher education marketers can purchase online ad space that targets their niche audience. Programmatic leverages data insights and algorithms so that higher education campaigns reach the right audience in real time, resulting in higher return-on-investment (ROI) and greater efficiency.  

Higher education marketing can use a mix of programmatic channels, like native, display, video, connected TV (CTV), audio, and in-game ads. This increases the likelihood of reaching your desired audience, and it helps marketers craft a brand story throughout the entire customer journey. And once a programmatic campaign is running, higher ed marketers can track the metrics that are most important, and use them to optimize for maximum performance.

Higher Education Digital Marketing Strategies

The higher education market is being increasingly shaped by the rise of online learning and digital advertising. There’s no better time than now to build a digital marketing strategy that will help you reach prospective students, where they are. 

Let’s dive into 4 digital marketing strategies that will help drive brand awareness and enrollments. 

1. Leverage Brand Messaging to Attract Students 

Brand messaging is a key aspect of higher education marketing. It’s through messaging that institutions can communicate to students and prospective students who they are, their offerings, differentiators, and more. 

Effective brand messaging begins with exploring the value that an institution is bringing to students, and then finding a way to help students identify with the brand⁠ through messaging.

For example, some students may want more than careers—they want to contribute to their educational experience and feel valued throughout it. Finding ways to highlight how an institution supports these values in brand messaging can help attract students.

Digital channels like blogs, virtual tours, websites, and programmatic campaigns all provide a great way to communicate brand messaging to prospective students. The key? Ensure that the brand messaging resonates with the actual experience of the institution, is consistent, and delivers value. 

2. Use a Multi-Channel Strategy to Reach Your Target Audience

In today’s digital marketing landscape, it’s important to leverage multiple tactics to maximize brand awareness. Since prospective students use a variety of devices and channels, it’s important to approach your targeting strategy holistically. 

Using a multi-channel strategy enables higher education marketers to reach students across different channels. This approach helps you to mimic the customer journey, which doesn’t usually stay confined to one channel. 

A multi-channel approach to higher education marketing also creates more visibility for an institution or brand. The more presence you have on various channels, the more visible your educational offerings will be. That presence also means more opportunities for engagement with your content and ads. 

3. Retarget Prospective Students 

Retargeting enables you to deliver online ads to prospective students based on their previous intent-based actions on the web. It’s an effective way to re-engage students who have seen one of your ads before, or shown interest in your courses or educational products. Retargeting will help move them down the funnel toward a conversion.

In higher education marketing, it’s important that your message is seen multiple times. It’s also key to ensure that the messaging is tailored according to where a prospective student is seeing it, and where in the funnel they are. 

Having more eyeballs on a higher education campaign isn’t always better. The real goal is to make sure you reach the right audience, at the right moment, and with the right messaging. Retargeting will help you do that!

4. Measure Campaign Impact With Brand Lift Study

A brand lift study measures the impact of your campaigns across all your programmatic channels. It typically will provide a picture of the consumer sentiment and brand affinity of people who have been exposed to your media. Marketers can leverage data-driven insights from a brand lift study that will help them to better align brand messaging and strategy.

Brand lift studies go beyond traditional metrics, like impressions. It helps you measure a campaign’s impact on consumer perceptions and behaviour. Let’s say an education institution has just launched its first marketing campaign around a new course offering, in a field that wasn’t offered before. 

The institution can run a brand lift study to understand whether their target prospective students are interested in the new course. The study can uncover how likely a student is to enroll in the new course, the perception a student has about the institution after seeing an ad for the course, or what institution comes to mind when a student thinks about that field of study. 

Level Up Your Higher Ed Marketing With Programmatic 

For the best higher education marketing strategy, campaigns should be built around a thorough understanding of potential students. Knowing in real time what potential students are looking for in terms of their education will help education marketers reach them with highly targeted messaging. 

Nowadays, thanks to programmatic platforms like StackAdapt, programmatic is accessible to anyone who wants to use it—it’s not just for those with high budgets.

Programmatic advertising will help higher education marketers reach a highly vetted set of users and also provide reporting that can be tied into an existing reporting function with the actual educational institution. 

For the best higher education marketing strategy, campaigns should be built around a thorough understanding of potential students. Knowing in real time what potential students are looking for in terms of their education will help education marketers reach them with highly targeted messaging. 

Want to run exceptional programmatic campaigns? Request a demo to learn more about StackAdapt.

Erin Hynes
Erin Hynes

Content Marketing Manager


Erin is a content marketer with experience crafting thought-provoking content that drives awareness and supports customer acquisition. She is also a travel writer and podcaster in the tourism space.