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How to boost revenue at your university

by Elisa Esposito
 
When it comes to generating revenue on your campus, there are probably four main areas you’re paying the most attention to: admissions, athletics, advancement and alumni relations. But did you know there may be more you can do in these areas? It comes down to how you’re using collected data and personalization in your marketing tactics.

With universities becoming more reliant on tuition dollars and donations due to cuts in state and federal funding, and students having a choice of where to spend their money when it comes to higher education — choosing between traditional, online or alternative institutions — results-proven marketing tactics may be more critical now than ever.

The following article will identify ways to use data and personalization to help attract the right students to your university, and build a loyal alumni network to help boost your incoming revenue in these four main areas.
 

Admissions

Reach students through different outlets and personalization

Today’s market for new students is highly competitive and universities can no longer rely on traditional marketing tactics to hit enrollment goals. In fact, 40% of private and 30% of public institutions reported missing at least one enrollment goal of increased first-year student numbers or tuition revenue for the 2016 academic year.1

The problem is that recruiting in higher education remains rooted in traditional approaches — such as impersonalized mailers, generic user experiences on their website, and a reliance on high schools and counselors to inform students  — that don't take advantage of students’ affinity and familiarity with social media and digital marketing.2

The answer lies in personalizing communication with students and sending those messages in formats students are most responsive to. The goal of personalized communication is to craft the right message, and get it to the right student, at the right time. With the updated education services, tools and software, you can incorporate results-driven personalization into all of your communication and marketing to prospective students.
Girl at desk with computer celebrating her birthday
According to a Hanover Research report on 2016 trends in higher education marketing enrollment and technology, universities today are focusing more on aligning the digital experience with personalization efforts.

An effective and intuitive website, which is often the “ultimate brand statement” for an institution, is among the most important marketing tools in higher education. Therefore, today’s institutions should focus on website personalization and optimization in order to enhance student enrollment. Each campus website visit can further develop a student’s user profile, helping content to become more and more targeted, and encouraging prospective students to matriculate.

An effective and intuitive website, which is often the “ultimate brand statement” for an institution, is among the most important marketing tools in higher education. Therefore, today’s institutions should focus on website personalization and optimization in order to enhance student enrollment. Each campus website visit can further develop a student’s user profile, helping content to become more and more targeted, and encouraging prospective students to matriculate.3

In my experience with higher education institutions, the more they know about prospective students, the better they can use technology for personalized, one-to-one marketing on multiple channels. I’ve seen several universities use digitally printed mailers with personalized information — combined with an email campaign — to bring in more inquiries to their websites and recruiting departments. They also bring higher-quality students who eventually become alumni and donors.

The key is to use various types of media to engage students at different points throughout their college decision-making process. These can include data-driven print materials, PURL marketing, email campaigns, short message service, social media and mobile media.

I recently heard of one notable Midwest university that sends potential applicants a happy birthday mailing around the student’s birthday with a “free gift” of a limited-time waived application fee. In this case, this highly personalized communication came with an added incentive to apply.
 
Back of baseball player

Athletics

Stand out to student athletes

When you’re an accomplished high school athlete, it can feel like hundreds of schools are vying for your attention and your enrollment. Consequently, your university has to grab that student’s attention to even have a slight chance at winning them over.

"When our stuff is on the floor in a prospect's room next to Michigan's and Oklahoma's, we want CU to stand out within the tight restrictions of the NCAA,” said Cory Hilliard, Associate Athletic Director/Chief Financial Officer at University of Colorado, in an article appearing on ESPN.com.4

Using collected data and personalization tactics can help your university’s information reach students. Be sure to include the name of the student you’re targeting and information about your school’s athletic program and the specific sport they are interested in.

Advancement and continued education

Target the corporations you want to partner with

In order to generate support for teaching, research and public service missions, build strong bonds with the community and national organizations, and create awareness for your university, you must employ data-driven techniques. These techniques should be paired with personalized communication to target individuals and organizations where they are most responsive.

Many universities have yet to fully integrate their advancement operations and use customer relationship management (CRM) strategies to personalize their communication with donors.4 Integrated offices that utilize proper support and software can develop ways to not only individualize communications with donors but also track marketing messages, event attendance, areas of support and donors’ personal interests to create and maintain long-term relationships.
Two women walking together collaborating
The book “Perspectives on Perspectives on Fund Raising” from the “New Directions for Higher Education” journal states: “The explosion in advanced communication technology offers even more opportunities to pinpoint relevant information to share with specific donors and maintain the type of long-term, relevant relationship that leads to fundraising success.”5
 

“The explosion in advanced communication technology offers even more opportunities to pinpoint relevant information to share with specific donors and maintain the type of long-term, relevant relationship that leads to fundraising success.”

 

Alumnian

Do more than ask

While your university’s alumni may be a huge source of incoming revenue, it can’t be all about asking for donations. Alumni today must feel enticed to give, especially if they’ve recently handed over their final tuition check. And just as students do with recruitment and enrollment, alumni should feel as though they have been specifically sought after and personally communicated with. This can be done through data on the potential donors and personalization.

Row of student graduating focusing in on caps
When equipped with the right data on your targeted audience, you can better seek donations using personalization, and share updates on your university about areas of interest, past and upcoming events, big games, advanced degrees and more. And do it in a format your alumni are responsive to — figure out what works for who and stick to it, whether it be email campaigns, social media, phone calls or mailings such as newsletters.

McMaster University relies on personalization to publicly thank donors who give online or phone donations through their social media channels. Erin O'Neil, Alumni Digital Engagement Officer for McMaster, says the key is to inform, delight and empower current and future alumni.
 

"Delight' is something that we talk about a lot in the office," said O’Neil in an article appearing on case.org. "If we can make something a little more enjoyable, and it's not going to cost us anything resource-wise, then we'll take that opportunity."6

"People don't want to brag about themselves, but they will gladly participate if someone else wants to brag about them," said O'Neil. "So we basically say that we will brag about them if they let us."

 

By challenging traditional marketing methods and incorporating cross media and personalization, you can reach prospective students, athletes, corporations and alumni in new and original ways. Doing so can help result in increased enrollment and revenue at your university.

Get their attention

Find out more about Ricoh’s personalized mailing solutions and how to engage prospective students.
 
Yet often, universities aren’t equipped with the right tools, staff or resources to launch advanced marketing tactics focused on specific revenue-generating initiatives. Teaming up with the right outside partner can help take your university’s messaging where you need it and help you connect with prospective and past students.

Learn more about the tools, resources and insight Ricoh has to offer to help get your revenue goals on track.
 
Elisa Esposito
Elisa Esposito, Senior Manager, Channel Marketing, Higher Education for Ricoh USA, Inc., responsible for vertical marketing strategy, development and success to ensure strategic alignment for higher education customer environments. Esposito has worked with Ricoh’s strategic partner, Blackboard, to create the industry’s first scanning and printing connector that unites information from a Ricoh multifunction device to integrate within Blackboard Learn.
 
 
1Jarrett Carter. "35% of colleges missed enrollment goals in 2016". EducationDIVE. December 12, 2016. http://www.educationdive.com/news/35-of-colleges-missed-enrollment-goals-in-2016/432131/
2Pat Donachie. "Universities not taking full advantage of digital marketing".  EducationDIVE. April 19, 2017. http://www.educationdive.com/news/universities-not-taking-full-advantage-of-digital-marketing/440784/
3 "2016 Trends in Higher Education Marketing, Enrollment, and Technology." Hanover Research. November 2015. 
4Mitch Sherman. "Balancing the recruiting budget". ESPN.com. June 12, 2012. http://www.espn.com/college-sports/recruiting/football/story/_/id/8041461/the-cost-recruiting 
5 J. Bradford Hodson and Bruce W. Speck. "Perspectives on Fund Raising". New Directions for Higher Education, Number 149. March 2010.
6Theresa Walker. "GIFs that Keep on Giving". Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE). <br>March / April 2017.  http://www.case.org/Publications_and_Products/2017/MarchApril_2017/GIFs_that_Keep_on_Giving