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The Right Marketing Strategies for Online Education Programs

The Right Marketing Strategies for Online Education Programs

The last few years have shown that online education programs have become pivotal to success across the higher education landscape. What became a trend during the COVID-19 pandemic is the new expected norm. According to a recent Inside Higher Ed study, 73% of college students want to continue taking online courses even after the pandemic is over.

Of course, this continued high demand breeds competition, as well. As students flock to online classes and degrees, the number of universities offering these programs has also skyrocketed

The result is a saturated market in which online course promotion becomes vital. After all, with geographic boundaries virtually non-existent, many institutions are now bidding for the same potential student leads. 

That, in turn, leads to a natural question: how can your institution stand out from that increasing competition? How can you ensure that your audience learns about and becomes interested in your online courses instead of those offered by other colleges and universities? 

This guide will detail five marketing strategies for online education, helping your programs stand out from the pack.

Table of Contents:

1) Find Virtual Ways to Promote Core Value Propositions

Ask any students on campus why they chose your school, and they'll likely describe feelings in addition to tangible advantages. "It just felt like home" and "I loved the campus atmosphere" will be among the most common responses. But for online students, those intangible feelings will be much more challenging to get across, making a strategic focus on your core value propositions vital.

Review your brand differentiators, the points that set you apart from your competition -- especially competitive universities that also offer online programs. Then, think through ways to effectively highlight these value propositions to online students. 

For example, you might pride yourself in a support system for online students beyond physical boundaries, like a 24/7 live chat or a virtual library system. Highlighting these virtual means of support on your website can help, as can testimonials from online students who have succeeded.

2) Build Your Online Lead Generation Pipeline

For online students, the recruitment pipeline becomes more important --and more defined. With campus visits out of the equation, finding other ways to get prospects into your database is vital.

That means the answer for how to promote an online course has to come with prioritizing your lead generation efforts

Potential strategies include: 

  • Optimizing your landing pages and web content for SEO, 

  • Building search-optimized YouTube videos, 

  • Creating and promoting gated content that requires a sign-up 

  • And building follow-up lead nurturing emails to students who provide their contact information.

Organic lead generation is complex, and its benefits for education are well-established. In building an online education marketing strategy, it should become the core throughline of any tactics designed to attract and recruit students.

3) Offer Webinars and Short Virtual Events on Core Topics

For traditional, on-campus students, the campus visit is not just important because they get to experience the university for themselves. It also helps them learn about specific topics of interest, with open houses often including student panels, financial aid sessions, and more. Online students don't benefit from these types of offerings, but that doesn't mean they have to miss out entirely.

Prospective online students likely don't have the patience to sit through day-long virtual events. The COVID-19 pandemic has shown that the appetite for shorter, topic-focused events is high--and that option offers significant opportunities for colleges looking to attract virtual students to online programs.

It's no coincidence that webinars are becoming increasingly popular among schools looking to attract online students. The format is perfect, allowing for short, focused, topic-specific sessions on anything from student life to financial aid. 

4) Refine Your Website for Online Program Promotions

Even if your online programs are only part of your educational offerings, your website needs to play a core part in promoting them. For prospective students, the website will become the HUB, the single point of truth as they seek educational opportunities. 

Fortunately, a few tricks can help you promote online courses and programs better through your website:

  • Create a custom program search or filter for online programs. This allows students to limit their search to the correct format immediately.

  • Create a landing page specifically for online programs linked on the homepage. You can list available programs here and highlight some of the opportunities mentioned above.

  • Refine your individual program pages for online programs, ensuring that the page name and core content are optimized for Google searches with the words 'online' and 'virtual.'

Your website becomes the hub for students looking for online programs, but it can also be the center to which your marketing and recruitment efforts link. 

5) Increase Your Focus on Digital Marketing Tactics

Promoting your online programs and increasing your investment in digital marketing have to go hand-in-hand. A comprehensive digital marketing strategy, including a significant focus on paid media, is vital to attracting the attention of potential students and breaking through the noise of online education offerings.

That means building campaigns on the social media channels most relevant to your target audience, from Instagram and Facebook to LinkedIn for prospective graduate students. It also means a search engine marketing strategy, ensuring prominent paid placement on relevant Google searches for online programs. Even channels like YouTube and streaming can be great ways to get your message out.

The key here is not just increasing your budget on these channels but ensuring they all work well together. A comprehensive digital marketing strategy with multiple touchpoints, highlighting your core value propositions for online programs, can go a long way towards gaining awareness and building enrollments for your programs.

Ready to Enhance Your Online Education Marketing Strategies?

In today's competitive environment, promoting online programs can seem like a massive challenge. Fortunately, you don't have to be on your own

If you're ready to work with an online education marketing agency that can guide you through all of the above and many other potential strategies, let's chat! We'll work with you to fill your enrollment funnel for this and future cycles.

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