Marketing and Education – Student Recruitment – Using the Full Marketing Mix – Part 1

Dr. Brian Monger


Student Recruitment Marketing Needs to be more than Advertising

What Should Effective Marketing Involve?

What is Needed to Market Better? To Recruit (and Retain) Students

Know the Situation/Environment

The Most Important Element – Know Your Market

Know the Market – In Great Depth – or Be Less Effective, or even Fail

The Four Basic Questions of Marketing

Understanding the Market in a Marketing Way

What Do Student Buyers Like?

Basic Student Expectations

Targeting Student Segments for Recruitment

Bases for Creating Segmentation Profiles


How does one influence the mindset of prospective students to view the university as valuable?

How does one effectively highlight the unique features of a university, going beyond the act of plastering a generic message?

How can you win their trust and translate the marketing campaign into generating actual numbers?

What are the digital marketing must haves?

What is the expected impact of deregulation – what this means for student recruitment and how can you best respond?


Going beyond the act of plastering a generic message

Education management is never just about the education of students. Education has become primarily about income.

The four most important sources of income for universities are:


Student fees,

Government funding

Donations, and

Income from work performed.


Student Recruitment Marketing Needs to be more than Advertising

Students are a primary market for all institutions and thus a focus for their “marketing”. For most educational institutions, the term, “marketing” equates basically to only part of true marketing – Promotion. That limited understanding even makes the Promotional activities in recruiting half-baked.

A focus on how to communicate an effective promotional message using general or social media is good, but not very effective if your overall marketing strategy is weak

Modern marketing is about putting the customer/buyer/student in the centre of all strategy. This primary focus of the organisation/institution is on first considering and then providing value to the customer/client. That is an outwards focused basis for effective strategy development. For many educational institutions, the focus continues to be inwards – on themselves. Making income to maintain the organisation (and its managers) is the number one priority

There are, of course, people within educational institutions who are focused on better education, but they are rarely the ones in management.


The way institutions go about recruitment tends to be emphasised by the lack of marketing understanding, knowledge and practise, in particular the sole or major focus on a Promotional strategy.


That is a very limited approach for good marketing. A wider (modern) marketing model is needed. The most common model of developing a marketing strategy for (segmented and targeted) markets is the 4 P’s Marketing Mix. Not just Promotion, but also Product, Placement and Pricing.

This is not to say that the other three are completely ignored. Rather they usually play a poor second fiddle to Promotion in developing an effective marketing approach.


Promotional Marketing is to be addressed in the next article in this series – Successful Student Recruitment Strategy – Promotion

What Should Effective Marketing Involve?

At a basic level, marketing should include the following important elements:


  • Becoming customer focused rather than self/product orientated       Understanding (through researching) the market and finding out what students value is a better way (both effective and efficient)


  • Understanding that the broad market needs to be segmented. Just using demographic descriptors is not going to give sufficient depth of understanding. What is more, competitors are using the same descriptors.


  • Developing and designing a strategy based on the best value proposition (a combination of product, price, and promotion) and delivering that offering so that it satisfies customers value perceptions


What is Needed to Market Better? To Recruit (and Retain) Students

The first part of developing any good marketing strategy is to have a good understanding of what modern marketing is about. That starts with having effective marketing people – actual trained and experienced marketers, not just Promotion folk (eg. Advertising/PR). They are very useful for part of mix, but not so without the other elements.


If you have proper marketing people then the next two factors are essential to develop an effective marketing strategy:

Know the Situation/Environment

No activity happens in a vacuum. It is necessary to have a good understanding of the elements such as the following


  • The Organisation.
  • The Market.
  • The Competition.
  • The Economy
  • Suppliers
  • Government Bodies
  • Employees
  • International factors
  • Action Groups
  • The General Public


The Most Important Element – Know Your Market

Know your Market – Understanding as much as possible about “buyers” in order to design marketing programs that meet their needs most effectively.


All market behaviour and decisions occur within a specific set of circumstances or a particular context. Buyer behaviour and the value(s) they seek will change according to the specific purchase situation. Put simply, people behave differently in different situations.


Know the Market – In Great Depth – or Be Less Effective, or even Fail

Understand as much as possible about buyers (students, their agents and influencers) in order to design marketing programs that meet key needs most effectively.


Most educational marketing is largely Undifferentiated marketing. That is ignoring segment differences and offering just one product to one broad market. A sure recipe for lacklustre performance


The alternative is Differentiated marketing, which involves marketing in a number of segments, developing separate marketing strategies for each.   Through differentiated, products and associated promotional appeals developed for the various segments.


A third alternative, concentrated marketing, is used when the institution selects one target segment and attempts to capture a large share of it. Once a rare thing in educational marketing, but an increasing trend.


The Four Basic Questions of Marketing

There are four primary questions to be asked in a marketing focused approach:


  1. What is the situation in which we will be operating? Everything relates differently in different situations of contexts.


  1. Who are they? Marketing recognises that not everyone is going to be your customer. The organisation needs to determine who the best markets (target segments) are.


  1. What do they want? What value(s) do they seek? What are the key preferences and expectations of potential students?


  1. What do we want? Determining its goals and objectives enables the organisation to better understand which markets to target in order to utilise its talents and resources to the best effect.


These questions are the bases for developing an effective business development strategy (including Promotional efforts) that will enable the organisation to fulfil customer’s needs, better than competitors can. It will also identify changes in the marketplace that can affect the bottom line.


Understanding the Market in a Marketing Way

Apart from the four basic questions, a marketing approach and plan should also answer these questions:


  • Is there a specific demand for our value proposition (product – goods, and services)?
  • Are there competitors who provide the same or similar propositions? For most educational providers the answer is certainly “yes”.
  • Can we effectively compete in value terms (price, quality and delivery) with the market leader(s)?
  • Will our target market meet our goals and objectives? Will it meet organisational needs?


What Do Student Buyers Like?

In order to succeed in marketing it is vital that we understand some of the psychology behind the reason why buyers like things. The following suggestions will help you succeed more often in your dealings with students:


1)         Students like all buyers always like things that represent value – that is what they perceive they are getting is greater than what they have to invest. This is much more relevant than a simple low price.


2)         Students want as much (useful to them) quality as they can get for their investment.


3)         Students want to feel good as often as possible.


4)         Like all buyers, students often like things, which they associate with past good feelings, and nostalgia.


5)         Students like things when they represent the next natural stage in their ongoing relationship with what they want to be.


6)         Student Buyers like things that appeal to (all or some of) their senses.


7)         Students like things, which are a demonstration of their preferred lifestyle and beliefs.


8)         Students tend to like things to agree with what their friends and other peer groups expect.


9)         Student buyers tend to like things because they are already familiar and comfortable with them.


Basic Student Expectations


Friendliness: The most basic of all customer needs, friendliness is usually associated with politeness and courtesy.


Understanding and empathy: Another basic customer need. Usually associated with being treated politely and courteously.


Fairness: The need to be treated fairly – and not just administrative fairness.


Control: Control represents a need to feel they have an impact on the way things turn out.


Options and alternatives: Students need to feel that other options are available to getting what they want accomplished.


Information: Students want to be informed about the benefits and features as well as other key factors involved in the exchange with your organisation.



Targeting Student Segments for Recruitment

Target market identification isolates prospective student (buyers) with similar segmentation profiles (situational factors, lifestyles, benefits sought and the like) and increases the amount and quality of our knowledge of their requirements. The more recruitment marketers can understand buyers (and their influencers), the more effective they will be in addressing these requirements in developing marketing mix strategies (as well as effective promotional communications programs – informing and persuading potential students that the product offering will best meet their needs, over competitive offerings.


Marketers competing in all product categories are constantly searching for the best ways to segment their market, in an attempt to better understand and then satisfy customers’ needs.


Firms need to consider how they can utilise their limited resources to best target and service each segment.

Segments are changeable and as people and company’s change, so must the segmentation variables to ensure a full and accurate reflection of the market.


Variables are never used in isolation and top marketers often use 20 or 30 variables to establish segments.


The Segmentation and Targeting Process Involves Six Steps:

  1. Identifying the General Category (such as the Indonesian market),
  2. Segmenting the General Category (identifying different types of preferences within that huge market descriptor). Finding the best bases (ways) to group buyers according to their needs.
  3. Targeting specific segments (the markets where you can create a better value offering than your competitors and selecting the target segments toward which the institution directs its marketing strategies and tactics
  4. Strategically positioning your offer (creating an image or concept for the mind of the consumer of your product/value offer bundle that best matches their idea of best value).
  5. Taking optimal marketing actions to reach target segments. Developing a value offer-market grid to relate the needs of the target segment(s) to the firm’s offer (products and actions).


Bases for Creating Segmentation Profiles

There are very many bases and combinations available for segmenting markets and creating target segment profiles. In order to get a good profile (description and understanding of the market) marketers should use or a combination of these approaches. The following are some of the approaches. The basics are (in some order of general effectiveness)

  1. Situation of Context Segmentation; (Strong current influences)
  2. Benefit (value Sought) Segmentation;
  3. Behavioural Segmentation;
  4. 4. Lifestyle (Psychographic) Segmentation and last (and least effective)
  5. Descriptive (Demographic) Segmentation – plus some alternatives.

Organisations can use each generally or by focusing on their more specific sub elements within those categories.


Identify the most attractive benefits and features of your program. These “attractive benefits and features” need to be largely determined by students, not just by the staff of the institution.


Certainly the institution needs to provide programs that are also within their Mission and objectives, but if the students do not value these then it will form a neutral or even negative aspect to their decision making).


An example of not considering students sufficiently is shown when far too many course offerings are unimaginative and often developed with internal political requirements in mind


Perception – Sometimes the features offered do not need much by way of actual change. Perhaps the perceptions of the prospective students can be changed though effective communication.

* Like all people, student buyers “buy” benefits. Features tend to be the elements (both goods and services) that deliver the benefits sought


Parts  2 and 3 can be found in our other blogsite –


If you are interested in this subject, you may be interested in this forthcoming event in Sydney in early December

Marketing and Communicating for
Student Recruitment and the
Australian Higher Education Sector

One-day connected forum with two half day workshops
3-4 December 2014, Rydges Sydney Central

Listen, network and learn from your peers:
Macquarie University
Australian National University
Charles Sturt University
University of Technology, Sydney
University of Southern Queensland
University of Melbourne
International College of Management Sydney
University of New England


Did you find this article useful?  Please let us know

These articles are usually taken from notes from a MAANZ course.  If you are interested in obtaining the full set of notes (and a PowerPoint presentation) please contact us –

Also check out other articles on

MAANZ International website

Smartamarketing Slideshare (

Join Dr Brians LinkedIn groups:

Marketing – Dr-Brian’s-Marketers-Network

Management/Project Management – The Project Management Information Network.



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