As university marketers, it’s our job to confront the dreams and apprehensions of prospects. But that’s not always easy. There’s a lot about university life that we might feel nervous about talking about in public spaces. Some topics might feel controversial and we worry about saying the wrong thing. Other times, we feel like we could end up diluting or cheapening the university brand.
But, most often, it’s these controversial topics that have the biggest impact on students’ day-to-day lives. They’re the elephant in the room when it comes to university marketing. And there’s no bigger elephant than the elephant of money.
Students worry about money constantly
Whenever we’re researching university marketing, it’s rare to find an institution that makes financial issues and services more than a footnote. Yet year after year, the data tells us that money is one of students’ biggest concerns. In a Save the Student survey, 79% of student respondents said they worry about making ends meet. Money Supermarket estimates that students have an average shortfall of £142 every month and that 1 in 3 students worry about money daily.
When 79% of your students worry about how they’re going to feed themselves each month, you can be sure that your prospects share those concerns. For marketers, though, that’s an opportunity to support students in ways they find valuable – ways that other institutions simply don’t.
Align your offering
The first step in addressing finances in your marketing is to ensure that there’s a well-defined policy in place. As marketers, we worry about stepping on toes or making promises the university can’t keep. When you have clearly set regulations and expectations in place, it becomes much easier to break the silence around financial issues. If your university has a financial services platform, consult with them to make sure you align communications with the services you’re able to provide.
Put finances front and centre
Most universities have a financial services platform in place that can help students with everything from applying for funding to managing household budgets. All too often, though, these services are linked at the bottom of course pages as an afterthought. Reassure students that you have their financial welfare in mind by bringing financial matters front and centre. In fact, it’s worth dedicating an entire section in your course page to ensure students know how you can help. Remember, the longer you hold a student’s attention, the more likely they are to enquire. Leverage financial support the same way you would any other USP.
Engage with the dialectic
Student finance is an on-going debate in both the UK and further afield. If you want to build trust with prospects, engage with the debate on social media and be transparent over your stance. Although this might feel a little scary, higher ed leaders are doing this right now over platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook and even national newspapers. Not everyone is going to agree with your position, but that’s ok. You lose less by taking a stand than you do by staying out of the conversation. Be clear about your values and attract the students that agree with you.
The impact of finances on your prospects’ choices in higher education can’t be overstated. If you want to attract more students, make sure they’re financial wellbeing is at the centre of your communications. When you can reassure students that their situation is your concern, you’ve put yourself that much further ahead than the universities who seem like they just don’t care.