6 Proven Ways to Attract The Right Students to Your Nursing Program
6 Proven Ways to Attract the Right Students to Your Nursing Program
A highly competitive field requires strategic digital marketing solutions to reach prospective nursing students.
Ask any nursing program director or head of marketing, and they’ll likely share with you how competitive the market is for prospective students. Demand is so great that the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts there will be 203,700 openings for nurses each year through 2025, or nearly 1,630,000 total openings over the next eight years. There is a growing recognition that traditional marketing activities are less effective with internal staff having to work harder to attract prospective students.
Well don’t work harder; work smarter. Here’s how.
A New Approach
The next generation of nursing students are tech-savvy digital natives that consume content differently. This new audience of potential nursing candidates is also increasingly skeptical of marketing that’s more promotional than informative, more general than personal, and fails to take into account their opinions and those of their peers. In actuality, you need to earn their trust and message to them in a way that is not phony or contrived.
Below we highlight 6 strategies that are successful in attracting new candidates for nursing programs -- and why these well-tested methods work so well.
One of the primary components of a successful digital strategy is content marketing. Content can take many forms including blog posts, videos, infographics, photos, and podcasts.
Unlike traditional marketing, content marketing delivers value to your prospects by building trust and relationships. The next generation of nursing school applicants is not comfortable with promotional language where they feel they are being sold something. Instead, they want to hear from current students, graduates, teachers, and even healthcare providers who have hired graduates from your nursing programs.
Some recommendations for creating content marketing pieces in place of traditional advertising could include advice on:
Evaluating whether a nursing program is right for them
Maintaining a school-life balance
Entering the job market after graduating
Financial payoff after earning a nursing degree
Each of these topics highlights your nursing program’s value proposition by answering the key questions your prospective students have, i.e. the reputation of your nursing school, your commitment to helping them navigate a path to graduation, your track record for placing students in good positions after graduation, and the financial reward for completing an advanced degree. In becoming a trusted resource, your goal is to provide content that stays relevant as your prospects move through their selection process and make their final decision about a program.
Work with your admissions staff and marketing team to identify the topics that are most important to nursing school candidates, how these fit into their decision-making process, and what the best format is to present to your audience (blogs, videos, infographics, etc.). Also remember, your target audience spends most its time on mobile devices, so it’s critical that content is easily viewed in multiple formats.
Everyone is familiar with social media platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube. Social media is a valuable channel for promoting your nursing programs because your preferred audience easily spends several hours per week on these sites. The relatively low barriers to starting and maintaining an organic social media presence also provide a low-cost means to amplify your content and drive visitors to your website.
So how can you increase the value of your social media, extend its reach and generate more prospects for your enrollment pipeline? For starters, make sure your social presence aligns with your overall content marketing goals.
It’s about being authentic, building relationships, and not just promoting your programs. Being self-serving or exploitive on social media is particularly frowned upon. Also remember that consistency matters so have your team post regularly to ensure ongoing interest. Most importantly, you need to think like your target audience. Always ask yourself before posting whether or not the content ads value and if it’s likely that a nursing school prospect would want to share it with their network.
How do you measure success? Both Facebook and LinkedIn have analytics tools to evaluate your performance. One way to measure success is the number of interactions (likes and shares) you generate. Another is the amount of traffic that your social efforts drive back to your website.
SEO, or search engine optimization, is the process of improving your website so that it attracts more unpaid visitors from search engines.
A typical SEO strategy includes 3 basic components:
Building a technically proficient website that is easily “crawled” by search engines.
Ensuring on-page SEO fundamentals are in place and optimized for the right keywords
Establishing domain authority and links to your pages using content marketing tactics.
Establishing technical proficiency should play a big part in your overall SEO strategy, it’s important that your development team or an outside consultant runs diagnostics and performs regular maintenance on your website's backend. This will ensure technical factors (site architecture, page speed, source code, and metadata are up to snuff.
Focusing on page fundamentals is also important and will go a long way to establishing good program visibility in organic search results. This means making sure that your nursing program pages have proper page titles, headlines and subheadings, and meta descriptions (a brief summary of each page’s content).
The core of a great SEO strategy is great content. As we’ve discussed, content is what your users are searching for and what will inevitably attract student prospects to your site.
When creating SEO content, remember to focus on what will appeal to your nursing audience instead of trying to create pages that rank well organically. Because search engines are getting more sophisticated it is less important to focus on keywords and you will see more success if you just concentrate on adding value and covering topics that appeal to potential nursing students and applicants.
Capturing the emails of qualified nursing school candidates can be a primary or secondary focus of your inbound marketing efforts. Once you have that coveted email, your goal should be to nurture that candidate through the decision-making process, being helpful, and assisting them with their final selection.
The goal of these efforts is to create an email automation process where prospects can be automatically sent information on a regular basis based upon their level of response and what they request or the actions they take on your site.
As a program director, these contacts are marketing gold. But it’s important to nurture relationships by following these best practices:
Don’t send generic mass emails. Always personalize emails and try to forge one-to-one communication catered to each individual prospect.
Avoid promotion and sales talk.
Be concise. You only have a few seconds to get a candidate's attention. Pictures and graphics can be effective as long as they don’t get in the way. Use catchy headlines that make someone want to open and read your message.
Ensure multi-device compatibility so candidates can open and read your emails on any type platform.
Drive users back to your site by including prominent CTA links in your messaging.
Paid Media (Search & Social)
For nursing programs with larger budgets, paid advertising allows you to rapidly increase your visibility on search engines such Google and social media sites like Facebook and LinkedIn.
Here are two main approaches to running paid media campaigns.
Paid Search: Google
Paid Google ads are typically based on a Pay per Click (PPC) model. With PPC, you only pay money when a prospective student clicks on your ad and is sent to your landing page.
Google PPC is based on keywords and involves bidding on specific terms and phrases that trigger your ads in their search results. Part of the art of running a successful PPC campaign is deciding which keywords to bid on and how much to bid. It is also critical that you have someone who is seasoned at setting up PPC campaigns in Google AdWords and that you create a campaign structure that can be easily evaluated and managed on a day-to-day basis.
These days, Google PPC is so competitive that it is important to carve out a niche for your specific nursing programs. We recommend trying to hone in on markets and geographic locations where you may have an advantage over competitors.
We recommend using analytics and conversion tracking to make sure that paid traffic is resulting in conversions and quality applicants. Otherwise, you are just wasting your advertising spend.
Paid Social: Facebook
In the pay-to-play world of social media, it's more important than ever to have social advertising as part of your digital strategy.
Due to its popularity, you have the ability to advertise on most of the major social media networks, although we are going to focus on Facebook. Facebook, and now Instagram, is the more mature of the social media networks when it comes to advertising.
The main strength of Facebook Ads is its unparalleled audience and targeting abilities. With more than 2 Billion, with a B, monthly active users, the chances the nursing students you are looking for are on Facebook. In addition to the size of the audience, the opportunity for you to target based not only on demographics (such as age and income) but also interests and behaviors. For example, you can serve a targeted ad to high school graduates interested in nursing studies.
Another tactic to reach potential students on Facebook is called Custom Audiences. In simplistic terms, a custom audience lets you reach those who have a relationship with your business, whether they are existing customers or people who have interacted with your business on Facebook or other platforms. You can upload an existing email list (the data will be hashed prior to upload) or create a list of people who visited your website.
The bottom line is Facebook provides many advantages for leaders in the nurse education field to find the right students for their nursing programs at the lowest cost per acquisition.
Forming strategic partnerships with organizations and companies in your field is a valuable way to extend your online marketing efforts and web presence. An advantage to working with nursing and medical associations, healthcare providers, and healthcare industry representatives can help you maximize resources, minimize duplication and forge goodwill.
From a content marketing perspective, strategic partnerships may feature co-authored articles and guest blog appearances on topics of interest to nursing students. Content can be shared on each website, posted on social media properties, or emailed to candidates on both lists.
Establishing these types of partnerships can be difficult and often take considerable time and effort, but the payoff is worthwhile.
Bonus Strategy: Third-party Display Advertising
Display advertising is another form of paid online marketing. With these ads, your promotional message appears on third-party sites and drive people to a landing page. The landing page expands on the message by providing visitors with the information promised in the ad.
While there are many platforms and methodologies for advertising online, display advertising works best if you can get in front of the right audience, in the right context. For example, the Lippincott online network (published by Wolters Kluwer) which includes the recognized brands NursingCenter.com and the award-winning journal The American Journal of Nursing, offers Colleges and Universities the ability to serve ads to nurses who may be considering an advanced degree while they are actively engaged with trusted, industry-specific content.
It is critical that you learn and begin to utilize these digital marketing techniques in order to expand the reach of your higher education nursing programs. The next generation of nursing students are digital natives and want to be reached and messaged to on their own specific terms. Capturing their attention using these digital tools and techniques is the best way to ensure you meet your program enrollment goals in 2018 and beyond!
For more information about how to reach nurses across the Lippincott network, please contact us.