Reaching High Schoolers Offline

Reaching High Schoolers Offline

Using marketing in real life to connect with prospective students

Bob Martin

When developing a marketing plan in the internet age, it can be very tempting to put all your focus on your digital advertising programs. And while such efforts are essential to a successful campaign, offline efforts are still a critical component to reaching your target audience. Yes, even high schoolers!

As you and your school’s marketing team work to engage those Generation Z students, consider these five important reminders for making your offline connections work just as hard as your digital media strategies.

1. Strive for authenticity

In a world where “influencer” (someone who has influence over purchase decisions because of their social presence) has become a career aspiration for many, most of your younger prospective students are not eager to hear from paid actors, listen to highly scripted pitches, or receive generic marketing messages about your school. High school students today are looking to hear from real people who really believe in the school, like current students and graduates of your programs who can speak openly and honestly about why they enrolled and how they’re succeeding. This is a chance to show prospective students exactly how they can find what they’re looking for at your school.

High school seniors are constantly hearing from a wide range of schools about their options for postsecondary education. These students are looking for a choice that speaks directly to them.

2. Connect to the big picture

Many high school seniors and recent graduates are thinking of skipping the traditional four-year university degree because they don’t see how it will connect directly with their career goals. They want to find a program that will get them where they want to go, not just because it’s the next step in a conventional educational journey.

Still, that’s often a big transition in point of view for students who have likely been going to school each August or September for a dozen years simply because that is what has been expected of them. Take this opportunity to show current high school students or recent graduates how many new options they have available for postsecondary education—and how they can take advantage of those new choices through career training programs. Be sure to highlight nontraditional features that your school provides, like leaving general education requirements behind, online course availability, flexible scheduling, shorter terms and program lengths, certification preparation, or career assistance programming.

3. Leverage the power of referrals

With all of the innovations and trends and fads in marketing, it’s still true that nothing beats word-of-mouth. Getting students to tell their friends, their family, their coworkers, their former classmates, and their other networks about the great experience they’re having in school is one of the surest ways to pique a prospective student’s interest and get them wanting to know more about your programs.

We’ve heard from many students who say they chose their school based on a friend or acquaintance’s recommendation—and also that what really sold them on a program was later hearing directly from the school during an open house or high school presentation. The referral they got helped open them up to hear what the school’s representative had to say during an event and made them much more receptive to learning more. When you talk to current students succeeding in your programs, ask them to share their experience with their high school alma mater or with their personal and professional networks.

4. Prioritize engagement

While brand awareness campaigns remain important for getting your school’s name in front of prospective students, the end goal should always be getting those students who are interested in your programs to engage with you. Create opportunities for conversation through in-person events like open houses, tours, student shadowing days, and alumni spotlights.

Generation Z students are looking for connection, not just a box to check. Encouraging prospective students to feel like they are part of a community, showing them how their unique point of view and strengths can be leveraged in their program of choice, and promoting a sense of partnership between student and school can all go a long way toward demonstrating the benefits of enrolling at your school.

The most successful marketing campaigns incorporate several different efforts to create a well-rounded strategy—including both online and offline programs. If you’re looking for additional ways to capture interest from prospective students, the Imagine America Foundation offers organic lead generation for our member schools. We would love to talk to you about how to reach high school students with our high-quality leads; email Lee Doubleday at today!


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