3 Digital Marketing Tactics Every Higher Ed Institution Should Be Using

Posted: July 3, 2024

Christian Jessup Company Marketing Manager

Here at VisionPoint Marketing, we take pride in the way we constantly test new channels, technologies, and approaches for higher ed. Having been a digital marketing agency since our inception 23 years ago, we’ve honed our processes to ensure that only the top-performing ads are fed with the lion’s share of our digital marketing budgets to consistently maximize ROI.

And while we’re not here to reveal all of our secrets (until you partner with us, of course!), there are a few big-picture strategies and tools we think every higher ed marketer should take advantage of. Let’s dive into three of those tools today, starting with…


Given the prominence of list buys and builds in higher ed, it’s surprising just how many institutions are either unaware of lookalike audiences and list targeting or just not fully utilizing these tactics in their ad campaigns.

Lookalike audiences allow you to find prospective students who resemble your current student base, making it easier to connect with individuals likely to be interested in your institution. By providing a source audience, such as your current students or website visitors, platforms like Google, Programmatic Display, and Facebook analyze shared traits to create a new, similar audience. This approach helps you engage with high-potential prospects who align with your institution’s values and offerings.

List targeting, on the other hand, lets you customize ads for a specific group of individuals using their email addresses. By uploading your email list to advertising platforms, you can match these addresses with user accounts, ensuring your ads reach the right audience. This targeted approach is ideal for engaging prospective students who have already shown interest in your institution, allowing you to craft personalized messages that resonate with them.

Combining lookalike audiences and list targeting amplifies your reach, enabling you to connect effectively with both new and existing prospects, ultimately boosting enrollment and enhancing your institution’s impact. We’ve covered the topic in more depth if you’re interested in learning more.


We’ve also written at length about this ad type in the past, but programmatic advertising is a powerful tool that leverages advanced technologies and algorithms to automate media buying, optimizing the placement of ads based on user signals.

Unlike traditional ad buying, programmatic advertising assesses these signals in real time to determine the best platforms for serving ads, making it an efficient and effective method for reaching a broad audience, a tactic we used to great effect with the San Mateo County Community College District. By using demand-side platforms (DSPs), advertisers can purchase ad inventory across multiple publishers and platforms simultaneously, ensuring a wide reach and precise targeting.

Our work with SMCCCD utilized programmatic advertising to reach targeted audiences.

In contrast to “normal” display ads, which are typically bought on a single network like Google, programmatic advertising offers greater flexibility and scalability. Programmatic platforms enable advertisers to control their audience, bidding strategy, budget, creative assets, and placements, ensuring ads are served to the most relevant users. This approach not only maximizes the efficiency of ad spend but also provides access to a large pool of potential customers, making it an ideal strategy for higher education institutions aiming to boost brand awareness and drive enrollment.

One of programmatic advertising’s key advantages is its cost-effectiveness and ease of implementation. Advertisers can reach their targeted audience within any budget due to the vast supply of inventory and diverse targeting options. For higher education institutions, incorporating programmatic advertising into their media plan can significantly increase brand visibility and support other marketing efforts across the enrollment funnel.


At the end of the day, what good is it to utilize tactics like list targeting and programmatic advertising if you don’t have full insight into their performance? Using a reliable reporting platform to track ad performance enables higher ed institutions to consolidate and analyze data from various sources and then optimize their marketing efforts accordingly.

Many CRMs can integrate with ad platforms, allowing for seamless tracking of prospective student interactions across multiple touchpoints and providing a holistic view of the enrollment funnel. Even platform-specific tools like Google Ads and Facebook Insights can offer substantial insights, helping institutions monitor campaign performance, user behavior, and engagement without additional costs.

VisionPoint’s Enrollment Drive offers a comprehensive approach tailored to the unique challenges faced by higher education marketers. It integrates data across traditional, digital, organic, and CRM marketing strategies, providing insights that help institutions analyze, adapt, and convert more effectively. With performance dashboards that delve into performance by channel, campaign, and ad group, along with data quality audits to capture accurate insights, Enrollment Drive ensures institutions can make informed strategic decisions.

And, of course, working with VisionPoint also means continuous support and consultation. From dashboard setup and advanced tracking to ongoing reporting analysis, our team ensures that higher education institutions not only receive data but also understand and act on it. This comprehensive support helps maximize marketing spend, save staff time, and ultimately drive better enrollment outcomes.

In today’s competitive landscape, higher education needs enrollment marketing, brand, and lead nurturing solutions that work now. VisionPoint has the experience and expertise to deliver those solutions today. With VisionPoint you maintain ownership and control while we optimize your enrollment marketing resources – systems, talent, and budgets – to achieve the outcomes you desire. If you’re ready to take your marketing efforts to the next level, sign up for a free consultation to learn how we can partner with you to achieve your enrollment goals.