How to Stretch your Education Marketing Budget


Every TAFE and university knows how important every dollar in an advertising budget can be. In June 2014, the Federal Government cut funding to colleges and universities, forcing them to raise their tuition costs for 2016. According to Business Insider, students are expected to pay anywhere from 30 to 60 percent more in fees for their degrees. It is unclear exactly how this will affect enrolment rates, so now is the time to make sure prospective students know how vital your courses can be to their lives.

How can you make the most of your higher education advertising budget? Here are six ways to stretch your higher education advertising budget by shrinking your costs and maximising your profits:

1. Pinpoint your exact budget and set it aside

No matter how well known or popular your institution is, you still have to advertise. Even renowned schools like Oxford and Harvard market their programs. Some of your programs might be better known than others, so if you do not tell people about what you have to offer, then how will they ever know to apply?

The best way to start marketing is to set a clear budget, a minimum and a maximum amount to dedicate to the marketing campaign. Go through your spreadsheets and outline a definite budget. Try to only include money that your know you can spare, and at this stage, do not anticipate getting any more funds. Planning for more money than budgeted might really hurt you in the long run if those funds never come in.

2. Outline what a successful pay-per-click (PPC) strategy looks like

Now that you know for sure how much money you can spend in your campaign, it is time to think about what a successful campaign will look like for you. What are your biggest long-term and short-term goals? Do you want higher enrolment rates or do you want more higher-achieving students to enrol? Is your institution looking to brand itself in a certain way? Are you publicising new online courses?

For this step, you will need to look at other examples of student outreach, such as on-campus tours and visits, to look at what is working more successfully. Are students who visit before applying more likely to enrol? Then maybe you should focus on getting more people into these tours. Find out which ways work best at getting students onto your website and interested in your courses, and promote them.

computing your budget

3. Rank your programs from most important to least important

If we were to advertise for Oxford, what do you think is the one program that everyone already knows about? It is probably theology. The university was originally a seminary and continues to be one of the most established schools for theological studies. So if you were marketing for Oxford, would you focus on the theology program or some of the lesser known programs? Did you know Oxford also offers engineering degrees?

Go through and rank your courses from the most important to the less important in terms of recognition. Which programs are define your school? Which ones are often forgotten?

Your focus should primarily be programs in the lower centre of your list. While it may be tempting to throw your entire budget at the courses at the top and bottom of the list, this is not a wise strategy. The courses at the top are probably well known enough that you do not need to excessively push them. Students already know where to go. While you shouldn’t necessarily ignore these courses entirely, it’s best to focus more of your budget on attracting new talent to other programs.

Focusing too much money on the lesser-known courses will only eat up your budget. You’ll have to send out more ads to get the word out, and you will probably not have any money left over for the other more deserving programs.

4. Research the amount of traffic each program might receive

Now go through that list one more time and do some traffic research on your lesser-known courses. Are you offering degrees in sculpting at a rural school, or agriculture in an urban setting? How big are these courses at other institutions?

Of your courses in the lower-middle section of your list, research the most popular courses and careers and publicise those so prospective students know just where to find you. For this step, you also might want to include a few of your top courses, just to remind students of upcoming events, such as tours or lectures, related to those courses.


5. Use analytics tools to track success

If you aren’t already using some sort of analytics tracking program, sign up for one immediately. For the basics, many companies turn to Google Analytics while others use marketing automation software to see how many people engaged with their marketing emails.

Go back to your original goals and remind yourself what success is going to look like. Maybe you want to generate so many leads or you want to improve your email click-through-rate (CTR). Your analytics should help you see where progress is being made and where it is still lacking.

For example:

  • Higher CTR: This means more people are opening your emails and clicking through all the way to your web page. If your landing page has a sign-up sheet, hopefully you’ll see a rise in the number of sign-up forms turned in.
  • Lower bounce rate: This could indicate that the people coming to your site are genuinely interested in your institution.
  • Higher volume of applicants: Clearly your marketing efforts are getting the word out about your programs, and more people are applying. You must be on the right track.
  • More sign-ups for campus tours: More tours might mean more applicants. 

6. Expand your successes

Now that you know what is working and what is not, it’s time to expand your marketing efforts and retool them to target those goals more efficiently.

If your goal was to get more applicants to apply and not many of them did, maybe your message wasn’t clear enough or you didn’t target the right leads. If you paid for advertising on social media sites like Pinterest and Facebook and they didn’t seem to do you much good, shift your budget away from social media advertising and push it towards something that does seem to be working.


No matter who you are, marketing is all about trial and error. When you have a tight budget, you may only be able to try so many routes at once, but if you keep your goals at the forefront of all your marketing endeavours and track your successes and failures, you should be able to see some results.

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