The higher education marketing landscape is evolving rapidly. Gone are the days of generic mailings and emails to thousands of prospective students still achieving the desired recruitment results. In its place, university marketing personalization has become an increasingly important consideration.

Audiences demand it. Other industries have embraced it. And perhaps most importantly, personalizing your recruitment marketing has become straightforward enough to implement at scale and within most universities’ resource limitations.

Of course, it’s still not an easy proposition. After all, marketing and admissions offices alike have to contend with legacy promotional strategies designed for little more than reaching as many students as possible in one broad stroke. Still, with Gen Z increasingly expecting more messaging that is more personally focused on their unique needs, what was once optional has become a requirement for enrollment success.

Done right, university marketing personalization can go a long way to propel your messaging strategy. Let’s discuss why the concept matters so much. We’ll also examine how colleges and universities across sizes can build more personalized experiences for prospective students.

Enhanced Personalization Expectations Among Gen Z Audiences

Recruiting students for your institution almost necessarily means building marketing messages for Gen Z, the generation of nin to 24-year-olds that has followed millennials as the predominant high school student generation. That, in turn, means having to contend with important nuances that Gen Z has taken even further than its predecessors.

Key Characteristics of Gen Z

Above all, Gen Z is known as being the first true digital natives. They research information and connect to the internet at any time they desire. Put simply, they don’t know a world without technology at their fingertips.

But this generation also shares two other defining characteristics:

  • Members of Gen Z are more idealistic than any generation that came before them. They prioritize brand messaging that emphasizes a deeper purpose and can back up that purpose with real proof points.
  • Gen Z members also are more cynical toward brands than their predecessors. They can spot marketing and promotional messages from a mile away. They don’t react kindly when they feel they’re being ‘sold to’ with bold but empty promises.

That second point especially leads into our core discussion point for the day: the level to which high school students today expect personalization from any college messaging.

In fact, this is a defining characteristic of the average Gen Zer’s online experience. As one article and study put it, this generation is “demanding a degree of personalization that amounts to mind-reading.” But when that doesn’t happen, this audience has no problem turning away from one brand to another that provides personalization on a deeper level.

This priority remains true in the educational realm, as well. According to one Niche Survey, 79% of students said that personalized and relevant outreach influences their interest in a college. Unfortunately, that same survey found that only 16% of students thought the communications they did receive were relevant and personalized, uncovering a significant gap between expectation and reality.

What Types of Personalization Are Prospective Students Looking For?

Of course, personalization by itself is a relatively abstract concept. It only takes on relevance with a greater understanding of just what type of personalization your prospective students will expect from your messaging.

Most importantly, expected personalization in higher education marketing tends to be closely related to the information your students provide. In another development above and beyond its predecessors, Gen Z has no issues providing information to brands if it means they can receive more relevant information in return. For example, according to one study, 91% of high school students will provide some or all of their information on a college website if given the opportunity.

But when they do, they expect a tangible return. A mass email or mailing with the viewbook or generic text simply won’t do. Instead, they expect information about their area of interest, the degree they want to attain, and more.

As you gather more information about prospective students, the opportunities for personalization begin to increase. For example, updates about specific student clubs and organizations may become more viable, as will updates on specific events or even featured dining hall items based on dietary restrictions.

Ultimately, it comes down to sending the message that your institution is making an effort to get to know your prospective students and using that knowledge to build more relevant communications. That’s where university marketing personalization has the chance to become a significant win in your recruitment efforts.

The Increasing Viability of University Marketing Personalization

College applicant responding to messages that contain university marketing personalization elements

The theoretical benefits of personalization only matter to the degree to which they can be made reality. To be sure, personalized marketing messages have always been an option. But in past years and decades, it typically required extensive manual work—not to mention budgets—that most universities simply could not afford.

Fortunately, that truth is slowly changing. A wide range of new tools have enabled university marketers and recruitment professionals to build more personalization into their messaging streams. Examples that can support university marketing personalization include:

Advanced CRM systems

These enable automated list segmentations and workflows that send dynamic, personalized emails and text messages based on those segmented lists. Some CRMs even allow for custom content and images. This can make every email sent more specifically relevant to each recipient.

Personalized Printing Options

Gain the ability to dynamically insert custom text and images based on recipient lists. Think of it as the traditional mail merge, ported into Adobe Design files to create thousands of postcards, viewbooks, and more in one print run, all personalized to individual students.

Custom Website Content

This follows the same basic content outlined above. Examples include anything from personalized digital viewbooks to entire websites that change their content and even layouts based on previously known information about the visitor.

Segmented Digital Ads

These can change in messaging and even tone based on the students’ funnel stage, areas of interest, and more. Dynamic ad platforms like Meta (Facebook and Instagram) now allow for advanced targeting and micro-campaign options. You can use these tools to make every ad more relevant to its audience.

Personalized Student Dashboards

Create fully custom student experiences leading up to and for their start on campus. From student portals to custom interactive maps, these dashboards can shift enough for every student to feel like they’re personally being catered to on their way to college.

With these tools at their fingertips, university marketing personalization can finally fulfill Gen Z’s high (and rising) expectations. Ultimately, you can create a more relevant and successful messaging strategy.

Building a More Personalized Marketing Strategy for Your Institution

We’re just entering the age of marketing personalization in higher education. But already, countless opportunities have arisen for colleges and universities to build a more relevant online experience designed to fully meet and even exceed the high expectations of Gen Z.

To get there, of course, you need the right tools to succeed. Concept3D can become one of those tools.

Our long-standing experience in higher education has led to industry-leading calendars, interactive maps, and virtual tour solutions. Now, it’s time to leverage those solutions into a more personalized, relevant online experience for your prospective students. To learn how, and to partner with us on a more comprehensive strategy to reach Gen Z, contact us today.