In higher education marketing, successful enrollment campaigns follow the most basic rule of relationship marketing: there’s no substitute for personal contact. Beyond “The Big Three” (Cost, Financial Aid, and Academic Reputation), Noel-Levitz’s comprehensive 2012 study reveals “Personalized Attention Prior to Enrollment” as the leading factor to enrollment among four-year private first-year students.

Despite this, the reality is that budgets are tight, resources are thin, and admissions and marketing departments must focus staff on the primary objective: increasing qualified applications. It’s the right thing to do, but it means that other important goals (like increasing applicant engagement) are sometimes neglected. Digital marketing has helped higher education marketers bridge that gap with follow-up email campaigns, social media outreach and more. These tools are great, but often when we talk with college and university marketing teams, their past campaigns share a common struggle to personalize at scale. Enter CRM retargeting – a relatively new way to serve extremely targeted, highly relevant display ads to select prospects segmented within your CRM database. Here are 3 opportunities to leverage CRM retargeting in higher education marketing campaigns driving enrollment in 2014:

1)      Immediate Follow-Up — CRM retargeting can help keep your institution’s name top of mind before a new prospect receives a brochure in the mail or a call from an admissions representative. Additionally, information gathered at first contact (e.g. degree program or major of interest) can inform custom display ad copy and creative that signals to the prospective student you’re listening to and serious about his or her unique interests.

2)      Post-Decision Engagement — Keep qualified prospects engaged and increase enrollment rates with targeted display advertising after decision letters are mailed. For instance, prospects offered admission to your institution’s business program could be served ads featuring prominent business school alumni endorsing the program, along with a link to video interviews focused on their careers in business.

3)      Social Advertising — Social media is a great way to connect with prospects, but assessing users’ qualifications can be difficult and time-consuming. CRM retargeting allows colleges and universities to combine segmented prospect data with scalable opportunities like Facebook Exchange and Twitter’s “Tailored Audiences” for extremely targeted, highly relevant social advertising. It’s a great way to stay a part of the conversation as qualified applicants move through the decision process.

Once segments are established and creative is ready, CRM retargeting can be launched quickly and managed as an extension of any higher education marketing campaign. With fall enrollment campaigns underway and spring campaigns in the planning stage, now is the time for higher education marketers to start thinking about leveraging these new capabilities for higher ROI and greater cost efficiency in the year ahead.