HealthFebruary 06, 2024

Six proven ways to attract the right students to your nursing program

A one-size-fits-all marketing campaign will no longer attract nurses to your programs; nurses now want content-driven, informative marketing materials that address their expectations and concerns about higher education.

The demand for nurses is growing at a rapid pace. The projected percent change in employment for registered nurses is 6% from 2022 to 2032—twice the rate of all occupations in sum, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports.

As employers struggle to fill their ranks, marketers of advanced degree programs for nurses face a competitive market for students. The marketing and advertising landscape has also become more complex, as young professionals consult a growing variety of online and personal resources.

Now, a one-size-fits all campaign isn’t effective; nurses expect content-driven, informative marketing materials that address their expectations and concerns about higher education. Engaging them requires a multichannel, value-driven marketing approach as a result.

Appealing to Gen-Z nursing students

Nurses at the start of their education and careers bring their own unique habits, expectations, and objectives to the profession. Younger nurses consume content differently than their older counterparts; they are more likely to be skeptical about marketing that doesn’t engage them honestly and directly.

Smart marketers perceive this as an opportunity, where the right digital marketing techniques can differentiate their advanced degree programs from competitors. Consider the following six marketing techniques when engaging new candidates for your advanced degree programs.

1. Content marketing

Content marketing is characterized by the creation and distribution of value-added content, or content that has inherent value to its audience. This differs from traditional advertising in that the content itself is an asset, not simply an enticement to take action or seek additional information.

Content comes in many forms, but it is most often associated with digital assets, such as:

  • written content, such as blog posts, journal articles, or downloadable white papers and eBooks
  • audio content, such as podcasts and webinars
  • video content, such as webcasts, YouTube videos, or live-streamed events

Unlike advertising, content marketing must focus on the delivery of immediate value to your audience. Nurses seeking advanced degrees, for example, have unique challenges they hope your content can help them solve. Some of the biggest challenges include:

  • balancing program quality with overall costs
  • finding programs that align with their professional goals
  • achieving flexibility through either online, traditional, or blended learning programs 
  • finding reasonable education financing options

Your content can help them solve these problems, guide them towards solutions, and position your brand in a genuine and favorable light. Content marketing is therefore a more “authentic” form of engagement, with proven results in terms of conversions.

2. Social media marketing

Social media marketing has become highly effective for recruitment. Roughly 80% of all job seekers use social media; meanwhile, 73% of job seekers ages 18 to 34 found their last job via social media channels, EBN reports.

In general, social media marketing is flexible and affordable for marketers. This may include cost-free elements like a company page in the case of Facebook or LinkedIn, and regular social posts on the part of your employees. It may also include paid social advertising, which can push your social content or custom ad content directly to target audiences. Users exchange personal and behavioral data for use of these platforms, which makes this targeted approach possible.

But while the barriers to adoption are low, the relevance of your activity is even more important. Users approach social media to build real relationships, and they approach brands on social media with those same intentions.

Users often recommend social media content to friends and professional contacts as a result. Since word of mouth is a common learning resource among nurses, social media serves as an excellent approach to spread the word about your programs. Most platforms provide advanced analytics that report on social sharing and engagement of your content as well, among other activities.

To be clear: content and social media marketing overlap in that you must post frequent content to social media channels to look active and remain relevant to nurses. However, unlike content marketing, social media marketing requires greater participation on the part of your employees. Expectations for immediate responses are higher among social media users — your teams must be equipped to respond to questions and guide actions on short notice.

3. Search engine optimization (SEO)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of improving pages on your website so that they attract more unpaid visitors from search engines. Since SEO is mostly confined to your own website, it’s affordable and approachable to marketers.

Google click-through rates on top organic results reached 39.8% in 2023—a high-performing metric compared to click-through rates via digital channels like email and advertising. Optimized SEO helps your job opportunities reach those top organic results during relevant searches.

There are countless techniques associated with SEO that a trained expert can implement. Successful SEO requires time, expertise, and ongoing improvements as your website evolves. But broadly speaking, an effective SEO strategy includes three basic components:

  • Building a technically proficient website that is easily “crawled” by search engines
  • Ensuring on-page SEO fundamentals are in place and optimized for the right keywords
  • Establishing domain authority and links to your pages using content marketing tactics

The last component is perhaps the most difficult because it involves external sites. But it is among the most important when engaging nurses. Nurses seeking advanced degrees often turn to nursing specialty journals and journal articles when looking for information on advanced degrees. The more third-party websites of this kind that link to your web content, the more likely nurses will find you online.

4. Email marketing

Email marketing remains among the most successful forms of digital marketing to date. In 2023, marketers were six times as likely to get click-throughs from email campaigns compared to social media campaigns. That’s because email marketing requires an initial action on the part of your target audience — an exchange of their email address in good faith for something of value. Companies of all types often use downloadable content to drive engagement and capture emails for this purpose.

But while email marketing remains successful in marketing terms, its efficacy is fading because of volume. Audiences of all types simply receive too many emails, some of which are malicious. As a program director, it’s critical that you nurture your relationships with key best practices in mind:

  • Personalize emails for recipients in a way that forges a one-on-one relationship
  • Avoid salesy language
  • Ensure your email content is user-friendly, no matter the user’s device
  • Be concise, to the point, and quick to drive value for recipients
  • Drive users to your site or other content with a prominent call to action

Leverage every insight you have about your audience before creating email content. Personalizing emails effectively is what distinguishes you from unwanted solicitors in nurses’ inboxes.

5. Search engine marketing (SEM)

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is a paid-advertising method of ensuring certain search criteria direct browsers to your website. Paid Search ensures links and descriptions of your content appear above browsers’ search results when relevant search terms are entered. SEM also includes search engine advertising, where more robust content appears separate from search results when users enter relevant search terms.

For example, nurses seeking advanced degrees often turn to university websites as learning resources; they may be more likely to click through a search engine advertisement if it directs to a university website as a result. Marketers who ensure their websites appear at the top of search results — through SEM, SEO, or some combination of the two techniques — are more likely to connect this audience to their website content during search.

SEM is similar to social media marketing in that it is approachable and affordable for most marketers. Google and other providers support pay-per-click (PPC) options that help marketers manage their budgets while maximizing results. The question for most marketers is not whether they should invest in SEM at all but, rather, how much they should invest.

6. Third-party display advertising

Third-party display advertising can be expensive, but it is an effective way to ensure your advertisements appear alongside third-party content your audience finds desirable. For nurses, this may include specialty journals and other articles they seek out as professional resources.

Traditional advertising involved taking out an ad in a relevant magazine or journal. Display advertising is similar, but on a much broader scale. Advertisers often connect to relevant publications through programmatic advertising — an automated method for buying ad space online. Advertisers connect to a provider with dozens or even thousands of partnerships with publications and optimize the distribution and display of their ads across those channels.

Take your next step

You can be sure that aspiring Gen-Z and other early-career nurses are ambitious, with broad intent to advance their education, their career prospects, and the quality of care they provide. But connecting with them successfully means providing content and value on their terms. Take your next strategic step as you engage these digital natives.

Contact us to start your successful higher learning campaign.
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