School and universities have historically used the same marketing tactics to attract and enroll the best students possible, including open house events, print advertising, and brochures. Among the long list of marketing tactics available, one commonly overlooked tactic many universities and schools miss is content marketing.
Content marketing is a powerful tactic that can help educational institutions reach a wider audience while improving their returns. Marketers agree on its effectiveness: 75% see positive returns from their content marketing efforts. That explains why another 75% of marketers are increasing the investment in content. Companies haven’t been slow on realizing the power of content marketing. Recent research indicates that in 2017, over half of companies will have an executive in their organization who is directly responsible for an overall content marketing approach (e.g., Chief Content Officer, VP or director of content).
Here’s how schools and universities can start tapping the power of content marketing to attract students and gain a competitive advantage.
Your school has a story. Give it a voice.
Content marketing starts with self-awareness. You can’t start developing content without a clear idea of what your institution stands for. You need to ask yourself some key questions, such as:
- What are the unique characteristics that define your school and your educational mission?
- What do students, faculty, and staff bring to your institution that builds community?
- What’s the story behind your institution?
Your answers can help you define the reasons why a student might pick you when they have a multitude of choices. Based on your answers, you can then highlight particular offerings that make your school shine. That could be an outstanding science facility, extensive educational offerings, low student-teacher ratios, or new scholarship opportunities.
Once you get a clear idea of what your school is all about, you can then create a unified strategy across your website and your different marketing channels (including social, email, and content). Wherever possible, all departments within your academic organization should meet regularly to discuss and optimize your overall content marketing plan.
You should also study and learn from other educational institutions. By staying up-to-date on the content marketing messaging of the other schools that students and parents are considering, you’ll gain insight into current trends, generate knowledge of applicants’ comparisons, and hone your perspective on what works and what doesn’t. You can use then these findings to optimize your content marketing plan.
Create content that provides value and promotes trust
Once you have your story and identity defined, you need to consider what students want. One thing is clear: they don’t want to consume content that’s overly self-promoting. Content marketing isn’t another way of advertising. Instead, content marketing builds on what students want. It considers what students are genuinely pursuing as they compare your school to other educational institutions and then it gives what they need to decide in favor of your institution.
While the specific traits will vary, as a general rule your content marketing strategy should incorporate three marketing elements:
- Trust. Trust in the quality of your institution is paramount when students and their families are determining where to study, invest their education savings, and prepare for their future.
- Desire. Persuading new students to enroll means you will need to clearly demonstrate the appeal of your curriculum, your campus, and your community.
- Value. From the rising costs of tuition to the realities of student debt, educational institutions must prove, unequivocally, that they’re worth the investment.
While the above three elements guide your content marketing strategy, your content should provide students with:
Peace of mind: Selecting a school to attend is a challenging and often quite stressful decision for students and their families. Infusing your content with a sense of reliability will reduce many potential concerns and make the enrollment decision easier. Make the entire process of discovery as smooth as possible.
Useful information: Don’t leave students hunting for information on class schedules or admissions policies. Give clear access to all the information they can find useful, such as tuition fees, financial help, location, telephones, among other.
Actionable advice: By providing practical, goal-oriented tips to students, you’re empowering them to take concrete steps toward filling out applications, completing financial aid preparation, and pursuing enrollment.
A welcoming approach to new students: Express warmth toward incoming first-year students, transfer students, and online learners. Show them what they can expect to get when they start studying at your institution.
Emphasize a sense of community: Show how students participate in different extracurricular activities, such as sports, arts, and other activities that bring all the students together.
A personal look at life at your school: What is it really like to attend your school on a daily basis? Give potential students a glimpse of some students’ typical days.
An attentive, detailed response to questions: Students will invariably have questions about your school or college. You must be ready to answer their queries promptly to make the whole enrollment process smooth and simple.
You can provide your prospective students with all this information using different types of content, such as:
- Social media posts
Remember that students have different ways of communicating. By creating content in different formats, you increase the chances of communicating with students better.
Finally, your content should always provide calls to action, inviting readers to learn more about your school and guiding them to accessible information about the school and the application process.
Spread the word
Content doesn’t promote itself. Even if the quality of your content is above your competition, you must have a clear and efficient distribution strategy to reach prospective students.
According to LinkedIn Technology Marketing Community, the top five most effective social media platforms to deliver content and engage audiences are:
- LinkedIn, with an 82% effective rate
- Twitter, with a 66% effective rate
- YouTube, with a 64% effective rate
- Facebook, with a 41% effective rate
- SlideShare, with a 38% effective rate
Schools and universities that invest time and financial resources in planning, activating and maintaining a smart content strategy can expect to drive the growth they need. Those who do not are exposed to the risk of obscurity and irrelevance to their prospective students.
Whether your school or university develop content in-house or you outsource it, content marketing is indispensable for getting the best students to enroll.