Content Marketing for Higher Education Recruitment and Retention
Oct 31, 2016
Note: The following is an excerpt from Content Marketing: Doing it Right (Higher Ed Edition), an ebook written by Dudley Stevenson and Part McGraw. You can download the entire eboook here.
Many any colleges struggle to improve student recruitment and retention performance for some of the following reasons:
1. They lack a solid understanding of their target audience – an audience that is changing from Boomers and Gen X to Millennials and Generation Z. This causes them to deliver the wrong message and offer at the wrong time via the wrong communication channels which leads to lower conversion, enrollment, retention and graduation rates.
2. They have forgotten about marketing communications – which is all about getting the right message and offer to the right person at the right time via the right channel in order to motivate the right action – and shifted focused to ‘content marketing’ – which, for many, is all about creating more content. They refer to marketing departments as publishers – and that is not only wrong but can be financially crippling.
3. They believe the hype that Millennials and Generation Z are online so much that they must want all communications and content available to them online – when in fact these groups consist of some very different segments and many are driven by the quality of the message more than the channel of delivery.
4. They still look at their audience at the generational level rather than the segments within each generation. Not all Millennials are the same – some are married with children and mortgages, others are single and just out of college. Failing to segment is costing you enrollments.
5. They have bought into the unproven concept that if you create enough ‘content’ and optimize it properly, your audience will find it online when they want it – inquiries and leads will surely follow.
6. That testing and tracking performance isn’t all that important which can seem correct when many have marketing focused on leads and enrollment management focused on new enrollments and retention/advisers focused on retention – these silos create inefficiencies and wasted resources.
This e-Book will explain how ‘content marketing’ needs to be part of your marketing communications efforts, and that success comes from your ability to provide your audience with fast, easy, convenient access to the right information at the right time via the right channels so they can take the desired next step with you. This means shifting the focus from “creating content” to “providing your audience with the right message and offer at the right time via the right communication channel(s) in order to motivate the right action.”
Some may argue this is a subtle difference but when you witness so many talking about “What content do we need to create” rather than “what does our audience need now in order to move forward with us”, you quickly realize the difference is not subtle and marks the difference between an organization that “creates stuff” versus one that “effectively and efficiently enrolls and retains students.
What is 'Content Marketing'?
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.”
We like that definition – especially because it ends with “…drive profitable customer action.” Unfortunately, too many have lost focus of that and instead focus on creating more and more content. This series will show you how to keep your eye on that ultimate prize.
Please remember that “content” is not limited to just the online/digital world – it includes direct mail, brochures, articles in print publications, manuals, advertising (broadcast, print, out-of-home) and more.
And for the purposes of this document, “content” refers to “right message” – so it goes beyond the more traditional definition of [ex] a blog post, white paper, ebook, video etc. and includes the messaging you use in your advertising, emails, direct mail, outbound telemarketing. The reason for this is simple – you can’t separate the messaging you use to capture your audience’s attention and engage them in a conversation from the content you create for them with the intent of capturing their attention and engaging them in conversation.
We don’t believe you can separate the white paper from the email you send to the individual in the information gathering stage of their decision making process. We believe that content is about the message you deliver in that email and white paper.
So as you move through this document, remember that what we are presenting is a step above a content marketing strategy that focuses on what white paper gets produced and distributed. Instead, we are presenting a ‘communication strategy’ that addresses who you target and why, what you need to address in order to motivate them to select you over other colleges and programs.
And remember that the goal is to drive profitable customer action – which goes well beyond ‘soft metrics’ such as ‘Like’, ‘Follow’, ‘Retweet’ and focus on the cost to generate a new student and the ability to lower the cost to graduate a student.
What is a Content Marketing Strategy?
A content marketing strategy is a documented go-to-market plan that explains in detail:
- Your targeted segments by program (messages by segment)
- Specific features and benefits of the program for each segment (to be featured in messages)
- Media channels preferred by your targeted segments for each stage of their decision making process
- Insight into the needs, wants, questions, objections that each targeted segment has to address at each stage of their decision making process
- Channel plan that addresses what communication channels will be used for each targeted segment at each stage of their decision making process
- Content Mapping and Scheduling
In the following posts, we will address these and other critical factors that must be part of a content marketing strategy in order for your college to see marked improvements in performance.
 Downloaded from http://contentmarketinginstitute.com/2014/05/where-content-marketing-fits-plan/ on February 24, 2016.
Patrick McGraw is VP of Higher Educaton Marketing Services and has more than 25 years experience in market research, competitive intelligence, business intelligence including database marketing and CRM, strategic planning, brand development and management as well as operations/campaign management. His work has consistently helped his clients and employers develop and implement more efficient ways to attract and retain profitable customers, enter new markets and launch new products. His areas of focus include the education, hospitality, travel and tourism, hi-tech, telecommunications, financial services, and retail industries on both the agency and customer sides.