Consider the barriers incoming college students face when deciding which school to attend: there’s time, geography, and finances, just to name a few. For colleges and universities, there is a tremendous opportunity to leverage content marketing – otherwise known as inbound marketing – to help students overcome these college search obstacles and gain access to all of the information and experiences necessary to make an informed decision about where to spend the next four or more years of their lives.
As with any marketing opportunity, developing an effective content marketing program requires equal parts strategy and creativity. It’s not just about sharing the right information – it’s about packaging it in a way that is appealing and compelling to the target audiences, be they students, parents, or high school counselors. As your college prepares to launch or refine its content marketing program, be sure to keep these content marketing dos and don’ts top-of-mind:
- Put yourself in the shoes of a prospective student – What are their biggest fears? What do they most hope to take away from their college experience? What is the single biggest obstacle that could prevent them from choosing your school? Answering these questions will ensure your content marketing strategy resonates with your buyer persona(s), helping prospective students feel your institution understands their wants and needs.
- Develop an editorial calendar for content marketing – What will you post? When will you post it? Through which medium(s) will your key message points be delivered? A real-time marketing world means one can’t plan in advance for every status update, tweet, and photo op. It’s important to have a content framework in place to ensure a consistent stream of marketing content is ready-to-go, even in the middle of busy season.
- Spy on the competition – Which schools pose the biggest competitive threat(s) in terms of recruiting new students? When a student decides to transfer out of your college or university, where do they go? What are your competitors doing to attract leads and enroll new students? Answering these questions will help to hone your unique value proposition and ensure the content you are sharing is both timely and relevant.
- Use research to inform your content strategy – What better way to know what prospective students and their families are looking for than to ask them? Whether you survey students and families after a first visit to campus, interview students who visit your school but enroll at another university, or a combination of the two, this data is critical to determining when, how, and where your target audiences want to be communicated with.
- Overemphasize the “nice to know” – In a world where nearly every business, individual, and nonprofit is creating and disseminating content, breaking through the clutter and driving action can be a challenge. That said, it’s important to develop a content marketing program that focuses on the “need to know” and assigns the “nice to know” to a supporting role. Identify the top five things prospective students need to know about your university, the top five communication channels this audience is using, and so forth, and build your content around this important, research-informed data.
- Start off with a bang and fade off into the distance – Regardless of how strong your first month or two of content marketing was, people will focus on the here and now. So, are you consistently sharing relevant and high-quality information? When developing a strategic content marketing program for colleges and universities, it is important to align one’s content with a prospective student’s decision-making process, while ensuring one doesn’t “go dark” during the off-season.
- Over-emphasize quality – Quality vs. quantity is an ongoing debate among marketing, nonprofits, and higher education institutions alike. While quality should always reign supreme, blogging once per month or writing one new whitepaper per year will not suffice. Whether you expand your content creation team or find ways to get more mileage out of your existing content, it is important to ensure quality and consistency work hand-in-hand to achieve your college’s marketing goals.
Content marketing (inbound marketing) is a powerful tool for helping colleges and universities to attract new students, be they incoming freshman or transfer students. Regardless of the audience, it is important that colleges develop content marketing strategies that put quality, consistency, and relevancy at the forefront.
Curious about how to use inbound marketing and content marketing to attract students to your college or university? Contact us today!