Part One of Three Part Series
As higher ed marketers well know, the enrollment funnel for degree programs can be quite long. Some master’s degree and degree completion program report a buying cycle of over twelve months – making it crucial to create effective content that resonates with your prospective students at each stage of the decision-making process. In comes Content Marketing. You might think of it as the “long game.” In simple terms, content marketing is just the creation and distribution of content such as video, blogs, and social media in an effort to fuel interest in your institution or programs without explicitly marketing your programs.
While the process by which a student chooses to enroll can be quite complex, we recommend breaking it down into just three parts as you begin to be more thoughtful about developing your content strategy. Today, we’ll cover the Awareness stage. Next month, you’ll learn more about using content to drive engagement. Finally, our third part in the series will discuss ideas for convincing your prospects to pick you by enrolling in your programs.
Awareness: Capturing their attention and staying front of mind.
The awareness stage is the start of the prospective student’s journey. Prospects are still establishing their personal goals for bettering their future. They are searching for solutions to their problems and may not have a school or program in mind. They may not even be sure if furthering their education is what they want.
So, what sparks a prospective student to look into your school deeper?
In short, content that demonstrates how well you understand your prospect’s pain points, how knowledgeable you are, and how credible and trustworthy your institution is will strengthen your chance of capturing and keeping your prospective students’ attention. After all, at the end of the day, the most important player is the student.
As a school, you must understand your prospects’ problems and position yourself as the viable solution.
The most basic thing you can do is be the answer to a prospect’s problems. Your content needs to speak to their experiences and desires – for instance, a blog article discussing the challenges adult students face and ideas for overcoming them – demonstrates that you understand your prospective student’s reality and can help them achieve their goals. This form of awareness marketing can keep your school at the top of the prospect’s mind and produces a positive association with your institution.
There is a plethora of education options. So how can your school stand out from the competition? By building trust and confidence in your ability to educate. For a career-focused program, you can have your faculty demonstrate their expertise in the field by creating blogs, articles, or videos about the latest developments in their industries. This kind of thought leadership shows that your programs are relevant and up to date with industry standards.
Lastly, content emphasizing current or past students establishes trust and increases your school’s credibility. Testimonials presented in unbiased and genuine tone or videos of student events help prospect connect with your programs on a human level, giving them a real sense of the experience, they can expect. This type of content is trustworthy, valuable, and engaging since it involves real people with real success.
Offering great content is not the only key factor in growing awareness of your brand. How you deliver your content is important as well. Third-party publications, social media platforms, eBooks, and blog sites are great places to start. Providing prospects with information in multiple formats and placements increase the ease and frequency of engagement and help to establish a stronger brand connection.
However, it is important to be selective about where your school publishes its content. Your brand will suffer if placed in a context that is out of alignment with the values you claim to support. For instance, imagine if your department created a video interviewing a former student who has gone on to create big changes in their industry. The video is placed, via Google Video, across various websites including that of an unreliable news site known for highly inflammatory content. Simply seeing your brand in this setting can reduce your school’s integrity for prospective students.
Content that answers your prospect’s problems, showcases your credibility and establishes a genuine connection is necessary for capturing your prospective student’s attention and staying front of mind. These wide-ranging deliveries of quality content can strengthen a prospective student’s interest in pursuing a program at your school. Now, you just need to engage them directly. Next month, we will discuss what types of content are crucial to encourage your prospective students to take the next steps. Stay tuned!