Have you heard of being audience-centric? If not, it’s time to talk about audience-centric enrollment marketing so you know how much of this growing philosophy to integrate into your marketing.

Lately, I’ve been reading about a growing conversation around “audience-centric marketing.” I’m glad this important topic is gaining more prominence, because marketing is changing.

In previous posts, I lay out my reasons why enrollment marketers should begin their marketing strategies with a marketing and brand audit and a review of your marketing performance.

But once you’ve done this hard internally focused work, everything afterwards should be focused on the experience your audience will have with your educational brand.

Audience-Centric Enrollment Marketing vs. Org-Centric Marketing

Org-centric marketing is the way education marketing was done for years. It goes like this:

  • What do we have to offer?
  • How does what we have to offer benefit students?
  • How are we better than our competitors?
  • How can we convey to our audiences that we’re better?

At first glance, this looks good. Benefits, features, differentiation – these are the fundamentals of marketing, right?

Back in the day when marketing was a one-way stream of messaging from education brands to potential students, this was a great strategy.

But not anymore.

Who’s Looking for Whom?

Before, education brands were on the hunt for prospective students. It was all up to you and your marketing team to get the word out and build brand recognition.

But now, prospective students and their parents are more in control of the enrollment process than ever before. Now, they are the ones who initiate the search for the right school.

In today’s education market, your audience is looking for you.

They are looking for answers to their questions so they can make the right decision for themselves and their families.

This is why audience-centric enrollment marketing makes so much sense. If you start by answering the questions your audience is likely to have, they will find you.

But if your marketing messaging only talks about your organization’s great features or how you’re different than your competitors, you’re likely to be ignored.

No School is Right for Everyone

Org-centric marketing also hurts your marketing results because it makes you think your organization is right for everyone.

If you begin with the academic, sports, science, environmental (campus, classrooms, dorms, etc.), and prestige benefits that your educational institution has to offer, how could you not come to the conclusion that your school is the best choice anyone could ever make?

But when you begin with what your audience wants and needs, you’ll soon find the areas of your private college, university, or independent school that shine and which areas need improvement or closing.

Prospective students aren’t coming to your school because of how great you are. They come because of how great you are for them.

So how do you do Audience-Centric Enrollment Marketing?

The first step is to start listing your target audiences. Here are a few of the common education marketing personas I listed in an earlier post you should consider:

The “Customer”

  • The traditional student
  • The non-traditional student or adult student
  • The graduate student

The “Influencers”

  • Moms and Dads
  • Siblings
  • Coaches
  • Youth Pastors

After listing your target audiences, you should start crafting marketing personas for each one of them. For more on how to create effective marketing personas, check out my post here.

As you craft your marketing personas, brainstorm the various questions that each of them would have about the topic of choosing the right school for them. In other words, what questions do they have about…

  • Financial aid?
  • Career planning?
  • Starting life as a college student?
  • Student finances?
  • Making new friends?
  • Packing for dorm life?
  • Growing personally or spiritually through the college experience?

Obviously, there are many more questions you can come up with, but this is a good start.

Once you’ve got your list of questions, concerns, desires, and goals written out, get your marketing team started on developing content that answers those questions in different ways.

And while you’re creating content, avoid going on long tangents about yourself.

So when should you talk about yourself?

There are moments when you should present your education brand as the solution to the problem or as a caring partner on the educational journey.

But this needs to come after your audience knows you are committed to their best interest.

Audience-centric enrollment marketing isn’t just about attracting prospective students to your marketing messages, it’s about building brand trust.

Answer their questions first before presenting what your organization has to offer. This really is the bottom line of audience-centric enrollment marketing.

Is this going to last?

In marketing, there are all kinds of fads that come and go. Audience-centric enrollment marketing isn’t one of them.

Being audience-centric is more than a strategy. It should be a way of thinking about everything in our work.

Does your content answer questions your audience has or does it simply add to the noise in their life?

Do your banners, landing pages, and other calls to action have an audience-centric value proposition? Or do your value propositions only talk about how great your school is?

My friend, it’s time to make the conversation about them.


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Featured image by fizkes via Adobe Stock