Content marketing is the most powerful tool you have for attracting right-fit students to your college or university.
The basic idea for this kind of marketing is simple: create content that provides value to your audience while building trust and authority. As they discover who you are and what you offer, a certain number of them will want to take the relationship further, becoming leads and, eventually, enrolled students.
Content marketing is a long-term strategy, however, that takes consistent investment for a significant amount of time to really pay off. It is, frankly, a lot of work. That makes it imperative to maximize your team’s efficiency as you pursue this important component of your overall marketing strategy.
In this post, I’ll share 5 things you can do to help your marketing team perform at its best in its content marketing efforts.
1. Provide clarity
One of the challenges of content marketing is that there are many channels for content, many types of content, and many things you could be trying to accomplish.
It is easy for a marketing department to end up seeing disappointing results due to a lack of focused efforts in the same direction.
So you need clarity. With it, your team members will know exactly how they should be spending their capacity to move your overall strategy forward.
Here are the basic areas where you need a well-thought-out, documented plan:
What’s the goal?
What do you hope your content marketing efforts will accomplish? Vague goals aren’t very useful for directing action. Try to articulate something specific and measurable, like: Increase the number of applicants to our bachelor’s degree program in engineering.
Having a clear goal helps you keep focused. You can view every part of your content marketing efforts through this lens, asking yourself, Does this contribute to achieving our goal?
Which types of content and channels will we use?
Content is a broad category. It includes short-form videos for Instagram Reels, YouTube Shorts, and TikTok, Facebook posts (for alumni, adult prospects, and parents), podcasts, blog posts, emails, ebooks, alumni newsletters, and many other things. You can publish content on social media platforms, your own website, through email, using print media, and more.
Unless your team is huge, you probably can’t do all these things well. It is best to focus on quality and consistency, selecting the platforms that are most strategic for you.
And which would those be? You’ll need to think about members of your target audience and where you are most likely to find them.
For instance, suppose you’re hoping to reach adult students who are interested in earning another degree to switch to a more lucrative career in a specific field. You might focus on informational blog posts that describe career options within that field as well as how to make the career transition.
This is an opportunity to be creative and try new things. Above, I mentioned the example of trying to recruit engineering students. If that’s your goal, maybe you explore the possibility of posting a 3-d design of your school logo or a recognizable campus building on one of the popular sites that host designs for 3-d printers.
What’s our editorial plan?
Finally, it’s time to get really specific. Establish an editorial calendar that indicates the types of content, the platforms, and the dates when you will publish.
Along with this, you should outline a clear editorial process so everyone involved in content creation knows the steps that need to be followed from creating a brief to scheduling a piece of content for publication.
2. Leverage untapped resources
Your team can only do so much on its own. There are a number of ways, however, that you can partner with others to produce a higher volume of more effective content.
One resource that is under-utilized on most campuses is the faculty. The content landscape gets more competitive all the time and this competitiveness is likely to accelerate with tools like ChatGPT.
A recent guest we had on the Higher Ed Marketer podcast, Kyle Campbell, highlighted a strategic opportunity this situation presents.
As content is being commoditized by AI; i.e., content can now be created to a decent standard by a machine, what separates it? It’s the person who publishes it.
Among your faculty are those who have subject matter expertise and interesting perspectives that will stand apart from generic content created by these kinds of tools. Invite them to participate in creating content.
I know what you’re thinking: they’re busy. Will they really be willing to sit down and write a blog or social media post for us?
Maybe not, but you can give them an easier option. Send them a short set of questions. Then have them record a spoken response with a tool like Reverb and share it with you. Then your team can write up a story or a post using the material they supplied.
A second possibility: find out if any of your students have a significant online following. You might be surprised to discover the audiences built by creators in your midst. Look for ways to partner with them to connect with potential students in their circle of influence.
Finally, working with freelancers or marketing agencies can be a cost-effective way to increase the capacity and efficiency of your team without hiring additional staff.
3. Track and tweak
You will want to decide upon metrics you can track to give you insight into how your content marketing efforts are going. Without data, you’re working in the dark.
The kind of metrics that are available and most appropriate will vary depending upon the channel. For articles or blog posts on your website, you can track traffic, keyword rankings, engagement indicators like scroll depth and clicks, and lead generation in terms of form completions.
Keeping an eye on this information, experiment to see what kinds of changes might improve the results you are getting. If you notice, for example, that certain topics get a lot more engagement than others, double down on content in that area. If certain channels are driving more conversions, increase your focus there.
Don’t forget to collect more analog and qualitative types of data as well. When you’re interacting with students who have applied, for instance, ask them how they first found out about your school and what helped them decide to apply.
This data-driven feedback loop will help you become more and more efficient through time as you zero in on the channels and content that drive results.
4. Take advantage of tools
The market is awash with software tools that can help automate and otherwise speed up certain aspects of your content marketing.
Here at Caylor Solutions, we use CoSchedule to schedule both blog posts and related social media posts to promote our blog content. A calendar-style interface lets us easily set this up to maintain a cadence of posting at optimized times.
You should also take advantage of automation with email marketing and generating reports from Google Analytics.
Apart from automation, you’ve probably been hearing a lot about content generation using AI. Though I don’t recommend using tools like this to write content for you (see comments above under number 2), they can help you with the groundwork and speed up your process. I wrote recently about some ways you can use ChatGPT for research and generating ideas.
5. Always be learning
Finally, encourage (or require!) members of your team to constantly grow in their skills and knowledge. The world of digital marketing changes rapidly so you want to make sure you stay ahead of the curve.
Two great ways to do this: absorb content and experiment.
For the first, there are tons of great sites, courses, and other resources available. The Higher Ed Marketer podcast, to cite one example, features regular discussions with industry leaders and can provide you with a rich vein of current ideas and inspiration.
Experimentation — that is, actually trying a new channel, content type, or software tool — is one of the best ways to learn. Find an area where you would like your team to grow and look for ways you can start small and gradually build your comfort and expertise.
When you need a little help
In theory, the ideas I’ve covered are simple. Start with a clear plan and process, leverage available resources, track results and use the insights to improve, make use of tools to boost efficiency, and make sure your team members are always growing.
Simple doesn’t mean easy, though. Doing all this well takes hard work and a long-term commitment. If you stick with it, however, you will see results.
Sometimes your internal team could use some help with one of more aspects of what we’ve discussed. For instance, often it isn’t clear what the most strategic channels or content types might be or which metrics you should be tracking.
My team and I have come alongside the marketing team at dozens of schools to help solve challenges like these. If you would like to have a conversation about how we might be able to help your team reach its full potential, please get in touch.
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