No way around it: it’s challenging to do content marketing right within the limits of ever-shrinking budgets. But thankfully, results aren’t tied directly to money spent! Here are 7 professional hacks to getting big dollar marketing results on a shoestring budget.
(And if you don’t have a budget yet, read this post first.)
Hack #1. Realize that everyone’s on a tight budget.
This mental hack is key to successful private higher education marketing, where prestige is part and parcel with the education you’re offering.
Envy is a silent killer.
The constant “grass is greener on the other side” mental refrains we tell ourselves bogs our creativity down as we wallow in self-pity. Don’t let that happen to you!
Remember, everyone’s on a tight budget.
No one feels as if they have all the money they need to do their job right — so there’s no use in dwelling on the “what if’s” and “if only’s.”
Besides, your biggest competitive advantage is being different than all the rest.
Hack #2: Take inventory of your marketing and media assets.
You remember the old stories: Moses delivered the Jews from slavery with only the rod in his hand. David killed Goliath with his slingshot and five stones.
Point is… Despite the fiscal crunch you feel, you’ve got resources you might not be considering.
Inventory all the physical and content assets your department already has, like:
- Recorded seminars and lectures
- Lighting and audio equipment
- Books, articles, and research your executive staff, board members, or faculty have created
- Original music and art from students
- Student testimonials
- Past blog posts, infographics, page copy, ebooks, etc.
You’ll discover that you’ve got more in your hand to work with than you thought — and by repurposing this content you’ll save thousands of dollars.
Hack #3: Develop a robust marketing strategy.
Not complicated… Robust. Complicated means that you’ll never get around to it because there’s just too much to do. Robust means that it covers all the basics of good marketing such as:
- Messaging: What values and offers should your marketing present to the audience?
- Personas: Who are your target audience(s) and what are their needs?
- Focus groups: Acquaint yourself with your target audiences by spending time with them getting to know their preferences, perspective of your school, and needs.
- Conceptualization: Colors, typography, layout, navigation design, and more are a part of the conceptualization process.
- Wireframes: Get your concepts onto paper through hand sketches, vector graphics, or a keynote slidedeck. Bottom line is that everyone needs to see how the copy and design will look for your marketing materials to begin creating the content.
By taking the time to nail down all the components of your marketing strategy, you’ll save money by not wasting it on marketing campaigns and tactics that would never have worked anyway.
And notice you haven’t even spent a dime on these hacks so far!
Hack #4: Create an enrollment-focused website.
Private colleges and universities have a plethora of departments, programs, and initiatives that you could possibly communicate to your audiences.
But for the greatest results from your marketing, you must restrict your website’s primary focus to the needs of enrollment.
Enrollment is the watershed team for all of your departments.
When enrollment succeeds in their goals, so too will student services, academics, sciences, human resources, business operations, and alumni relations and advancement.
By focusing on enrollment, you’ll save money on creating media and pages for other departments while generating revenue for those departments through higher enrollment numbers.
Hack #5: Craft content that is user-focused and answers questions.
Content is the No. 1 way to market with a shoestring budget — hands down.
Per dollar spent, content marketing generates 3X the number of leads than paid search does. And content marketing drives higher conversion rates than traditional marketing by 600 percent!
Content makes you and your organization the authority on whatever you choose to publish, if it consistently answers the questions people have when they come to your site.
Traditional advertising isn’t dead — but it’s so expensive that it can easily kill your marketing budget in one fell swoop.
In contrast, creating content that answers your audience’s questions doesn’t cost much at all.
- 360° Camera – $327
- Selfie Stick – $22
- Stabilizer for balancing camera when recording video – $47
- Lavalier Mic for mobile camera – $29
- Light Kit – $100
- Backdrop Stand, Screen, and Paper – $111
- Video editing software like YouTube Director or iMovie – $0 – $4.99
- Mevo livestreaming multi-use camera – $399
- Blue Yeti mic for podcasts, voice overs, and screencasts – $129
- Digital Recorder for interviews – $100
- WordPress Blog – $150
- MailChimp – $213 (annual subscription)
- Screencast recorders like Snagit – $50
- Automation tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, CoSchedule, etc. – $240
All of this is under $2,000 — and you don’t even need all of it to begin creating irresistible content that will attract your audience to your website!
But it does cost a lot of work.
Marketing on a limited budget takes creativity, discipline, scrappiness, and a willingness to be ok with authenticity over perfection.
Hack #6: Use all your marketing channels to drive traffic to your website.
Content does you no good unless your target audiences consume the content. They’ve got to be able to find it and share it with their friends who’re also likely to have the same questions.
So use your social media channels (free!) to constantly drive traffic to your website.
Never let your social media profiles be the home for your content. It’s online “property” you’re renting, not something you own, like your website.
And don’t forget to use your print materials like direct mail and brochures to drive traffic to your online content!
If you’re already budgeting to create that mailing or magazine, use it to foster success in your digital marketing efforts.
Hack #7: Outsource the work.
This is going to sound self-serving, because, well… I run Caylor Solutions, a marketing agency for private colleges and universities that improves communication, enrollment and development efforts through strategic brand, marketing, websites, print and digital executions.
Disclosures aside, I’m bringing this up because in so many situations, hiring an outside marketing partner is the most economical way to lift your marketing results.
I love what I do, and it pays the bills. But…
A big reason I started Caylor Solutions is because of the value it brings to marketers like you on shoestring budgets.
By outsourcing, you can…
- Hire the best for half the cost. If you hired a marketing executive with the experience and background that the individuals in an agency represent, it would cost you twice as much as hiring an outside agency to do the work.
- Get a team, not just an individual. For less than the price of hiring a marketing executive, you get an entire marketing team of strategists, writers, designers, and more.
There are many more reasons to consider an outside agency like Caylor Solutions to improve your marketing results, even on a shoestring budget — but these are the main economic reasons.
So don’t let a strained budget stop you from driving your college or university forward in its marketing and enrollment goals!
Start using the hacks I’ve listed for you here — and if you want to talk about outsourcing with an experienced agency for private colleges and universities, let’s talk.