Your messaging strategy isn’t a document you want to overhaul often. Content marketing needs time to build results. Here’s how to know when your messaging strategy needs to be revised.
A good messaging strategy is the result of hard work, a LOT of thoughtful consideration, and probably some kind of investment in consulting, workshops, or training.
That alone is reason enough to let them stand for a while.
But the biggest reason to let your messaging plan have time to breathe is so that it has time to produce results for you.
While you should see immediate results from content marketing, the real fruit comes in around two years after you launch.
That’s about the time it takes for a blog, a YouTube channel or a social media channel to grow to enough subscribers to begin seeing a difference in your marketing funnel.
Content marketing is a long-term strategy meant to transition your institution from a frenzied outbound marketing model to an inbound strategy where new leads are finding you!
So when you’ve finally locked in your messaging strategy, you want to give it time to produce results.
However, there are times when you should revise or completely overhaul your messaging.
Outdated messaging reflects marketing that’s out of touch with its audience, brand, and the higher education space.
So let’s dive into the 7 reasons you should consider revising your messaging strategy.
1. Low Enrollment Numbers (Year-Over-Year)
Let me start with the obvious.
If you’re measuring year-over-year low enrollment numbers and you’re in your second year, it’s time to completely overhaul your messaging.
Two years is more than enough time to prove a messaging strategy.
At that point – even if it means spending precious marketing dollars – you should seriously consider overhauling your messaging approach.
While this might be obvious here, it’s easy to get so lost in the daily hustle of marketing that you simply forget to check your marketing KPI’s.
Do you have to wait two years to pull the trigger?
Thankfully, you don’t have to wait for things to go too far.
If you’re in the first year of your messaging strategy, and you’re seeing lower numbers than expected, I recommend tweaking your messaging.
The scope of your changes at this point should be restricted to slight modification to see if you can find the right questions your audience is asking.
2. Leads Jumping out of Funnel
Another reason you should consider changing your messaging strategy is if you find prospective students abandoning the comm flow.
Do you find leads going dark after the Request for Information?
Are they leaving your emails unopened after submitting their application, but before they make their deposit?
These are key parts of your enrollment funnel that can provide insight into what parts of your messaging strategy need tweaked – or if the whole thing needs revised.
3. Few Leads Entering Your Funnel
Marketing funnels are both science and art.
They are science in that only a percentage of the leads that go in the top eventually come out the bottom and become students.
If you’re not getting enough leads coming into your funnel, you simply won’t have enough enrollments coming out the bottom.
Unfortunately, you’ll never be able to get rid of the math of attrition completely.
But you can change the numbers of leads going in the top.
This is the art of marketing funnels.
Your messaging strategy is a big factor in determining how many prospective students come in to the top.
If you don’t see enough leads coming in to get the enrollment numbers you need, consider changing your messaging strategy.
4. Change in Organizational Direction
Whenever there’s a major shift in the vision or direction of your school, you’ll want to revisit your messaging strategy.
Does your current messaging line up with the new direction?
Outdated messaging can create dissonance or confusion for students as they learn about your school from an obsolete perspective.
If your executive leadership are using new language in their vision casting role, this may mean a change in direction, and that may warrant a change in messaging.
I also recommend considering a change in messaging if you have a major executive leader – like a president – transition out and a new one coming in.
You’ll want to align your campaign messaging to the new leader’s direction for the school.
5. Change in Marketing Leadership
Speaking of leadership changes, when your marketing department experiences a major leadership transition, you should consider changing your messaging strategy.
A word of caution here.
Don’t revise your messaging immediately or simply because your marketing leadership changed.
However, messaging does need to come naturally from leaders.
If over time, your messaging strategy simply does not resonate with new marketing leadership, it may be time to scrap the old approach and begin brainstorming.
6. Disaster or Crisis Management
Messaging plans are designed for ongoing lead generation and audience cultivation.
They are not useful for moments of crisis or disaster.
Leadership scandals, on-campus violence or shootings, natural disasters, and sexual abuse accusations are just a few crises that can derail a good messaging strategy.
In our podcast conversation with Christy Jackson, the Senior Director of Reputation Management and Communication at UNC Charlotte, we discussed various ways to handle communications during a school crisis.
“Life. Health. Safety. Your first action is to protect life, health safety – to make sure people have what they need to [stay safe]. It’s a simplistic message, at least initially.” – Christy Jackson
Life, health, safety – that’s your new message strategy during a crisis.
Everything else goes out the window until you have determined that the situation is contained and all is back to normal.
7. Change in Audience
The final reason to consider changing your messaging strategy is if your audience changes.
Geographically, you’ll probably always draw from the same pool of prospective students.
However, ethnic demographics are changing profoundly in many communities throughout the United States.
And as always, each generation comes with its own way of looking at the world and education.
When a generational shift occurs, and as community demographics evolve, you’ll need to revisit your messaging strategy from time to time to stay in touch with your current audience.
I believe we’re also seeing an audience change simply in the way the COVID-19 pandemic has affected how young people view families, jobs, and health.
All of these external changes in your audience may warrant an update to your messaging strategy.
This is why it’s important for education marketers to stay up with the latest trends, fads, and pop culture – not so you can copy it per se, but so that you understand how your evolving audience is being shaped.
For more information on the upcoming generation that you’ll be recruiting, I highly recommend listening to our conversation with Mark McCrindle on the The Higher Ed Marketer podcast.
Need to update your messaging strategy?
Again, messaging plans shouldn’t be changed often or on a whim.
However, there are real moments when a school needs to consider overhauling their messaging strategy to match current realities – both internal and external.
Knowing when to go back to the drawing board can be the key to content marketing success or failure.
For more help on messaging strategy, digital marketing, or education marketing in general, feel free to contact us today!
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