Rebuilding trust in higher education through quality content
More and more businesses are creating and distributing original content. It’s an amazingly effective way to boost sales and build a customer base. Content marketing can turn fans into customers and customers into advocates, and, since the digital revolution, it can do it all at a fraction of the price of traditional marketing strategies. Content marketing builds meaningful relationships with consumers and then monetizes that trust.
Although the buzzword content marketing is new, schools have long used content marketing techniques to boost enrollment and establish local and national reputations. Among other things, they distribute publications, publicize faculty accomplishments, host lecture series, and sponsor meaningful and cutting-edge research. All of these things build a school’s academic profile and reach, build credibility, and foster relationships with potential students. Yet, it will take more than a lecture series to raise your institutional profile in the 21st century.
Now more than ever higher-ed marketing departments need to harness the power of content to create willing consumers. As enrollment drops at institutions around the country, and national leaders publicly question the very value of higher education, colleges must convince prospective students that a degree is still a worthwhile investment. Content marketing that keeps pace with our changing world can make a difference. By building trust and relationships through content marketing, colleges can prove their relevance once again.
What is content marketing?
Content marketing is the gold standard for brand building. By consistently curating solid content that people want to read, share, tweet and follow, your brand raises its profile and grows its reputation. Over time you establish yourself as a trusted expert, one that consumers rely on for useful information, entertainment, and inspiration. Good content is not a sales pitch; it’s a valued resource.
Content marketing can turn fans into customers, and dreamers into students without selling anything. That’s because purchasing decisions are often emotional. People want to trust the brands they buy, which is why they are more likely to purchase from known brands than to try something new. Colleges that establish themselves as prestigious institutions with excellent faculty and successful graduates don’t need to do anything more to sell their school. Their reputation will drive enrollment.
Is content marketing strategy a new thing?
Content marketing isn’t new, although the explosion of digital content might make it feel that way. There certainly are some recent astonishing success stories about some content marketing superstars in the business world, like Glossier. Successful content marketing campaigns can attract huge numbers of followers and subscribers, and then turn those subscribers into customers. It also costs 62% less than traditional marketing, while still generating three times as many leads.
However, content strategies have been around for years. In 1904 Jell-O began distributing a free recipe book featuring recipes in which Jell-O was the main ingredient. By 1906 Jell-O sales reached $1 million dollars. John Deere’s first magazine, The Furrow, came out in 1895, and Michelin’s famous motorist guides hit the presses in 1900. Michelin actually gave away 35,000 copies of the first edition. These brands were able to successfully build their reputation and increase customer loyalty by distributing high quality content.
A community college is a business too
Although an academic publication may be quite different than a recipe book, marketing a school isn’t altogether different from marketing any other business. Deciding to invest in a college education is, at least in part, a purchasing decision. Before spending the money, prospective students and their families want to know that they can trust your school. They want to know that you understand their hopes and fears, their needs and their struggles.
As institutions of higher learning, colleges command respect, which means community colleges already have an advantage when it comes to content marketing. Prospective students and other interested consumers already trust colleges more than they would a new brand. By producing piece after piece of solid content that addresses the worries and aspirations of prospective students, you begin to build important relationships that will drive enrollment decisions. Consistently providing information about career paths and sharing real student stories does build trust.
Trust has to be earned
Just like in any relationship, colleges have to demonstrate that they deserve the customer’s trust. That means you can’t build brand loyalty with bad content. Just as consumers won’t recommend or repurchase a bad product, and they won’t share or follow bad content. It should go without saying that good content is honest first and foremost. It should also be engaging, informative, and speak to the reader’s heart and head.
For instance, a prospective student has real questions about the college process. They need solid information about degrees, financial aid, and career potential. They also may need help picturing themselves in a college classroom. Maybe they are the first person in their family to consider going college. They are worried about whether they can fit in and succeed. Content that speaks to their hopes and fears is more likely to get them into a classroom than an application checklist.
Creating good content isn’t easy
It sounds like it would be simple to create good content, but the vast majority of content strategists feel like what they’re doing isn’t working. Your college, for instance, probably has a social media presence or a weekly email newsletter, or some informational pages online. Yet, these resources don’t seem to be having any sort of impact on your overall enrollment. If your community college is like many others in America, it’s actually been seeing enrollment steadily drop for the last ten years.
So, can your school harness the power of content marketing? The answer is yes, but not alone. It’s difficult to create content that is personal, factual and appealing. To do that, you need to work with a company that’s just as passionate about your school as you are, and which can communicate everything you have to offer to your community. Aperture Content Marketing knows how to use high-quality content build relationships with prospective students. We can prove that your institution is worthy of trust. If you’re ready to see what content marketing can do for your school, contact us today.