Content marketing is the way forward for community colleges. Here’s how it works.
Community colleges face an uphill battle in today’s economy. With a bustling job market, many potential students are choosing to forego higher education in favor of immediate employment. Meanwhile, many state governments have chosen to cut funding leaving many colleges already struggling with enrollment in a precarious position.
The temptation for many colleges is to devote more energy toward convincing state legislators to reinstate funding. But a more direct strategy is to market to prospective students, informing them of the benefits of specialized training, and educating them as to their job prospects.
This strategy may sound far-fetched, but it’s been used by business across the country as a more cost-effective means of driving business. And for the past twenty years, we’ve watched community colleges flourish using this approach through our own unique approach to content marketing.
So, if you’re wondering what content marketing is and how it can work for your community college, read on.
What it is content marketing?
Content marketing is nothing new, although it’s taken a new form since the advent of the Internet. As far back as the 1800’s, entrepreneurs such as John Deere and Édouard and André Michelin were publishing helpful and informative guides to build awareness of their products and cultivate a strong customer base. Today, content marketing often takes the form of blog posts, downloadable guides, social media posts, and email mailing lists, as well as strategically executed print mailers.
The idea behind content marketing is counterintuitive, but makes a lot of sense. Instead of using sales language to push a product, content marketers establish themselves as a source of information for curious customers. In doing so, the marketing content itself becomes a valuable resource.
How does it work?
First, organizations have to create content that their future customers will want to consume. You may have seen this online in the form of blog posts, infographics, and informative videos. Knowing what content to create is a matter of careful market research, and takes a dedicated effort on the part of the organization itself. Cheap, low-quality content is less effective, and can ultimately be more of a damage to the organization’s brand than a boon to its business.
The content should seek to inform, inspire, and engage its readers. For community colleges, this can mean a piece about the local demand for registered nurses, including employment figures and median salaries. Combined with information about the cost, duration, and course load of a nursing degree at the college, this can be an invaluable resource to a person considering a job change.
How do you distribute content?
When it comes to online distribution, there are three major avenues: search traffic, social media, and email. Search traffic can be paid or organic, meaning that when searchers type in a query, they can choose to follow either the natural results as ranked by Google’s search algorithm, or the paid results based on their search query. Social media traffic can also be paid, but it can also come from followers who have chosen to see content updates from a certain channel. And email traffic is most effective when it’s part of an intentional opt-in process, as when someone subscribes to a mailing list.
Most content marketing professionals are familiar with content marketing as a digital-first initiative. However, that doesn’t mean print has lost its place. Just as Deere and Michelin made their mark through their print guides, many businesses benefit from thoughtful, magazine-style print campaigns. There’s an undeniable appeal to the print format that many consumers prefer, because it allows them to digest the contents at leisure, rather than having it get lost in a pile of other emails in their inbox. Therefore, while it’s not for every business, it can be a powerful tactic for some.
Know what’s effective.
There’s a famous saying in advertising, attributed to John Wanamaker, a turn-of-the-century businessman and politician. He said, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.”
This was before the age of online metrics and data tracking. Now, while it’s not possible to know how everything performs, there are a lot more insights available to understanding how online visitors make their decisions.
When you make a post to social media, you can see how many visitors saw it and whether they responded. You can track how many email recipients opened the newsletter you sent out, and whether they unsubscribed. And you can learn how many visitors your website has received, and whether they came to your website using the URL you printed in your latest mailer. Content marketing can’t give you all the answers, but it can give you more of them than you’ve ever had before.
Information is on your side.
The case for community colleges—even in a strong economy—is undeniable. The trouble lies in making it.
Through traditional marketing means, community colleges risk losing much of their marketing investment with little to show for it. And many of these mediums (billboards, television and radio spots) don’t come in a format that allows community colleges to fully state their case.
But a content marketing campaign allows community colleges to hit three objectives at once. First, they can make longer-form information-based arguments to a wide variety of prospective students. Second, they allow for audience tracking online to see how well the campaign performed. And finally, they’re more affordable than other marketing campaigns.
We help community colleges craft effective content marketing strategies using our library of high-quality articles. You can select the content that best fits your community college, assemble a campaign, and then launch it across both print and digital mediums. Using our platform, you’ll be able to reach more prospective students and change perspectives about the benefits your community college can provide.