November 17, 2021
Developing a marketing strategy for your school can feel like an endless uphill battle. You want to stay ahead of trends, but your attention is likely spread thin. This is especially true for small schools where one person is in charge of marketing, admission, enrollment—and in some cases, development.
Digital marketing is here to stay. And with that comes a term you’ve likely heard a time or two: content marketing. Chances are you’re aware of the impact content marketing can have on your school, but maybe you’re not sure exactly how to create an effective strategy.
But first, what exactly is content marketing?
Content marketing involves the creation and sharing of online material (videos, blogs, and social media posts) that does not explicitly promote a brand but should stimulate interest in products or services. Content marketing is educational in nature. And effective content marketing not only attracts prospective families, but also moves them through your admission funnel by delivering the right information at the right moment in their journey.
Sounds great, right?
It is great—here’s why.
The School Purchase Decision Cycle
It’s estimated that 70% of families make a school decision before setting foot on campus—and it all begins with awareness. They may see your school’s presence on social media ads and billboards, or hear about the school from a friend (word-of-mouth marketing). And if what they see and hear is compelling, they will move from awareness to evaluation.
The evaluation stage is where prospective families initiate online searches—evaluating your website and diving into an investigation of blogs, reviews, and your social media accounts. This is a critical point, and also where content marketing can keep families engaged, driving them toward application and, ultimately, enrollment.
By the time families tour campus, it’s less about gathering information and more to see if their expectations—based on their research—align with their experience. If the mission promise matches the mission delivery after enrollment, the journey perpetuates itself when happy families share social posts, leave positive reviews, and recommend the school to friends.
Powerful stories fuel the engine of this journey, and these stories should be a part of your content marketing strategy.
Here are five steps to creating a content marketing strategy for your school.
Step One: Set Goals and Objectives
Determine the goals and objectives for the content you’re about to create. You don’t want to dive into content creation without an adequate understanding of who your audience is and why the content you’re about to create provides them with value.
Also decide how content marketing will tie back to your overall enrollment and marketing communications goals, as well as your school’s strategic planning objectives.
Step Two: Plan Your Budget
It’s important to consider your budget as it relates to your financial and staff capacity. While content marketing may not incur the same cost as traditional marketing, it does require time, effort, and training.
To determine how much of your marketing budget you can allocate toward content marketing, compare what you have spent between traditional and digital marketing. Aim for around 70% of your budget on digital efforts where your dollars have a traceable return on investment.
Be realistic about your staff’s current obligations and the time they must dedicate to these new initiatives. When allocating time, consider the 40/60 rule: spend 40% on creating content and 60% on promoting content.
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Step Three: Know Your Target Audience
Your target audience members are some of your most important constituents—parents and students. Become obsessed with what parents are thinking and address those concerns. But also keep in mind prospective students are a part of your target audience. This is especially true if you have an upper school, since older students often have a voice on where they attend school.
When you’re thinking about your target audience, consider how you can take them on a journey. What specific content might lead them from Point A to Point B? To decide, ask yourself these questions:
- What does my target audience care about?
- How can I provide my target audience with valuable information?
- What is something only my school can provide for this target audience at this point?
Refer to your school’s mission and Portrait of a Graduate to help you identify content ideas your target audience is seeking.
Step Four: Develop a Content Strategy
Outline the content you want to create and the time you can dedicate to creation.
- Social media and short-form blog posts: Lower-effort initiatives that should be used frequently.
- Infographics and white papers: Require a higher effort and should be lower frequency.
- Archived content: Can be refreshed or repurposed—no need to reinvent the wheel if the content is still relevant. For example, transcribe a video into a blog post and share clips on social media that point back to the longer video or a relevant white paper.
If your team doesn’t have the professional capacity or time to devote to content creation, consider working with an outside resource like a digital marketing agency or a freelance writer. These resources can be a great way to supplement your existing staff and are affordable options for schools operating on a shoestring budget.
Step Five: Measure Your Efforts
Your content marketing efforts should be flexible. Not every piece of content you create is going to resonate with your audience in the way you’ve intended. This is why it is important to measure your efforts continuously and adjust accordingly.
Identify your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to help you measure efficacy. Basic KPI metrics to review include page impressions and unique visitors; engagement metrics like shares, click-through, and completion rates can all be relevant depending on your goals and objectives.
Crowdsource Content Creation
Content creation doesn’t have to be complicated. Crowdsource a blog post where you ask the same question of five students or faculty members and organize their answers into a blog post. Similarly, interview a faculty member or alumni either in a video or as a blog post. Or create an FAQ that directly answers common questions prospective parents might search for online.
Use these tips to create your school’s content strategy to engage your audience and keep them aligned with your school’s goals.
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