I recently presented a webinar on content marketing approaches for paid interactive marketing campaigns in higher education (I have another one coming up in January). The topic is one that I think will grow in importance for colleges as they try to reach prospective students who now expect more than just traditional advertising from campuses. This is the first in a series on this subject.
First, a bit of perspective on the difficulty defining the term “content marketing.” According to the most recent benchmark study of the Content Marketing Institute, 90 percent of business-to-consumer marketers use content marketing as a tactic. However, it’s interesting to note that they also find that only 34 percent of those using it feel that they are doing so effectively. I think this low percentage is evidence of a significant lack of clarity within the marketing universe—both outside of higher education as well as within the higher ed marketing domain.
With that in mind, it makes sense to start this blog series with a very top-line perspective by defining what I mean when I refer to content marketing within the specific context of campus marketing and student recruitment. Since content marketing is a bit of an industry buzz term that means lots of things to lots of people, I find it often can be helpful in my campus consultations to narrow the definition so the teams I work with can really focus on specific tactics to pursue for their own schools.
Wikipedia defines content marketing this way: “Content marketing is any marketing that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire and retain customers.” While this is a new buzzword, it’s actually an old concept. Food manufacturers produced cookbooks as content marketing as early as the nineteenth century (with their product featured in the recipes, of course). Companies have long produced books, guides, white papers, video, and other media that used research, entertaining narratives, or other non-sales content as a way to reach customers. Now that the digital age has made publishing and sharing blogs, video, and other targeted information so easy, it’s the perfect venue for content marketing.
When I work on content marketing with our Noel-Levitz partners, it involves the use of on paid interactive advertising triggered on social media sites, web searches, and other web pages. Within this context, I define content marketing more narrowly: “Using brochures or other media to provide those students viewing online ads with value-added information that we send them in exchange for sharing their contact information.”
Put simply, higher education content marketing within a paid interactive marketing context is an approach where a value-added “bonus” informational resource—such as an e-brochure, a video, or infographic—serves as a “carrot” that can be offered in exchange for a prospective student sharing their contact information with a school via a form on the campaign’s landing page.
For example, let’s say a campus offers a degree in education. They have information about the program on their website, print and electronic communications to send to students, and they have optimized their web pages for search so they are ranked higher for key search terms. In addition, they have a free brochure web visitors can request, “10 Keys to Starting Your Career as an Educator.” All the visitor has to do is provide a few bits of information (name, email, maybe a qualifying question or two). That’s content marketing in action for higher education.
Having defined the topic in a specific way, we’ll move to more tactical examples in future blog posts over the next few months. In the meantime, I invite you to attend my free webinar, Expanding Student Recruitment Through Paid Search and Online Advertising, on January 8. I also welcome your feedback and questions, so please leave a comment here or send me an email.
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