Monday, June 3, 2013

Community Colleges: If You Want To Engage with Business, Rethink Your Marketing Strategy and Business Outreach Efforts.

When employers think of a Community College, they usually think of a place for a student to receive a quality two year education at an affordable price.  My experience in talking with business executives about the community college in their local community is almost always favorable - “I received my 2-year degree at a community college or my son or daughter received their 2 year degree.”  Employers know what community colleges do in benefiting their personal academic needs in the communities they serve.

What many employers are not aware of is how community colleges can directly impact their business.   Community college products and services include customized employee training programs, continuing education, lifelong learning, access to business grants, tuition assistance planning, co-sponsoring events, being a foundation board member, participating in student – employer pools, career fairs and many other value-added partnership programs.  All of the above help employers improve efficiencies, employee morale, exposure in the community and most importantly, their bottom-line

Marketing budgets can be a challenge and resources can be limited for community colleges, however below are five (5) cost effective tips to rethink your marketing and business outreach efforts:

1. Collaborate with other departments – If you want to make an employer feel like a strategic partner, they must feel that way across all departments in the college.  For example, if they invested in your foundation, you better make sure you treat them well if they’re interested in Contract Training.  This builds positive employer awareness of the college and you’ll see more of an investment in other programs and services that you provide.

2.    Make it easy to reach you – If an employer is contacting you about something they’re interested in, direct them to the right person or department.  I remember one employer called into our central administrative office and wanted to take a leadership program and it took 4-5 attempts until they found the right department….  Also, if they get a voicemail, return their request by the end of the day. 

3.     Be proactive – Don’t wait for an employer to contact you.  Be proactive, network, set appointments, send marketing campaigns, and try inbound marketing!  In today’s competitive market, you can’t wait until someone contacts you.  Take advantage of your good reputation, you are special and employers love to hear from community colleges and learn about what’s new and how you can work together.

4.    Get employers involved, for free – Ask them to volunteer for events like Kids College Day, Lunch n Learns, Advisory Councils, Speaking engagements.  Employers enjoy giving back to the community and sharing a day with community college students and faculty.

5.    Brainstorm with Employers – Brainstorm and think of cross promotional ideas to present to the community.  Finding that synergy between business and education really taps into community trust and involvement.  

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