Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Top Five Ways to Market Higher Education to Businesses

With the increasing pressure for Higher Education to meet business educational needs, the label of “off-the-shelf” traditional classes has flipped.  Rather than meeting the needs of its faculty, it’s meeting the needs of a dynamic, rapidly changing business environment.  Is this even possible, given the college’s resources and experience?

There are plenty of college institutions out there that have workforce, corporate training, contract training and continuing education departments who are more than eager to offer the ideal customized solution to a business.  For-profit and non-profit institutions alike are becoming increasingly savvy at delivering need analysis and assessments, cobranding curriculum design/development and delivering non-traditional learning platforms (i.e. blended, hybrid, virtual, webinars, online, etc.).  Just send out a flyer, email blast, and make some phone calls or lately, an invitation to chat with a live representative.  Will those messages aim to educate or persuade a business?  Just as education providers are becoming better in marketing, so are the prospective businesses.  So the question becomes-do you have their attention-will you sell them or will you serve them?  The following are the top 5 ways to market Higher Education to Businesses:

1.       Provide a business-friendly website experience.
Many colleges ignore business program information as an afterthought to their traditional student-centric marketing.  Off-the-shelf and traditional programs are less complex and are simply what college instructors know best, so they tend to dominate traditional catalogs that migrate to their website for students.  Don’t make it difficult for a business find out what is available to them with an experience that speaks to their needs.  Create value added content messaging and linking throughout the experience.

2.       Search Engine Optimization (SEO) – seek B2B professional help.
Adding a few meta-tags is simply not going to cut it if you want to be a thought leader in education and be on top of the search results of businesses.  Your key pages, keywords, blogs, podcasts, social media, must be targeted and handled by professionals who know business.  Do-it-yourself SEO is a dangerous way handle a critical element of your digital marketing strategy.  This is especially true due to the fact that many institutions of higher education have minimal marketing budgets that try to cover students, community and business organizations.  Identify areas where you offer a business solution and optimize your content to get businesses there quickly.  You’ll serve the business and your institution.

3.       Use a B2B Customer Relationship Management (CRM) System – A traditional Student Information CRM won’t suffice.
If you plan to provide an efficient and effective experience for businesses interested in learning about your programs, it will most likely be a combination of automation and personalization.  A CRM helps you to collect information from businesses, industries, employee-students, grant programs in an organized way.  This enables you to respond to their needs immediately, track your interactions and offer them valuable feedback on what’s working and what’s not working.  This is a different dynamic compared to student information data gathering.  Determine what communication is valuable to the business so you can automate and make the time required for relationship building.

4.       Integrate traditional customer service and content-rich self-service resources.
Businesses, more than any other segment, are constantly being sold to before they even inquire.  By incorporating interactive tools and self-service elements to your website and landing pages, you give them the opportunity to feel in control to educate themselves on your educational options.  Video testimonials, program previews, CEU-credit transfers, grant programs, live chat, and unfiltered social media conversations provide a way for the prospective business to get to know you on their terms.  We found an increasing number of businesses that know about their local colleges but don’t know how they, as a business, can benefit from their programs and services. 

5.       Most importantly, proactively reach out to businesses – The Personal Touch.
While website, email blasts, and social media of the business shopping experience are important to learn about your programs, there is no replacement for proactive, personal business outreach.  Businesses know about your college and want explore more about information regarding new trends in education, customized training, partnerships, grant opportunities, campus career fairs, community and foundation events, sponsorships, etc.  

It’s a win-win relationship and both parties will learn more by meeting each other….

Our Appointment Lab and Inbound Marketing services help colleges and universities guide these strategies and tactics in an informed way that will lead to a more relevant, useful experience for businesses.  When businesses can make a balanced and informed decision about the best ways in serving their needs, this is a critical first step in trusting and valuing an educational partner in accomplishing their educational goals and objectives.

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