It's once again that time of year for taking a good look at the lessons we've learned from our marketing efforts and resolving what we will, or won't, do again in 2017:
1) Less Bulk Email
Your prospects want to know you see them. Personalized emails provide 6x the transaction rates as generic email. Yet the bar for what qualifies as "personalized" is getting higher. Personalization no more precise than segmenting your list into prospects and parents of prospects doesn't meet expectations. Your prospects want to feel that you see them as an individual. That means knowing what questions they have, whether they prefer Instagram to Twitter, or even Facebook, and send them videos, not reports. When you collect information through their digital behavior and optimized online forms, put that intel to use when customizing the content you email individuals.
2) Better communication with Enrollment/Admissions
This is a symbiotic relationship. The stronger the relationship between Marketing and Admissions, the more effective both departments are. Admissions folks are great sources of intel regarding what current prospects' pressing questions are, or understanding why applicants do and don't enroll. Their frontline knowledge on these issues can help you craft a topic list that will have traction. Work together to define what is an admissions qualified lead (AQL). If you don't already have an service level agreement (SLA), 2017 is the year to put one together with your colleagues. It provides the framework for mutual support, open communication, and shared goals.
3) Stop posting just for the sake of posting
You have a blog to keep fresh and an extensive editorial calendar to execute! The drive to publish often leads to publishing whatever you can think of. But guess work is so 2013.
You need to publish new posts regularly. The more you publish blog posts, the more traffic and leads you drive to your website. Here's the critical caveat: are you attracting traffic and leads that fit your personas? You don't want just any old eyeballs. If you want to attract your ideal students and their parents, you must publish posts they actually want to read. You need to address their most pressing concerns, answer their burning questions, be a resource for the information they seek. Revisit your keyword research to reflect those burning questions, and what words they're using to ask them. Analyze your internal data to see which blog post topics are attracting the types of prospects you want. Freshen those up and use them as a starting point to brainstorm new post topics.
Not that your school isn't fabulous. It is. But the hard truth is that most people aren't terribly interested in your school. Their single focus is making sure they get the best education for themselves or their kids. In the early stages of their enrollment journey, when they're researching, they only have a sketchy idea of what the "best education" means to them. Questions about their educational future are at a much higher level. Even when they've moved to their consideration and decision-making phases, their main interest is still: what about this school suitsme, meets my needs, will get me where I want to be. If you want people to continue to visit your blog or follow your school's social media profiles, the content there needs to provide pure value to prospects and their parents. It's not about you. It's about them.
5) Stop relying entirely on the written word
It's easy to think of blog posts as written articles, but what if you posted a video interview with someone from your career office on your blog? Or an infographic showing the breakdown of the collegiate and professional paths of your alumni?
Don't overlook video, podcasts, and other visual content. Infographics are liked and shared on social media 3x more than any other type of content. That's just one jaw-dropping stat on the power images have in your content. People are also watching more digital video, especially video messaging apps like Facebook Messenger and Snapchat. Don't just think verbally. Think visually. Start with some of your best-performing written content and repurpose it into a visual format. That will give you a reason to promote both formats, so both the readers and the visual folks can connect with it.
6) Do more on social
Social engagement can't be an afterthought. It must be a strategic piece of your marketing plan. From deciding which social platforms to focus on (don't waste resources using them all), to determining how your school will use the different channels. Social media is a distribution channel that drives traffic back to your blog and landing pages. It can also be the delivery channel for your content, like your YouTube channel or Instagram account. It can also be the most direct, personal means you have to talk directly to your prospects, like Twitter. Specify each platform's role for your school so you're incorporating them effectively in the planning for all your campaigns and community-building activities.
7) Keep learning
The principles of inbound marketing never change. Build trust and credibility with your target personas by publishing awesome, informative content they can't ignore. The best strategies, tactics, and tools are another story. Options to try to new things, or using tools in new ways, is constantly growing. Keep reading your favorite marketing blogs (thank you very much!). You might even consider getting inbound certified!
Work these resolutions into your planning for next quarter and next year. They'll become good habits soon enough. Then you can start working on your personal batch of resolutions. And our best wishes for a happy holiday season!
Originally published Jan 5, 2017 7:00:00 AM, updated October 02 2017