Thursday, April 29, 2010

Story Telling with Curriculum

How can we improve the marketing of education programs?

Seems to me that there is an opportunity to use a course catalog to tell a story to prospective students about what they'll cover and accomplish in a given program.    Too often the really interesting material a college or university has to offer is locked up in a document not really fit for marketing purposes.  A couple of examples:

  • For a large online university, the descriptions for a particular program start on page 261 of a 400+ page document.
  • For a local school, what I'd learn in a web design course are spread across departments.  And this is after all the admissions, policy and graduation bumpf. 
  • For a school with both online and ground-based programs the descriptions for a history degree were at least in their own document; but that was several clicks away.
In all cases the writing style looks like it came out of a committee, not a strong copy writer. The best teachers and professors regale us with stories, anecdotes and facts and figures.  We should take a page from their success and repurpose course descriptions as telling a story.   

When it comes to building rapport with prospective students, which is the most critical factor in the admissions process, sometimes the answer to the question "What will I learn?" will tip the balance in favor of one institution over another.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Continuous Content Consumption

What do we do with our remarkable content?

The success of content marketing programs rests as much on contact strategies as it does on the content itself. In high consideration categories, where the research process is intense and occurs over a period of time, distributing high-value content to high-value contacts requires more than an eblast or a download.

In looking around for a framework on content marketing, I stumbled upon this one from the folks at Merkle.

I like it because it starts with the business objective: What are we trying to achieve? and goes through a structured approach to creating and measuring the impact of how content works.     However, the big boxes along the top seem to be missing a critical component:  Content Distribution or Consumption.

In B2B technology, education, and numerous other categories content consumption is a continuous process as options are considered, needs are crystallized and benefits weighed.  To nurture interest the where, when and with whom of content consumption must be mapped out as much as the other areas of the strategy. The role of content, be it stories or facts and figures, is to help the recipient feel more comfortable about one option over another.  In categories where personal sales ultimately close the deal, content should focus on getting you in the consideration set. 

In the end, the role of a content contact plan is not to help people decide, but rather to help them choose. 

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Content Marketing and Lead Generation

Are lead generation and content marketing compatible?

Often when discussing 'lead generation' we fall into the trap of thinking that it is about driving traffic to a form.   That is certainly one aspect, but in the grander scheme of things there are other aspects of lead generation.   The following illustrates one way to break down lead generation into various segments based on the business goal and focus. 
There are two possible goals: lead origination or lead conversion.  For each there are two possible ways to view the marketing focus.  We can strive for quantity or quality of new leads. We can strive for leads that require nurturing or those that close fast. 

And yes clients will want it all - "lots of well qualified leads that close fast because they have a connection with the company."  

The reality is that any company will have prospects in all four segments because of the different stages of demand that they are in.   Content plays different roles in each of the possible group.
  • Quantity:  broadcast enticing offers with a sense of excitement
  • Quality:  target exclusive offers with an opportunity to further qualify, e.g. survey
  • Nurture: respond to each touch with relevant content based on previous stream
  • Close Fast: convey a sense of missing out if action not taken
Direct response was built on the Quantity - Close Fast combination: "If you order now, we'll double the order."

However, in many categories where prospects need to consider their next step in the choice process the Quality - Nurture combination may be a better approach.   High value contacts deserve and respond to high value content.  Content marketing of a different form is required for this type of lead generation. 

As content marketing matures we will be segmenting the lead generation pool according to their needs and developing content accordingly.