Friday, June 25, 2010

Job Swap: Education and B2B Marketing

Why should education institutions hire B2B marketers?

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to write two guest posts recently.  The first was for myUsearch and focused on battling the sameness of branding and admissions marketing in the education space.   The second was for Content Marketing Institute that offered a way of segmenting prospects based on their need state using the B2B market as an example.

The education piece argued that the 'sameness' of their marketing reduces colleges and universities to the lowest common denominators of cost and convenience - not a position many schools actually want, nor where they can actually survive.  The B2B piece suggested that at any point in time prospects are in one of several need states with respect to a given problem, e.g. think of a pain as being latent, chronic or acute.   

Since both markets consist of high-consideration products where the decisions are made by a very social group there could be some complementary thinking.  What would B2B marketers bring to education?

The best B2B companies, and particularly technology-focused ones, identify or create the category they want to dominate and compete in.  They are often experts at setting the rules that establish how their offerings are perceived.  'Industry leading', while over used, does reflect an understanding that it is critical to know what category prospects put them in.   In comparison, education institutions rarely can articulate the category in which they compete.  Instead they rely on a mantra of 'education is good for your career'.  True, but not very helpful - it is like saying 'shampoo gets your hair clean' or 'cars are safe'.  There is no attempt to differentiate nor is there an equivalent to "industry leading" and there should be.

In addition, while educational institutions have a brand that would make most B2B firms envious they often treat all their prospects as if they're all on the same time frame.  If the prospect doesn't apply and enroll within 60 days they are often relegated to the rehash or forgotten bin.  In contrast, B2B understands the value of nurturing because not everyone is ready right now.  The marketing objective is often to raise a pain to level of where action is taken - and this takes time.  Nowhere is this more important to understand than in the marketing of Master's degrees. 

So, the next time you need a marketer with a fresh perspective for the edu space look no further than the B2B sector.  

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