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Foster Design Group
 
October 17, 2016

With all the changes facing Higher Education, schools could take a lesson from an industry that’s learned to thrive in a world of constant change:  High Tech. Everyone in the field knows Higher Ed has been slow to change.  The educational model we have today was born in the Middle Ages, revised by German universities […]


With all the changes facing Higher Education, schools could take a lesson from an industry that’s learned to thrive in a world of constant change:  High Tech.

Everyone in the field knows Higher Ed has been slow to change.  The educational model we have today was born in the Middle Ages, revised by German universities in the early 19th century, and popularized in the US in the 20th.  Higher Ed marketing hasn’t changed much in the past fifty years, either. If you recognize the need for change—in the way your institution is run, the products you offer, the intense competition you face for students and donations, and especially in how you market your school—how do you move forward when there’s no leadership in the field showing the way?

Look outside the field. Look at an industry built on innovation, one that uses change to its advantage.  Look at High Tech. While most consumer product and service companies have fought a rear-guard action, dabbling in digital, but hoping to eke the last ounce of value out of Mad Men age marketing, B2B High Tech has embraced it fully, marrying the best practices of traditional marketing with all that digital has to offer. If these firms can successfully market themselves in a highly competitive, rapidly changing environment, colleges and universities can too.

Most successful High Tech firms have fully integrated Marketing with Sales, and have tested and refined everything until they run together like a well-oiled machine.

Think your school might benefit from some of what High Tech marketing has learned?  Consider these six lessons.

  1. Prospective buyers are attracted to brands, not rhetoric.

In a field where everything is new and changing, High Tech buyers are wary of chest-pounding superlatives.  Effective marketers have learned to use brand positioning—a clear, simple and powerful reason for being—to differentiate their products from competition.

Want to stand out from the clutter of look-alike Higher Ed marketing?  Find what makes your school special, and start building your brand around that simple, powerful message.

  1. Prospects do their homework before they ever contact you.

Studies have show High Tech marketers that prospects acquire more than 80% of the information they need to make purchase decisions before they ever respond to offers or make contact with companies.  To get good leads, their websites, content and social marketing have to do an exceptional job answering questions and building brand interest.

If you want more applications, piling on more lead generation may not be the best use of resources. Instead, make sure your website and social media are doing the quiet work of selling your brand.

  1. Successful lead conversion requires frequent, precise nurturing.

Staying connected to prospects, feeding them information that’s personally relevant, is how High Tech marketing helps Sales move prospects towards close.  A CRM system that responds to the needs and behavior of each prospect is critical to optimizing this process.

Without personalized nurturing, you’re closing only a fraction of prospective students and donors.  Individualized communications built on a sophisticated CRM platform is one of the best investments you can make.

  1. The most effective communications are short, simple and visual.

With so much information available to everyone, and so little time to process it, High Tech marketers have learned the most effective way to get prospects’ attention is to serve it up visually.  Think short, powerful headlines, bold images, infographics and brief, engaging videos.

Want to connect with Gen Y?  Treat them all as if they have ADD.

  1. You should test and measure everything.

With digital media, High tech marketers have learned there’s no reason to bet the ranch on one idea, one execution, when you can test everything. Alternative targets, media, offers, messages can all be tested in a matter of days or weeks, winners found and programs quickly optimized.

Testing is the smart way to effect change in a change-averse environment like Higher Ed—you reduce risk, increase the chance of success, and optimize limited resources.

  1. Integrating Sales & Marketing delivers better results.

Successful High Tech companies have found that Sales and Marketing working as a closely knit team—with clearly defined roles and goals—assures the maximum number of customers will move from the top to the bottom of the funnel.

Recruiting new students and developing major donors require this same careful integration of communications and personal contact.  

If you think it’s time your school changed its marketing, give us a call—we have a fresh perspective on the industry, and have shown how that can work at an up-and-coming liberal arts college in Virginia.