Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

FE, Education & Business Marketing: Quick, Effective, Low Cost Marketing

Stefan Drew - The Marketing Magician

Top Five Marketing Strategies For Colleges

Most college marketing staff are very professional and do a great job of producing the college prospectus, leaflets, flyers and other traditional marketing collateral. However as most degree courses do not include modules on the latest Emarketing techniques, and because this technology changes almost daily, it is hardly surprising that this is an area few excel in.

Likewise few are aware of the hundreds of free marketing tools and techniques available to them. Few understand the power of using free media release distribution services to send their news worldwide, not many use Google Alerts to keep up to date with what their major employers are doing, and although some use SEO to optimise the college website few have explored the benefits of CRO (Conversion Rate Optimisation).

Why spend a fortune on advertising (when most advertising gives a poor return) and other ineffective methods, when hundreds of options exist and give much better returns on investment?

So what strategies work?

There are literally hundreds of marketing strategies that work.  Over 100 strategies are free to implement and hundreds more only cost a few pence. In our years of experience of marketing colleges we have found the following strategies very effective.

The Top Five College Marketing Strategies

1. Free PR

Many colleges use media releases but miss out on further opportunities. Are you using media release distribution services to distribute your media releases beyond the obvious suspects? Are you submitting them to trade body websites and blogs? How about the newspaper websites that run independent of the newsroom?

There are quite a number of other PR opportunities you can use and most of them are effectively free also.  Think also about writing regular columns and articles for newspapers, magazines and trade press.

Letters to the Editor can enhance your credibility, raise the profile of your college and lead to numerous opportunities …. and enrolments.

You might also consider “product” launches (ideal for new courses), official openings, open days, events and exhibitions.  Most of these are low cost and most colleges use them already but beware exhibitions.

Exhibitions can be very effective but few colleges get the best from them and many end up with few enrolments and a large bill.

Finally are your college’s staff registered with journalists, newsrooms and the specialist websites as being available for comment or interview on contemporary news stories or their specific field of interest. In most cases the local press maybe aware of some areas of staff expertise but our recent experience demonstrates that their is a market for the nationals and international press to interview staff when aware of their expertise.

2.  Obtaining your Prospects and Customers Contact Details

How many times do people visit shops, exhibitions, websites etc and leave without a trace?

These are people that were interested enough to visit (and perhaps buy) and could buy again in the future if you use the correct marketing strategy.

You might not think this applies to colleges .. but it does. How many parents, employers or potential learners visit your website but never return to it again? Do you know their names?

These people are a valuable commodity.  You need to harvest their contact details.  Think of it like this; they have made the effort to visit your website so are interested in what you have to offer.  But was your website welcoming? Did it offer them help or try to sell the college? There is a world of difference between these approaches and many colleges don’t recognise the difference.

What do you think will happen if you offer to send these visitors some helpful advice rather than try to sell the college to them .There is a good chance you can build a relationship with them and encourage them to visit in person or invite you to their premises

The secret of success here is to devise a strategy to obtain their contact details.  It might be the offer of a short booklet on “Choosing a career in the financial services” or “Careers in Engineering ” etc. . Offering free impartial advice is a great way to start to build a relationship.These days people Google everything and you need to ensure they find your website, provide you with their details and that you then keep in touch with them. Incredible as it might sound a personal reply can be offered via an automated process. We’ll talk more about that on another occasion.

Whatever you decide to do you need to implement a means of keeping in contact with prospects that will not be a drain on your resources.

3.  Testing and Measuring Marketing Response Rates

Testing and Measuring response rates is a fundamental marketing skill and isn’t difficult.

As indicated earlier I have severe reservations about advertising.  Colleges tell me they spend thousands pounds on adverts in the local press but obtain fewer responses each year. Traditional advertising spend is dropping in the UK and there is a reason for it….. most of it doesn’t work and viable low cost alternatives exist.  

Surprisingly I believe the colleges that complain of a poor response are the fortunate colleges.…… because they know what response they are getting…. even if it is zero!  They have a choice – they can either stop advertising or improve their adverts.

Many colleges don’t know what results their advertising is bringing.  If you don’t know how effective your advertising is you need to either stop immediately or check your results.

Testing and Measuring doesn’t only apply to advertising.  You need to test and measure every marketing strategy and channel you use.  Look at your website, adverts, flyers, brochures etc.  Test different headlines, photographs, colours, calls to action ….test everything to see what works best.  If it doesn’t work stop it!

4. Multi-Channel Marketing

Multi-channel marketing is a really important concept and can be summed up by the phrase “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket”.

Think about it this way.  If you put all your time and money into advertising, or any other marketing channel, and it doesn’t work you have a real problem.  Of course you need to test and measure but you also need to market in more than one way.

As a minimum you need to market via at least 6-8 different channels…. preferably use 40-50 different channels .  It could be your website, flyers, media releases, PR, etc.  What you choose will depend on your college catchment and what works for you . You do however need a marketing plan.  I don’t mean 100+ pages … a good marketing plan can be just a few sides of A4.

Currently I’m using over 50 marketing channels with schools and colleges. Many of these are either free or low cost and I encourage my business customers to do the same. … because it works.  

5. Make full use of E-marketing

Most traditional marketing experts have little idea of how to use e-marketing and this gives you a real advantage.  It means that whatever the size of your college you can out compete other colleges and private providers.

There are dozens of E-marketing channels you can use. Previously I cast doubt on advertising but there is a form of E-advertising that works extremely well and it is called Pay Per Click (PPC). 

An example of a PPC system is Google Adwords and it is extremely low cost if used correctly.  I have heard some people say they have spent a fortune using PPC, and had poor results, but let me give you an example of a campaign I put together for a client recently. 

The example is taken from education; from a FE college. They had tried advertising their Tennis Academy in a highly targeted magazine and, having spent £1600, had received one enquiry.   We then put together a Google Adwords campaign and received 16 responses in the first week.  Now 16 may not seem a huge number but their target recruitment is just 15 people per year.  Multiple 16 by 52 weeks a year and you can see it is a good result. 

The cost to get 16 responses was just £1.23 …. I.e. less than 8 pence per response…. Against their cost of £1600 per enquiry. For £1600 we could get 20,000 enquiries from Adwords.

What this also demonstrates is how small colleges can out compete their larger competitors.   The fact is most large colleges are unaware of this form of marketing and haven’t worked out how effective PPC is; they don’t exploit the opportunities.  .

A PPC campaign can be set up in about 10 minutes and can be online immediately.  Results can start rolling in within minutes and you can stop the campaign at a moments notice if you wish.  No other form of advertising is capable of this and PPC is something you need to investigate.

PPC is not the only E-marketing method you can use to out compete larger competitors.  There are automated systems that will gather email addresses and send out reports, newsletters, audio or video clips.  They can be used on websites to great effect and you are probably reading this report because you subscribed to one of these systems on my website.

You can also ensure your business appears on Google Maps; Google make no charge for this.  Or you could improve the ability of your website to be found by the search engines or use blogging as a means to get more people to visit your website. 

The above are just a few of the e-marketing techniques I am recommending to my clients on both sides of the Atlantic use.  There are literally dozens of similar strategies you can use and most of them are free or very low cost.

Some of the simplest strategies take a few minutes to implement; cost absolutely nothing but can increase enrolments by 200-300%.

These are strategies you just cannot afford to ignore.


My bonus free marketing newsletters will give details of hundreds of proven marketing techniques that you can apply to grow your school.  Watch out for them in your email inbox.  Like hundreds of my strategies my newsletters are free so you nothing to lose… and plenty to gain.

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