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Content marketing for education marketers

Being a marketer in education in South Africa today can feel a bit overwhelming. The competition is fierce. There are a growing number of private school options opening up around the country, but the number of potential students is not necessarily keeping up. South Africa's middle class is tiny and, some argue - shrinking: You have to work harder than ever to attract the best talent to your school.

Then there is the fact that the tools at your disposal to do this are multiplying by the day. You've heard that you need to change the way you sell to be more customer-centric and more helpful - but honestly - what does that mean? You've heard that content is king and that legacy sales are out and inbound is in, and that you simply must have a social media strategy; but you have only a vague idea how to do any of this or how it all fits together.

You might in fact be starting to feel a little left behind in an increasingly complex field. Don't stress. It is possible to pick a path through the noise and create a compelling marketing strategy that works for you.

Here are three tips to help get you started.

Start with what you know

The terminology might be changing and the technology to support us growing in leaps and bounds, but some things in marketing stay the same. For me – one of these constants is that the better you know your customer, the more likely you are to be able to give them what they need.

So start by taking some time to write down everything you already know about your current customers – and you know a lot. You know, for example, which ones are great - and which you would rather not have to deal with. So focus on who your ideal customer is and create a picture of who they are so you can find more of them!

How old are they? What do they like to read? What are they wanting to accomplish? What are their challenges? If you find that you don’t know everything, consider phoning up some existing or past customers and asking them these questions. Also chat to your co-workers and pick their brains about who they think your ideal customer is. Gradually you can flesh out a picture of who they are and what they want.

Congratulations – you have just completed a buyer persona. This is widely considered to be a key starting point in creating an effective content marketing strategy.


The Buyer’s Journey

Next you can expand your understanding of your buyer persona by finding out a bit more on how they go about deciding to study at your institution.

This is known as the Buyer’s Journey. Just like when you decide on something you want to buy – maybe a new cell phone or a restaurant to try out - it starts when you realise that you need a new phone or a nice place to take your friend out to dinner. Then you go online and browse a bit until you find something that looks interesting and you dig a bit deeper. You are moving through a buyer’s journey from awareness and consideration to decision and purchase. By starting to understand your customer’s buyer’s journey you can start to develop a more nuanced understanding of how they move from being just another prospective mom looking for the best place to send their child to being the stalwart on their parent-teacher body.

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The holy grail of content marketing is to build trust with your customers – both existing and prospective - by providing them with relevant content and information when they need it rather than trying to sell them something. As in real life, the more authentic and human the experience you create, the more likely you are to be successful in convincing them to come to your institution.

Start with what you have

You don’t have to be on Instagram. Yes, you read that right. You may have heard somewhere that Instagram is the number one social media platform of the moment with engagement levels an impressive 10 times what they are on Facebook, but that does not mean your marketing efforts will be doomed unless you start a profile on that platform. Maybe you only have a Twitter account or a Facebook page. That’s great – start with what you have. You can always expand later.

Rather than feel like you have to start doing a whole lot of new things, take the time to re-evaluate what you are currently doing and see how you can make it all fit together better and work harder for you. So invest some time in doing an audit of all your marketing activities including content you generate and events you hold.

 4 content audit questions to consider

 For a basic content audit consider the following:

  1. What content are you already producing? List all the kinds of content you are currently producing –this would include everything from articles you write and social media posts to website copy. Include any events and info sessions you hold.
  2. Do these help you achieve organisational goals? Try to see if you can link each item to a particular goal of your organisation.
  3. Which elements are working for you and which are not? An honest assessment of this will help you determine your strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Is there anything you think is missing?



Start as you mean to go on

My mother always used to tell me to start as I meant to go on and I think it’s good advice for marketers too. Taking the time to plan upfront where you want to go and having a good road map to get you there really makes a big difference to your ultimate success.

You now have a better idea of who your ideal customer is and what they want and you have a good sense of what you are already doing in the marketing space. Next you need to decide when and how you will connect with your customers, using the channels at your disposal.

5 steps towards a basic content marketing strategy

A good content marketing strategy needs to consider the following things:

  1. Where do you want to get to? It is a good idea to know what you want to achieve before you get going. Do you want to for example, increase the number of applicants or increase the quality of your applicants? Knowing the answer to this question will change the shape of your content strategy. Make sure your goals are SMART. Download our free goal planning template.
  2. What are you going to say? Key messages and topics that you want to write about that you know your customers will find interesting and relevant. From your website copy and blog articles to the events you plan to hold.
  3. Where are you saying it? Clearly identify marketing channels.
  4. Who is going to be doing what? Align your team so that everybody – including external agency people - are clear on what they are doing and when.
  5. How does it all fit together? A single technique on its own won’t be successful – but together a string of actions that are geared towards common goal will. That is the simple truth of content marketing. And your strategy is the thread that binds it all together.

Remember, you are aiming for consistency – saying the same thing across all channels. If your director is talking to someone at a party, he or she should ideally be saying the same things that your marketing intern is putting out on your Facebook page.

And last but not least, it is essential to put in place some basic metrics to measure your progress so that when you get to your milestones you can celebrate them.


What would our jobs be if we weren’t allowed a little celebration every now and again?

So on that note – you might like to congratulate yourself for having taken the time to read this article. Maybe reward yourself with a cup of coffee or stand up and do some star jumps. You are on your way to becoming an ace content marketer! 

 Download our free content marketing  workbook to help you plan your next steps