Why Demand Generation Works in Higher Ed Marketing: A Stamats 2020 Sneak Peek

Randy Burge

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In this week’s #HigherEdVoices podcast, Stamats Director of Content Mariah Obiedzinski and I discuss the most effective ways to market a new higher ed program. At the top of my list? You guessed it – Demand Generation, with email and social media as our primary distribution channels. Listen now.

Want to learn more? Attend my Demand Generation session at the Stamats 2020 Conference in Savannah, GA.  Register now.

 

Don’t have time to listen? Read the full transcript below:

Mariah Obiedzinski: I’m Mariah Obiedzinski, director of content services for Stamats. Joining me today is Randy Burge, our chief demand strategist. How are you today, Randy?

Randy Burge: I’m doing great. How are you, Mariah?

Mariah: Fantastic. Thank you for asking. So, our topic today for the Higher Ed Voices podcast is what happens after a college or university launches a new program. What is one of the first things that you would recommend a college or university do to really get the word out about their new program to perspective students?

Randy: I think the first and most important thing is to have a clearly defined target. So, not just where the target is geographically, but where the target is psychographically and in terms of demographics and their career.

Mariah: What do you mean, “psychographically”?

Randy: It means what their mindset is. So, for example, are they job changers? Are they looking for a new challenge? Are they looking for personal fulfillment? Are they looking to make a big move?

Mariah: Getting in the audience’s mindset. I like that. So, that could definitely be very different for say a 17-year-old kid getting ready to graduate from high school or a person who is well into their career and looking to get their MBA.

We here at Stamats always talk about email nurturing. We talk about lead generation. But we call our program is something a bit different because it’s not necessarily about generating leads but generating excitement for a program.

Could you talk a little bit, Randy, about your demand generation program and how that can work for launching a new program?

Randy: Sure. What our program does is takes somebody from very early awareness of our program and once we get that awareness, we turn that into interest and ultimately into engagement through a series of nurturing communications.

Mariah: Do you find that across the different age groups that we talked about, those new prospective students coming out of high school versus those MBA students, do you find there are specific channels that work really well to get ahold of them across the board?

Randy: We’re finding great success through social media and through search engine marketing.

Mariah: Absolutely. I know a lot of the clients that our team works with on the content marketing side are always asking us new things about Instagram, they’re asking about Snapchat, things like that for the younger crowd. But we have always found great success with email marketing across all of those different demographics. Do you have any insights into why email seems to be one of the go-tos for this program?

Randy: I think email is particularly appropriate when somebody has identified themselves as being interested in giving us permission to talk to them. So, for the early awareness piece, we almost always use digital outreach, either search engine marketing or social media marketing. But once we get that person raising their hand and they’ve given us permission, then we move to email because that’s the most effective way to communicate with them.

Mariah: Absolutely. “Communicate” is the key. You’re not just talking at people, but really kind of going back and forth with each other, whether that’s through reading an email and clicking over to the site, or engaging with a social media post or an ad.

When we’re thinking about all of these strategies, I know a lot of the time when we present this type of robust program to clients, regardless of industry, but often in higher ed, there’s always this kind of overwhelming sense of ‘Oh my gosh. That’s a lot of work.’

You have all these different touch points, you have all of this goal setting, you have all of the messaging. What do you feel is one of the biggest takeaways that you can give to clients when you’re going through, ‘Okay, we’re going to need to have all of these steps. We’re going to have all of these pieces aligned before your program can begin’?

Randy: I think there is a lot of work in the first year of getting the whole thing set up. But I want to make two points. First, they already have a lot of the content they’re going to need to populate the program. They just need to be able to retool it and find it.

And secondarily, once it’s set up, it’s done. It’s like building a house, once it’s there, all you have to do in subsequent years, just start putting the drapes up and putting the carpeting in and fine tuning and re-tuning.

So, really the big investment is the first year, but after that, they should see big reductions in involvement of their staff and resources.

Mariah: Do you find that a lot of organizations are doing these programs manually right now that maybe could shift over to an easier platform?

Randy: Oh yeah. We see lots of clients doing these things from spreadsheets and trying to remember to actually send the email on a certain date and retyping data over and over again.

It’s just so labor-intensive. It’s so prone to data errors and all kinds of other kinds of mistakes that it just really doesn’t make any sense anymore with the kinds of automations we have available to us.

Mariah: I know here with our clients at Stamats, we’ve run these types of programs through Pardot, we have interfaced with Marketo, just about any of the CMS platforms and the email platforms that clients have. These capabilities are there. It’s just kind of that learning curve, needing that expertise to get started.

So, thinking about if somebody listening today is like, ‘Yeah, I’m doing this. I’m the one that’s hitting all the send buttons and kind of having a little bit of angina every time I send one of those messages out,’ what would be a step for them to maybe start the conversation with you or somebody from your team on demand generation?

Randy: I think having a relatively quick conversation with us on what they’re doing now because so many places are doing bits and pieces of it and it really won’t be as daunting as they think that it might be.

So, then we’ll map out what they’re doing currently and come back with a map of how we think it should be. And for us, that’s always the “Ah-ha” moment with our clients is they see where the redundancies are, they see where the holes are, and they see there really is a roadmap for going forward.

And while it can seem like a lot of daunting work, they see that there’s a path ahead that is really smart and feasible and in the long run, will really help them optimize their results.

Mariah: Absolutely. And I think one of the biggest things that I hear over and over on the content marketing component of this, “Aren’t we burdening our audiences with all of these messages? Aren’t we going to start bothering them and alienating them?”

And my response is always, “No. Not if you’re giving them things that are relevant to their perspective, relative to their current journey with you.”

I get things all the time from brands that I just really enjoy. If I don’t want to read it that day, I’ll swipe it away and not look at it. If I want to read the next thing because it’s highly relevant to me, I’ll read it.

But I think it takes a lot to really alienate anybody these days. We’re so used to receiving communications. It’s just really that judgment call, ‘Does this matter to me? Does this not matter to me right now?’

Randy: Right. I think the most important point, and you said it, is to keep the content relevant to them. We see so many marketers talking about their institution or their business and really not talking about the needs of their perspective clients.

Mariah: Absolutely. So, if you are looking to start a demand generation program, feel free to reach out to Randy. He is always available to talk to you.

And if you’re looking for any assistance with content strategy, we can certainly help with that too, from content marketing all the way out to enterprise content projects.

Randy, thanks so much for joining us today.

 

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