We discuss important questions that your team should ask when deciding whether it is the right time to start using inbound marketing without losing your more traditional audience.


Who your audience is and we specifically discuss how you are defining your “traditional” audience. Which input channels you are currently using and we evaluate what makes sense for your higher education institution.

Now it’s time to apply those responses and develop a calculated content strategy that can reach new potential customers while maintaining your relationship with your current supporters.

1) Targeting strategy

Strategic segmentation can create or destroy your risk-taking plan. Marketers have their audiences segmented by stages, others by demographics, some by behavior, or, more likely, a combination of the three. It may be time to rethink your audience if you’re thinking about trying something new. This can be especially true in fundraising for universities.

Two public donations are common donors for the first time and consecutive donors whose behavior was considered their main performance indicator. This is a component of your persona, but it makes sense to depend only on behavior when introducing new content.

If I make my first gift this year and allocate it to my academic department, while my friend also makes her first gift this year for college athletics, the likelihood that the same message and content will influence us to donate again based on our behavior for the first time seems unlikely.

Motivation can drive your process by reevaluating your segmentation strategy. Do you want to take a chance with people donating to academics, those donating to athletics, or the annual general fund? How about those who contribute to a specific campaign, like donation Tuesday or crowdfunding?

The same can be said for admissions. While demographics and behavior are important, you should ask, “What motivated a potential customer to ask about your university?”

The School of Communication and Journalism at USC Annenberg does a fabulous job of taking the prospect’s motivation through its landing page. Its multi-step process captures potential customers’ primary area of ​​interest, why they are considering the program, and their contact information before they can download an information brochure.

Now they know that this person is not only from Pennsylvania, but is also interested in doing public relations to expand their professional network. They can now receive personalized messages that are relevant to them and not just the state in which they live.

2) Content

Using what you have learned about your constituents through segmentation is crucial to identifying new potential customers and maintaining relationships with your established supporters.

Let’s see the content opportunities for two different segments based on demographics, motivation, and preferred communication channels.

The members of its first segment are usually 45 years old or more, predominantly women, have responded to direct mail and paid print ads for their mid-career MBA program, and are looking to advance their careers. After doing a little research, you also noticed that most of them are undergraduate students from your institution.

You have an upcoming information session on campus, as well as an information webinar coming up. What do you need to do to move this audience through the funnel?

Members of its second segment range from recent graduate students to young professionals in their thirties. They are a uniform mix of men and women who have researched flex and online MBA programs and arrived on your blog. Accompanying them through the funnel,

they sent a query to their blog and are specifically looking for a flexible program that will expand their professional network and skills. After some research, you don’t see any other similarities or a large percentage of alumni in this audience. How will you use messages to reach these potential customers?

Two very different audiences, but both watching at MBA programs at your institution. It is quite obvious which group can be more receptive to less traditional messages and content. Use the second audience to try new content and input channels. The main thing to remember is that, although you may be taking some risks, always keep the content relevant to your institution and program. It’s easy to get carried away by new and shiny things, but make sure you’re not missing the target.

3) A / B test

One of the last steps in this process is to test with your audience. Let’s use the second audience in our “Content” section as an example.

You want to focus specifically on the flexibility and online components of your program with this audience. Praise the convenience and how it will help to expand your network while developing your business skills. In general, the content of your message will be the same,

But you want to test an updated logo and slogan. Some in your office are concerned because it is too risky to tamper with such an established brand. This is your opportunity to test it among an audience that is not yet fully connected to your university.

Randomly divide this audience in two and send an email inviting them to an upcoming webinar. Keep the content and subject line the same. The only difference is that a group will receive the new logo with a new slogan embedded in the email. Establish a specific time frame for the test.

Say two weeks. After two weeks, run your analysis to see how responsive each group was and use that information to establish A / B testing for other segments. Perhaps you have had an extremely strong response to the new brand.

If so, experiment with your first most established audience as well. Or if you haven’t seen much of a difference in response rate, there may still be some adjustments that need to be made before testing in other audiences.

The most important thing is to use the information you have collected. Don’t forget how you answered the first risk questions, use your segmentation strategy to establish your content, and test, test, test. Ultimately, this data will guide your future strategy, and don’t be afraid to revisit any steps in your process.

Establishing your motivation and then developing a strategy with these few steps will help you keep your input content up to date. This makes it relevant for new potential customers while maintaining its relationship with the traditional stakeholders of your higher education institution.

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