It might seem like marketing a high-demand service wouldn’t be too difficult. On the contrary, promoting educational opportunities can have many challenges. This is especially true in our highly digital world.
In this article, we’ll take a look at several reasons why modern education can be difficult to promote. We’ll also dig into how you can overcome its challenges.
Understanding Modern Educational Marketing
As our educational system has changed over the years, marketing departments have been challenged to balance modern priorities with long-standing institutional traditions. The advent of online classes and the growth of modular or ‘stackable’ options means promoting higher education has become quite competitive.
The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent shift to online-only classes for most of the United States will also likely have an impact on the future of education. While we have no way of knowing what that will look like, it’s safe to say digital marketing will continue to be a major player in this field.
Additionally, other topics related to higher education, such as the student debt crisis, will likely continue to influence the industry. High-quality online marketing is one way colleges and universities can remain relevant and enticing as students have more and more choices in how they learn.
3 Reasons Why Modern Educational Marketing is a Challenge (And How to Overcome Them)
While educational marketing is a competitive industry, it also tends to come with other long-standing barriers. Institutions of higher learning are typically very rooted in tradition and it can be hard to drag them into modernity. Let’s take a look at three of those challenges and how you can overcome them.
1. Slow Pace of Change Can Be a Roadblock to Implementing New Strategies
Educational institutions have historically been slow to change for many reasons. Whether it’s a challenge of scalability or decentralized administration, institutional adaptability usually pales in comparison to how quickly other industries adapt to new technology.
Like herding cats, introducing institutions to the technologies needed for educational digital marketing isn’t always smooth and easy. These roadblocks can be influenced by a number of factors, including:
- Contract and bid processes for some institutions can prohibit quick turnaround on adopting new systems or technologies.
- Decisions made by committees can take extensive time and scheduling.
- Commercial digital marketing systems are not always designed to adhere to student privacy laws.
- Institutions that traditionally cater to large lecture-based courses can be tough to scale toward the more individualized approach that’s prevalent in today’s digital marketing techniques.
Knowing this, marketers can shape their approaches to accommodate the differences in pace. For example, you can offer comprehensive services so that institutions don’t have to expend their own resources, which can be a factor in decision-making.
Another option is to offer a highly-adaptable framework that can mold to a more typical education timeline. While many standard digital marketing techniques can be applied to educational marketing, it’s helpful to plan for a cycle that’s not quite as fast-paced as, for example, e-commerce.
2. Lack of Administrative Buy-in Might Reduce Your Credibility
Another roadblock that’s common in educational marketing is a lack of buy-in from administrators. Without approval and support from the school’s top leaders, other departments are not likely to champion concepts that seem foreign to them, such as social media marketing or Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Marketers who understand the ebb and flow of the educational calendar may have more success in building relationships with administrators and in turn, credibility with faculty. While it might seem like the academic marketing calendar never ceases, it may be best to avoid important meetings during exam weeks, for instance.
This might be a big change for some marketers who are more familiar with retail calendars, but it can demonstrate that you’re in tune with the needs of administrators. Additionally, it’s important to understand that educators have traditionally shied away from referring to students or parents as ‘customers’ or ‘consumers.’
When working with educational institutions, it’s smart to develop language that avoids framing learning and knowledge as ‘products.’ When you use terms that are more familiar and comfortable to administrators, you might have more luck forming effective relationships with those whose approval you need.
3. Working With the Wrong Tools Can Impact Results
Educational institutions have been using different forms of data collection to track students for some time. However, they were not built on systems that are friendly to digital marketing techniques.
Some of this is due to the laws around student privacy. Additionally, as we’ve already stated, traditional educational marketing was not designed for the fast and furious pace of online promotions or social media. Consequently, the specific data that digital marketing thrives on may not be readily available.
One example of the mismatch between technology and education is smartphones. Currently, 96% of Americans own smartphones and mobile web traffic accounts for roughly half of all online usage. Yet, institutions continue to struggle with how to implement, leverage, and manage mobile devices as part of their systems.
With that in mind, marketers can offer solutions that bridge the gaps in an institution’s current trends. For example, Application Programming Interface (API) technology can be very helpful in knowing how to combine legacy school platforms with more advanced digital Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
One interesting example of this is how SalesForce has adapted its well-known CRM to mold to the world of education. By implementing an architecture geared toward all the nuances of the field, it’s been able to make the right tools available to institutions and marketing teams.
As education shifts and changes, it’s hard to know what role marketing will end up playing in this field. What you can be pretty certain about is that remaining competitive will likely require you to sharpen your skills and understand how to adapt them to institutions that are often slow to change.