If you’re looking to get into online marketing but don’t have rich uncle Alfred to bankroll your first startup, there are other ways to fund your ventures. One of them is providing a valuable service to students. Why? Because many universities, colleges, and polytechnics offer amazing business education classes that may be the key to gaining entry-level marketing jobs. To prove it, here are 10 ways to market online education to students.
1. Create a marketing funnel.
What is a marketing funnel? It’s a simple concept: you gather a group of people who are likely to be interested in your product or service, and you guide them through a series of steps to get to a point where they’re ready to make a purchase. Some businesses use funnels to direct buyers to their websites, where they can make a purchase. Others use funnels to get leads to fill out a form, complete a survey, or enter their email address to receive regular newsletter blasts. The point is that you can use a funnel to gain more interested and devoted customers.
The trouble is, a marketing funnel is more difficult to create than you’d think. You have to consider many factors, including:
- The quality of the product or service you’re delivering;
- The size of the audience you’re targeting;
- How you’ll get paid (e.g., PayPal vs. credit card transactions); and
- How comfortable people will be giving you their information (e.g., Facebook vs. an email sign-up form).
2. Build your audience.
To build your audience, you want to find ways to connect with potential customers. This is easier said than done, considering that students have hundreds of options when it comes to choosing their university or college. So how will you find your audience? Consider starting with universities, colleges, and polytechnics in your locality. If you have a specific niche (e.g., nursing, law, or business students), then focus on building your audience there. You can also consider reaching out to specific subject matter experts within those industries and asking them to help you spread the word about your product or service. For example, if you’re offering pre-law classes, then consider reaching out to criminal lawyers in your area to see whether or not they’d be willing to help bring in students. If you can build a strong enough connection with a single subject matter expert, you may be able to gain access to his or her email list of contacts. Once you have this list, you may be able to reach out to other subject matter experts in your industry to see whether or not they can help as well.
3. Customize your message.
Every business, no matter the size, will face competition. However, knowing how to compete effectively is completely different from simply throwing a bunch of money at the problem. You have to consider the psychology of your customers and know what will make them click, share, or convert in order to have a chance at winning customers and business. When you customize your message, you’re able to craft an approach that is likely to work best with your audience.
4. Measure the success of your campaigns.
Even if you’re doing everything right, you may not see the results you’re looking for. If you set a goal to gain 500 new subscribers to your email list in a month and you meet this objective, what will you do? The first step is to take a hard look at your numbers. Did you hit your goal? Did you meet it with a good margin? Consider measuring the success of your marketing efforts through something like:
- Web analytics (e.g., Google Analytics);
- Social media analysis (e.g., Hootsuite); and
- Email marketing (e.g., Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or HubSpot).
5. Identify areas for improvement.
Even if you’re doing everything you can think of to market your product or service, you’ll still need to consider the matter from a customer’s point of view. It is one thing to have a customer for life, but how will you retain them? To retain your customers, you want to make sure that
- Your products and services remain fresh and innovative.
- Your prices remain fair.
- Your delivery times remain quick.
- Your website is easy to navigate.
- Your social media presence is active and engaging.
- And, most importantly,
- You make sure that your customers feel that they’re getting great value for their money.
6. Identify the decision-makers.
If you’re looking to grow your business, then you need to focus on increasing your client base. To do this, you want to identify the decision-makers (e.g., the people who have the power to choose your product or service). Start by
- Defining the problem you’re solving (e.g., “We want to increase sales revenue by 10% within the next six months”);
- Considering the different types of individuals who will be choosing your product (e.g., “Our target audience is professional women between the ages of 20-40 who’re looking for a fun yet engaging way to learn about business”); and
- Creating buyer personas (i.e., “Jane Doe”, a 40-year-old business owner who’s very practical and needs to decide on a marketing platform fast).
7. Brainstorm alternative marketing strategies.
To create a truly effective marketing plan, you’ll need to brainstorm alternative strategies. What would work best for your product? What has worked well for other products in a similar category? The answers to these questions can help guide your decisions about which strategy to pursue and may even help you develop new strategies. To arrive at the best solution, you have to be willing to think outside of the box.
8. Analyze the competition.
To stand out from the competition, you need to consider why the competition is where they are, what makes your product different, and how you’ll win the hearts and minds of your customers. One important thing to do before you start your research is to define your target audience. You have to consider
- What are their needs and wants?
- How can you fulfill these needs and wants?
- What makes your product or service special?
- How can you position your product or service to be superior to your competitors?
- Where are your competitors most vulnerable and how can you take advantage of this?
- What is your pricing strategy?
- How will you get the word out?
- How will you measure the success of your marketing efforts?
9. Identify the metrics that matter.
To know if you’ve succeeded with your marketing efforts, you need to consider
- The quality and volume of inbound marketing traffic to your website (i.e., organic traffic driven by content that’s relevant and helpful to the consumer);
- The number of sales you make (e.g., via a sales team, affiliate sales, or a combination of both); and
- The amount of money you spend on marketing (versus the amount you spent on advertising).
Each of these metrics is important, but you have to consider them in relation to one another. For instance, if you have a lot of organic traffic but no money left in your marketing budget, you may have to scale back your efforts or find other ways to pay for your advertising. Think of a car racing against time. As the clock ticks down, the engine is getting hotter and the tires are wearing down. If you can’t afford the bills, then maybe it’s time to consider a more sustainable option.
10. Test, test, and test some more.
To create a truly effective marketing plan, you’ll have to conduct
- Searches (e.g., A/B testing or multivariate testing); and
- Conversions (e.g., Landing page testing or funnel testing)
The key to having a successful business is to conduct rigorous tests to find out what works and what doesn’t. You’ll have to be willing to try new things, take risks, and make adjustments as you go along. Testing is an essential part of the process, and it’ll only get more important as you grow your business.