From education to employment

Marketing FE: Reducing marketing costs with free and low cost marketing channels

Stefan Drew

FE needlessly spends a fortune on marketing each year!  It isn’t that it we shouldn’t market, it is that FE tends to focus on expensive marketing and ignores low cost and free marketing techniques.

The problem probably lies in the belief that free equates with ineffective, poor quality or tacky marketing.  After all there is no such thing as a free dinner.

Or is there?

Take one of my clients as an example.  They spent £1800 on an advert in a specialist magazine and didn’t get a single reply.  The magazine’s advertising sales people said that for advertising to be effective they needed to be seen 6-7 times and tried to sell them more space.

The reality is that if the advert didn’t attract a response the first time it was extremely unlikely to do so with expensive repetition.

When the call for help went out my response was to advertise the same offer via online ads.  These ads attracted 16 responses in the first week alone and cost only £1.28.  …. A saving of over £1798.   We eventually filled the course by this means.

But of course this wasn’t free marketing; it cost £1.28!  So what about free marketing?

What is Free Marketing?

There are two forms of free marketing.  The first is totally free and includes things like media releases, magazine articles and the opportunity to advertise or promote your offer, online and offline, at no cost.  Examples of the latter include free online advertising on YouTube and on SatNav systems (most people don’t even now this is possible) as well as using email via your own email system or a CRM system.

The second form of free marketing focuses on fixed and variable cost marketing. Variable cost marketing includes advertising where the cost of subsequent adverts cost more, as in the magazine example above.  But consider your website where you have paid a fixed cost to design and run it. If you put an extra page on your website the cost is essentially nil; you’ve already paid for the website and extra pages cost nothing at all but a few minutes of your time.  If these pages are well optimised (and optimisation is free if simple rules are followed) then the page can be on Page One of Google at nil cost – believe me getting on Page One of Google is easy and can lead to significant enquiries. If you believe that getting on Page One of Google is difficult contact me I’ll prove it is easy and I will even demonstrate it in real time!

What Other Free Marketing Channels are Available to FE?

The answer is hundreds.

There literally are hundreds of free marketing channels available to FE.  Add these to the simple methods you can utilise to improve the effectiveness of your FE marketing and you can easily improve your marketing ROI.

Let me give another example.  If you use direct mail or email to contact prospects you can easily improve the effectiveness of your marketing.

Say you are about to email 5000 businesses. You can improve the opening rate of the email by testing two different email subject headlines.  Send one subject line to 500 people and a second to another 500 people.  One will always give a better response than the other.  Now send the best performing headline version to the remaining 4000 businesses.  Often this will give improvements of 50% or more ..  and the difference is effectively free marketing and can significantly improve profits.

To learn more about How to Improve Your Advertising or Free Marketing follow the links below.

Stefan Drew is a marketing consultant, and was previously director of marketing at two FHE colleges. He now works with providers throughout Europe and the US. Visit:

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