From education to employment

How to automate FE marketing

Each year the volume of marketing opportunities available to FE continues to expand and with it so does the time needed to implement them all.  So the opportunity to save time by automating marketing activities has become an imperative.

Years ago it was relatively easy; the only options available were things like printed materials, advertising and events. Then came the internet, websites, search engines, and more recently social media, and FE marketing changed overnight.

The opportunity for marketing staff to spend huge amounts of time in front of a computer screen has escalated.  Of course we shouldn’t blame marketing for this, staff throughout the sector expect to see providers on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr and a host of other digital platforms.

Automation processes and tools

The first step in automating processes is to audit the marketing activity that is taking place and to strip out those that are fads or have no measurable ROI.  Think about all those banners ads, social platforms and web pages that don’t contribute anything to the recruitment and income bottom line.

A simple marketing audit tool we can all use is Google Analytics and its use can result in significant savings.  For example one provider I’ve been working with discovered that banner ads costing £2500 were bringing fewer than a hundred visitors to their website and few of these visitors were converting into measurable recruitment or income.  Measured against referrals from Facebook, of which there were thousands at no cost, the decision to cut out the banner ad was obvious.

The second step is to consider which marketing functions can be automated.  For example if you use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social platforms, rather than post a message to each one individually it is much quicker to post to all of them in one go via software such as HootSuite.  Better still write your post on your website and use simple posting software embedded in your website to automatically post to any social media you nominate.  The result, one post on your website with potentially hundreds of social media sites being posted to with just one click of the mouse.  Time savings offered by automating are huge.

Email is another area that offers opportunities for automating and improvement.  Avoiding your email being regarded as spam, by both email spam filters and the email’s recipients, is an art form in itself.  Getting a higher percentage of people to open these emails and, more importantly, act upon them requires significant work including split testing and multi-variant testing.  Done manually this is such an onerous task that it is ignored by most marketing departments.  But if the split testing is undertaken by automating it via CRM or autoresponder systems the results are computed automatically and workloads greatly reduced.

For split testing websites Google’s website optimiser is a free tool that allows you to split test your website very easily and can provide results quite quickly.  For example you may want to split test different headlines, copy or photos to see which of them provide the best results in terms of applications.  Optimiser automatically shows visitors different versions of the site without you actually making changes to it in reality.  It then provides statistics on the results which will allow you to optimise your website based on real results rather than assumptions.

The above are just a small sample of ways in which you can automate your marketing and save limited resources.  Others include automated advertising, automated event registration systems (ideal for capturing Open Evening attendees contact details before they attend the event) and the online payment systems such as PayPal and WorldPay that colleges are now beginning to use.

Marketing consultant, Stefan Drew, was previously director of marketing at two FHE colleges and now works with providers throughout Europe and the US

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