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Many education organizations are finding themselves completely unprepared for the challenge of enrollment growth.

Their previous marketing strategies appear to have lost all relevance, thanks in no small part to the myriad of differences between millennials and their new audience; Generation Z. It seems that the only option is to start from scratch. But is this even possible? And how do you know which changes to make first? Maybe the key is accepting that a full-scale “reboot” isn’t exactly what your marketing department needs at this time.

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • Can you really start from scratch in education marketing?
  • How to tackle long-term projects like a tech startup
  • How to decide if you need outside help

This week, I spoke to Steven Miller, the Vice President of Marketing at Kenzie Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana. Unlike most of my other guests, Steven’s background is not in higher education. He actually comes from the tech world. Kenzie figured that Steven’s experience with startup growth would be a major asset in the reboot of their marketing team. And as a small town kid from the Midwest, Steven aligns with Kenzie’s mission of teaching software engineering to students who weren’t raised in tech-savvy communities. It’s safe to say he was up for the unique task of taking his team into the future by bringing them back down to Earth.

Can you really start from scratch in education marketing?

When discussing the development of Kenzie’s marketing processes, Steven doesn’t prefer to use the term “reboot.”
It’s not entirely accurate because it suggests that the organization’s new strategy has no connection to its previous efforts. No organization ever really starts from scratch, or develops a strategy out of thin air. If your organization had no previous successes, it wouldn’t be alive today.

That’s why step one for enrollment growth is usually figuring out what those successes are and optimizing your current efforts in that direction. But you can’t answer that first question without data. This was Steven’s first initiative at Kenzie: making sure the team was using the right tools for the tracking, reporting, and integration of data. Only after you’ve gathered sufficient data from all marketing channels can you turn your attention to high level strategies.

How to tackle long-term projects like a tech startup

It’s only natural for education marketers to be intimidated by the magnitude of their responsibilities. There’s so much information to gauge about their audience, and boosting engagement is no easy feat. Luckily for the team at Kenzie, Steven’s tech background taught him how to demystify large projects while staying on track towards long-term goals.

In tech, large projects are broken down into smaller, weekly tasks called “sprints.” This gives team members a clear picture of what they’ll be working on each day and ultimately prevents them from getting overwhelmed.

To monitor his team’s progress, Steven utilizes another management tactic from the tech world called “Standups.” These are daily morning meetings in which each team member reveals what they plan to accomplish throughout the day and how it contributes to their long-term goals. Standups also give team members the opportunity to share audience data that may be important to their colleagues. Odds are, if you think a piece of data is important, you’re right.

How to decide if you need outside help

Steven decided to outsource Kenzie’s paid advertising because it would give him more time to focus on the school’s brand identity and student experience. The content of your marketing materials depends on your goals for these two areas. If they are not properly developed, you won’t know which common themes to convey throughout each channel (search, email, social media, etc) or how to convey them. This decision also allows Steven to continuously optimize promotional content so that it further aligns with Kenzie’s target audience.

Lots of work, same steps

Revolutionizing Kenzie’s marketing department took a lot of work, but each stage involved fairly basic questions: Which tool should we use for collecting data? Should we outsource paid advertising or keep it in-house? Should we have meetings every day or once per week? Are we effectively communicating our brand identity?

These are the kind of questions you should be addressing if your department requires similar treatment. It’s crucial to remember that regardless of how much needs to change, you’re still looking for the same basic information as every other education marketer.

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