A Content Marketing Matrix for Higher Ed: Entertain, Inspire, Educate and Convince
Higher Education Marketing

A Content Marketing Matrix for Higher Ed: Entertain, Inspire, Educate and Convince

Date posted: September 23, 2013

Creating fresh, relevant web content every week, as you implement your content strategy, is probably one of your greatest challenges. The toughest part of the process is often coming up with a good content idea and making the decision how to implement it. I am sure you are familiar with the concept of writing to the different stages in your recruitment funnel, establishing awareness with you target audience through to their decision to register. That’s pretty obvious. The other really important spectrum of your buyer personas is to consider is their decision-making style. If you think about this for a minute, you’ll realize you know people across this spectrum; including those who are intractably logical in their decision making to those who are extremely emotional in theirs, and everybody else in between.

The “content marketing matrix” infographic below asserts how different types of content format can be best applied across this two dimensional matrix.

content marketing quadrants

Source: First10 & Smart Insights

Let’s explore a higher education marketing example for each of the four major quadrants:

1) Entertain – Includes games, competitions, quizzes, virals, mobile apps, etc

Entertain content

Content that entertains your prospective student audience competes with a lot of other forms of very slick content, so roll up your professional marketing sleeves when you tackle this category. The viral video example above is a great example of an institution explicitly planning to entertain their audience (in this case incoming freshmen), capturing that content and then promoting it. Of course you can’t guarantee virality but if the content is good, you’ve got a shot at it. Since published in late August this video has had close to 1 million views on YouTube. You have to admit it is entertaining!

2) Inspire – Includes endorsements, testimonials, forum comments, reviews, etc.

Inspire content

Inspiring an target audience is a very serious challenge. I think the University of Toronto’s “Boundless” campaign, has accomplished this reasonably well. This ambitious (awareness, branding, fund-raising, etc) campaign presents a whole range of celebrity graduates of the university and quite sincerely tugs at your heartstrings with respect to the potential and hope that these individuals (and by extension U of T graduates) can bring to the world by following their chosen passions. Inspirational content like this is particularly key to connecting with emotional decision makers in the later stages of their buying process.

3) Educate – includes articles, guides, infographics, reports, press releases, etc.

Educate contet

Educating prospective students about their institutions is the meat and potatoes quadrant for higher ed marketers and it’s where most content development budget has gone in the past. There is still lots of opportunity for you to produce basic “educational” information in the expected formats but keep in mind that emerging technology based tactics, like the walking tour example here, offer new ways to provide the traditional information that prospect students need to make their application decisions. I think that campus visits and tours will always remain a key component in a student’s decision process and probably does fit more into the Convince quadrant, but note how the technology now makes it possible to move this critical information “upstream” into the Educate quadrant. LinkedIn University pages are another example of emerging tech-based “education” tools.

4) Convince – Includes, features, checklists, ratings, financial aid calculations

Convince content

Content for the Convince part of the spectrum is where a lot of schools have not spent a lot of energy, at least in the past. Part of this lies in the historically prevalent attitude that colleges and universities were not in the business of selling themselves. (Private, for-profit institutions, of course, have never had this problem.) This is changing, given the pressures of reduced government funding, competitive recruitment practices, online education, etc. I do find it kind of ironic that in fact some of this movement has been forced legislatively by government with things like tuition/loan calculators and a new rating system being imposed on institutions. Marketers should spend more time here, honing their skills in communicating their institution’s unique value proposition, distinguishing their institution’s brand, and selling the features and benefits of their school.

So, as you face that regular challenge of “the blank page” and creating that next piece of content marketing, cast your eyes over the content matrix above, target a particular persona, and pick an awareness stage and emotional type to help you find a new idea and an appropriate format that can help you meet your current marketing priorities. It will help you produce these new ideas while at the same time diversifying your target funnel stage and emotional type.  Give it a try, I know it works for me.

What other approaches do you use to fill your “content calendar”? Which formats do you find most effective for each quadrant?