In order to be effective, content marketing for schools needs to target prospects at every stage of the funnel, and that includes those at the top. Some school marketers may think that top-of-the-funnel (TOFU) prospects are researching programs, but that’s not usually the case. At that stage of the enrollment journey, prospects are often exploring their subject of interest and diving into career outcomes and expectations. This makes them well-primed for educational yet engaging content.
By creating top-of-funnel content, you can reach more prospects with useful information that brings them into your enrollment funnel and guides them to becoming leads and applicants. Here’s how you can get started!
Understand Your Student Personas and Define Your Funnel
When creating content, no matter what funnel stage you’re focused on, it’s essential to keep your student personas in mind. These semi-fictional representations of your audience can help you understand what your prospects want to know and learn more about. Armed with those insights, your school can begin assessing its marketing funnel and develop targeted and personalized content for each stage. Taking the time to define your funnel in this way can help you create impactful content that resonates with prospects and delivers results, making sure your time and efforts aren’t wasted.
As David Kynan, HEM’s Director of Business Development, puts it, “Before a potential student is even aware of your program, they’re thinking about their career and goals, trying to get clarity as to whether they are on the right track. That means they have questions like:
- What are my career options?
- What’s the best move?
- What is the potential of this career? Is the field growing? Are there lots of open positions?
- What are the salaries like?
- What’s it actually like to work in this career?
- Is there room for advancement?”
All of these broad and general questions are considered TOFU questions. That’s because “top-of-the-funnel content speaks to broad interests and reaches the widest audience,” explains David. Since this stage of content marketing for education can be the starting point of a prospect’s enrollment journey, it’s essential to use this opportunity to build a relationship with them. The content you create at this stage should then be geared towards answering some of these general questions and motivating them to learn more. Once you do so, you’ll be better positioned to guide your prospects toward the next phase of the funnel.
Create Blog Posts that Focus on Relevant Tips and Insights on Career Fields and Program Subjects
A blog can be a great way for your school to share relevant and educational content that attracts prospects consistently. When creating TOFU content and aiming to fill the awareness stage, you can use your blog as a space for highlighting key topics and answering questions prospects may have before they consider an educational program. Generally speaking, this content will touch on the prospects’ motivations and concerns as well as objectives and challenges.
Here, your goal is to delve deeper into relevant subjects for first-time readers instead of focusing on your programs and their benefits. While brainstorming ideas, “you might want to speak to your front-line staff and find out the top questions they get. Your recruiters and customer service staff are closest to your potential students, so they often have a wealth of information that can be used to create a student persona or avatar of your target student that outlines their key questions, worries, concerns, values and objectives,” adds David.
Blog posts with headlines like “Career Option in X Field,” “A day in the Life of X,” “Reasons to Study X,” and “Everything You Need to Know about Studying in X Country” can be particularly relevant in this stage of content marketing for schools. Below are examples of TOFU blog content—the first targeting prospects interested in studying abroad in Geneva and the second targeting prospects interested in welding careers:
Source: Webster University Geneva
Source: North American Trade Schools
As you develop these ideas, be sure to stay organized by updating your school’s content calendar. It’s also a good idea to conduct some keyword research, allowing you to boost the visibility of your efforts.
Explore Guest Blogging Opportunities to Expand Your Reach
Guest blogging is a smart content strategy to help your school reach an even bigger audience, improving its TOFU content marketing efforts. Typically, your school’s content team would write an article to be posted on another website with hyperlinks that redirect to your school’s site. These backlinks you embed can help boost your credibility and online authority, all while increasing your website traffic and SEO.
The key is to post on reputable websites within your industry—either the industry of your program offerings or simply the education industry. The idea is to get your school name out there, introduce new readers to your school, and entice them to learn more.
Example: The University of Glasgow shared a blog post on Study International, a website dedicated to providing readers with valuable information about schools and studying abroad. The article is designed to attract prospects interested in urban studies and sustainable development, showing their potential in the field:
Source: Study International
Share Educational Content on Your School’s Social Media Channels
Your prospects are likely already on social media, and more are starting to rely on social search. In fact, research shows that 40% of young internet users use TikTok or Instagram instead of Google Maps or Search. This new trend makes it all the more important for your school to focus on its social media presence, creating content on the channels that prospects most frequently visit.
A good rule of thumb is to make your social media posts short, informative, and eye-catching. At this stage, you want to avoid being too promotional. Instead, lean towards addressing your student personas’ key motivations and concerns. Here, you could share captivating images and interesting videos along with your captions.
Example: The Trebas Institute shares what filming can look like in a short Facebook post. The caption describes what prospects can expect from their experience, touching on key motivational factors, while the video shows a more personal glimpse into the process:
Schools looking for extra exposure can also share and promote their TOFU-level blog posts on their social media accounts. Sharing this type of content makes it more visible, boosting the chances of resonating with your target audience. The Academy of Applied Pharmaceutical Sciences takes this approach with its LinkedIn page, spotlighting a blog post that appeals to prospects considering a future in food quality and safety control:
Interested in getting the most out of your TOFU content marketing efforts? Our content marketing services for schools can help you reach your goals and develop your inbound marketing strategy. Reach out today to get started!
Elevate Content Marketing for Schools with Career-Based Infographics
Infographics make for great, high-fidelity TOFU content, particularly since they’re visual and eye-catching. This gives your school an opportunity to showcase its unique brand and story, capturing prospects’ interest.
Research shows that 49% of content creators believe visual content makes up a highly significant part of their content marketing strategy and that infographics are viewed to be the most successful type of marketing content by 56% of content marketers who use it. These numbers reveal a strong trend towards visual content, which your school can act upon with infographics. The key is to focus on career-based topics and other relevant educational content at this stage.
Example: To attract prospects researching auto body repair careers, the Auto Training Centre has created an infographic highlighting the key tasks and responsibilities one can expect. This visual guide is relevant to the interests and motivations of prospective students, making it a valuable and informative piece of content.
Source: Auto Training Centre
To capitalize on content marketing trends for education, your school can also share infographics on social media. The visual nature of these infographics makes them eye-catching while the information presented makes them valuable, resulting in a highly shareable piece of content that can potentially boost your engagement. Below is an example of an infographic posted by Medix College on the school’s Twitter account:
Develop Career Guides and Reports to Inform and Attract New Prospects
If you’re wondering what the most effective type of TOFU content marketing for schools is, then aim to create “anything that helps potential students before they become potential students,” says David. In a lot of cases, this can translate to producing career guides, reports, and other types of downloadable content. That’s because these documents are designed to be information-rich, giving prospects considering the subject the highest possible value to encourage lead generation.
For example, “if you have a program in cloud computing, you might want to create ‘The 2023 Cloud Computing Career Guide,’ and then offer that as a lead magnet, content that is designed to generate leads,” explains David. Here, it’s important to curate the information and make it highly enticing to motivate users to go through the extra effort of sharing their contact details and downloading the files. Once that step is complete, you can follow up with the leads you’ve gathered and talk about your program.
Going through the process of creating a career guide or report and sharing it as a lead magnet can be an effective way for your school to begin building a relationship with its prospects. You can also maximize this opportunity to show them their potential in the field, pulling up key insights that might sway their decision towards pursuing a field via a program you offer.
In essence, what the career guide does is “allow you to reach larger numbers of individuals in your target market who raised their hand and said, ‘I’m interested in this topic,’ so they’ll be glad when you follow up with how they can pursue that career,” David adds. By helping prospects discover key information and generating leads, you can boost the number of applications and, consequently, the number of enrollments.
Example: Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz College has created an exclusive report covering key insights into careers in the field of health care analytics. The document features interviews with 20 active professionals, giving prospects the chance to learn more about career pathways and skill development:
Produce Engaging and Educational Short Videos for TOFU Marketing
It’s no secret that video marketing is on the rise, particularly regarding educational and instructional videos. In fact, a recent report shows that how-to videos, tutorial videos, and educational videos are very popular with Gen Z—53.5% of female Gen Z users and 52.2% of male Gen Z users watch these types of videos weekly.
You can capitalize on these content marketing trends for schools by creating short yet insightful how-to videos on subjects that resonate with your student personas, aligning your content with their motivations, concerns, and TOFU-specific interests. Since your prospects are researching general topics at this stage, it’s important to make your videos relevant to their potential queries. By presenting them with solutions and providing value, prospects can begin to view your school as an authority figure in the field and gravitate toward your programs.
Example: The Toronto Film School has created a handy how-to guide to help prospects looking to create the perfect shot. Led by the video production program coordinate, the video covers key tips and insights in less than two minutes:
Since the video addresses TOFU-level questions in the field of video production, prospects are more likely to stumble onto it during the awareness stage of their enrollment journey. Those who feel they have gained valuable information may even be drawn to exploring more of the school’s content and programs. Because the video description features relevant information about the program, along with the school’s social media links, prospects can more easily connect with them and dive deeper into the admissions funnel.
Pro tip: Consider developing a video content strategy when embracing content marketing for schools. It’s a good idea to make your videos short and inviting as well as engaging and easy to understand. One way to achieve this goal is to break down complex subjects and present them in a more accessible way.
Appeal to Prospects in the Awareness Stage with Relevant Podcasts
It may seem like there’s a podcast for everything nowadays, but there’s a good reason why that might be the case. According to Insider Intelligence, the number of global podcast listeners is set to exceed 465 million in 2023. The podcast industry’s revenue is also expected to surpass $2 billion in that same year.
Podcasts give schools an extra opportunity to reach more prospects, especially those interested in audio content. As with any other type of content marketing for schools, podcasts allow you to build your reputation as an expert on the subjects your school offers. This is especially important in the TOFU stage of the content marketing funnel.
Example: The University of Calgary has a page dedicated to podcasts on its website. The page emphasizes a range of podcasts, many of which are designed to be engaging and inspiring, featuring interviews with professors, researchers and other community members. The one shown below is particularly relevant to TOFU content marketing, allowing prospects to listen to relevant and engaging educational content about a specific subject of interest, all while enticing them to delve deeper into the university’s community.
Source: University of Calgary
Host Events and Webinars as Part of Content Marketing for Schools
Web seminars, online workshops, conferences, or any other event can be a great way to garner interest around your school and reach prospects at the TOFU stage. These events can be prerecorded or live-streamed, giving you many ways to repurpose and disseminate content, including both in video and audio formats. It can also help you position your school as an expert in the field, allowing you to appeal to a more global audience. Besides, they can also be promoted on your school’s social media page for an even greater reach.
Example: The McGill School of Continuing Studies has created various webinars to attract prospects interested in executive production in creative industries. In addition to hosting an event called “The Business of Entertainment: Career Pathways in Executive Production,” which addresses career concerns at the TOFU stage, they’ve also hosted the following:
This webinar topic can attract prospects seeking to learn more about the field. By creating events that share an industry perspective, career-driven prospects may feel motivated to sign up and continue engaging with the school. “It’s permission marketing at its best,” describes David.
“Since you’ve gotten an email address, you can follow up with those users,” he adds. The emails could then introduce prospects to your school’s program or highlight how they can launch their career in that field through their studies. “That user will unsubscribe if they’re not interested, but if they are interested, you can continue to follow up with relevant emails or by WhatsApp, SMS or phone. That’s where all of your middle-of-the-funnel content comes in, and you get to answer their questions about your program,” David explains.
Ultimately, “your top-of-funnel content should build an audience you can then market to.” In the case of events or even PDF guides, “90% should be the content you promised. 10% can be your pitch, so you can have a page in the guide on your program or spend a few minutes at the end of your event talking about the program,” shares David. Using this TOFU content marketing for schools technique correctly can help you attract the right audience, generate qualified leads, and boost your enrollment numbers.