Today, most websites that you visit will immediately serve up some kind of discount offer within seconds, like this one:
And for brands we love, we’re all probably a little guilty of using our email, significant other’s email, parents’ emails, friend’s email, and um...maybe even some made-up emails to score those one-time discounts again and again.
Brands have used these kinds of discount offers for years to grow enormous mailing lists that give them opportunities time and time again to entice consumers. And while this marketing method seems so simple, it has taught us very important fact: today’s Internet users know that they can use their personal information as currency. But, like tangible cash, that currency is valuable — and they are only willing to pay when the exchange seems fair.
And while schools can’t offer coupon codes for 10% off tuition, they can create content offers, which are just as good.
What is a Content Offer?
A content offer is something of value that your school creates in exchange for someone’s personal information. This is not the same as an inquiry or application form, because in those cases you are simply acquiring information without the promise of providing something in return.
Content offers are a fundamental component of any inbound marketing or content marketing strategy — so if your school has inbound marketing as a strategic initiative, you should certainly start here!
Why Does our School Need a Content Offer?
In short — a content offer will ultimately help you get more inquiries and applications.
School websites have two types of website visitors: high commitment and low commitment. High-commitment visitors are the families who are ready to inquire or apply because your school is their top choice. These individuals are the minority.
The majority are low-commitment visitors. Today’s parents (especially millennials) spend a lot of time searching and shopping before they ever make a decision. They’re visiting your website, you competitors’ websites, the local district’s websites, and of course, they’re also surfing social media and review sites like Niche.com and Boarding School Review.
They’re doing all this before deciding to fill out an inquiry form.
Schools need content offers because they allow you an opportunity to provide something of value during that drawn out “research” phase. Providing something of value gives you an opportunity to get personal information from a prospect, to begin nurturing them down your admissions funnel.
Without a content offer, there’s a chance your school will never have the opportunity to communicate with a large portion of your website visitors — and that’s a scary thought!
What are Some Examples of School Content Offers?
For schools, content offers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, all with the same end goal: get some basic information from our prospects in order to get them in our funnel.
Some content offers include:
Your school has likely already created a viewbook for print and digital, and is an excellent content offer. Many schools either save viewbooks for after someone has inquired, or leave them open to the public on their websites. While both options are fine, using a viewbook as a content offer to hook individuals in the research phase and get their contact information is a much better option for schools.
Because today’s parent spends so much time researching, they’re counting on guides to help them make the right choice for your child. Unlike viewbooks, eBooks are few and far between in the education market, and creating one could help your school get quite a few steps ahead of the competition. For schools, the most popular type of eBook is a guide for evaluations a certain type of education (all boys vs. all girls, private vs. independent, etc.) or helpful guides for parenting (such as how to send your child to boarding school or assess their learning development.)
For example, Calhoun School, a school on the forefront of progressive education, has created a guide to assess student progress and growth.
This guide is a reflection of their core mission, and positions them as leaders in progressive education, helping to build their trust and thought leadership in the competitive NYC market.
White papers are similar to eBooks in the sense that they aid in research. However, unlike eBooks which are ten pages or more, white papers can be as short as one page! These are great for a small-staffed communications office. Creating a white paper can be as simple as turning a great blog post into a downloadable content offer.
For example, Hudson Montessori School has a fantastic short whitepaper called “5 Reasons Montessori Elementary Schools Are Fundamentally Different Than Traditional Schools.” For parents wondering what a Montessori education is, and whether it is the right choice for their child, this is an excellent resource.
Hudson Montessori School also perfectly understands that personal information is currency, and they don’t ask for much — just name and email — making it much more likely to be downloaded.
While email subscriptions might not seem like a content offer, they’re an excellent way to get contact information in return for the promise of receiving content on a regular basis. If your school has a blog or newsletter, add a public subscription so prospective families can sign up to receive future content from your school.
While an event might not be a tangible piece of content, in-person events such as an open house, are an excellent opportunity to receive a prospect’s information before they inquire. Additionally, other events that you can host on-campus to expose your campus, brand and culture are even better! Take note from Stuart Country Day School, who’s annual #LeadLikeAGirl conference, has gotten thousands of new families to their campus.
Read the case study: Going For The Gold — Stuart School's Epic Content Marketing Campaign
How Do We Create a Content Offer?
Creating a content offer can certainly feel like an overwhelming process — especially if you’d like to create an eBook. The first eBook I wrote was almost 80 pages long (The Website Redesign Playbook)! Seems crazy, right? But there’s even a logical approach to tackle 80-page eBooks, I promise.
In most cases, schools will either have something they can repurpose, or they’ll have to create something totally new. Here’s how to handle both cases:
- Take an inventory of what you already have: If your school already has a blog, viewbook, or open house schedule, it’s time to think how you can turn one of these (or all of them!) into a viable content offer that increases the number of prospective families in your funnel. Good news, if after your inventory you decide you already have content you could use or repurpose, you’re off to a running start.
- Plan for something new: Maybe your ultimate goal is an eBook or whitepaper on how to choose the right private school. The initial task can seem daunting (like my 80-page eBook), but there’s an easy way to tackle it.
- First, write out what “chapters” or sections the eBook would have. Let’s say after a brainstorm session, you determine that eBook would have six sections.
- Second, pick a deadline. It will help hold you accountable.
- Treat each eBook section like a blog post: Rather than viewing the eBook as, well, an eBook, view it as six individual blog posts. Write one per week for six weeks — then, at the end of six weeks, you’ll have your eBook! Then, you just need someone to help compile and design it. (Pro Tip: We recently moved from inDesign to Google Docs and Slides for our eBooks, and it has made the collaboration process so much more effective!)
- Launch and promote your piece of content: We’ll dive into the details on this below, so keep reading!
How Do We Promote Our Content Offer?
If you’ve invested time and resources into creating a content offer, you’ll want to appropriately promote it.
The foundation of your content offer will be the landing page on which it lives. The landing page should have:
- A visual of the content offer (just a screen shot works!)
- A short form: Keep your form to 3-5 form fields (or even less if possible) to entice families who are not ready to inquire
- A description of the content offer: Let website visitors know exactly what they will learn by downloading your piece of content. Your goal is to eliminate any questions or reservations they may have that would prevent them from providing you their information.
In this example from The Branch School, you’ll find a video about the open house, and important details that prospective families would want to know before filling out the form.
To promote your content offer, and ensure it gets seen on your website, make sure you don’t hide it!
For Stuart Country Day, the “Request a Viewbook” call-to-action actually lives in their Admissions navigation, making it easy for prospective families to access.
Hudson Montessori School uses a PagePop to display their content offer:
Calhoun School promotes their content offer on their main admissions landing page:
If you follow the blog-series-to-ebook series, you can use PagePops or call-to-action buttons to promote the content offer directly in the blog post itself. Worried about an intrusive user experience? In early December, Finalsite will be releasing a timed PagePops option so that PagePops don’t display right away.
Social media ads are also a fantastic avenue to promote your content offer, specifically via a remarketing campaign. A re-marketing campaign allows you to “follow” your website visitors on social media with a content offer that would be of interest to them. This is an excellent way to reach all those “low commitment” visitors who aren’t ready to inquire!
Content offers are an integral piece of a solid inbound marketing strategy — and every school should have one — especially if increasing inquiries and enrollment is a top priority. And, if you're ready to set up your school's first content offer, watch the webinar below to learn how you can easily set this up using Forms Manager!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.