What Higher Education Marketers Can Learn from John Deere

John Deere
Credit: The Furrow

Content marketing is in a state of constant flux. To reach potential students, best practices in higher education marketing dictate being everywhere; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, YouTube and SnapChat, right?

Well, no.

Yes, the number of ways consumers can access information, and thus make a purchasing decision, has grown exponentially. The days when a university only bought a billboard, some television commercials and used direct mail are long gone. Websites, email, digital ads and sharing content on social sites are used in addition to the older forms of marketing.

But, that doesn’t mean you should just throw the same content everywhere.

Instead, universities must make their content interesting, useful and at times, entertaining. This only happens if you focus on your customer’s needs rather than your own interests.

That’s where John Deere enters the picture.

They published a magazine, called The Furrow, in 1895. The goal was to sell farm equipment and they did this by sharing stories farmers would love to read.

In an interview with The Content Strategist, Tom Sizemore who has worked on the magazine for the past 37 years, says the magazine has always focused on the farmers, not the John Deere equipment.

“Even the most technical subject has to have a human story behind it,” Jones added. “We’ve always been able to convince the management that the content shouldn’t be about John Deere equipment. We’ve stuck to that over time.”

Click through the pages on the online version of The Furrow and you’ll discover rich, well-written stories accompanied by beautiful photography. Oh, and they happen to have one tab called, Equipment Videos.

If the first take-away for those working in higher education marketing is to focus on your potential student’s needs not your own, the second is to be creative.

John Deere was revolutionary when they started publishing this beautiful magazine. If you want to stand-out, don’t follow the same formula that other schools use. Instead, take the time to research and discover what your potential students and their families need and provide that content.

For example, research by Nielson.com shows that podcasts are growing in popularity and  37% of 18 to 34 year olds listen to podcasts at least once a week.  If you want to increase enrollment in graduate programs, perhaps you can have podcasts just for that demographic?

Success in higher education marketing today means using your creativity to create digital assets your potential students will enjoy. Remember, it’s about them, not you.

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