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IST Journal on Business & Technology, Vol: 6, No: 1, Dec’13, ISSN: 2070-4135

Content Marketing: Strategy and Implications for Higher Educational


Institutions in Bangladesh
Md. Moulude Hossain*, M A Mazid**, Md. Ashfaqur Rahman***
Business Development Department, Kona Software Lab Ltd.*
Institute of Science and Technology (IST), Bangladesh.**

Abstract: This study attempts to find an appropriate strategy of content marketing applicable to higher
educational institutions. The related study on higher educational marketing strategy found that institutional
website is often the first place that students and parents go to when researching higher educational
institutions. Existing students, potential students, and parents have loads of questions regarding the courses,
professors, social life, research work, accommodation, finances, and so on. Keeping this on mind the author
undertakes this study to design content marketing strategy for higher educational institutions and also showed
that how this strategy could impact on the attaining institutional objectives. The authors recommend that
educational institutions must make sure to publish different types of content - textual, visual, audio - so that
users can find the information they need in the format they prefer. Moreover the researchers conclude that,
content marketing is a great way for professors and departments to educate people about their subject of
interest, and to spread the word about their research. Professors are experts in their fields and sharing their
knowledge with the masses via content marketing can establish them and their universities as leading hubs of
knowledge and expertise in their fields.

Key Words: Content, Content Marketing, Higher Education, Marketing Strategy, Bangladesh.

1. Introduction
The traditional marketing techniques are becoming less attractive to the customers day by day. Whether it is
pure business or a non-profit concern, customers have started to skip television advertising, often ignore
magazine advertising, and gradually have become adapted with online marketing surface to get information
about products or services without a care for banners or buttons. Content marketing is becoming popular day
by day to organizations because it works. Top colleges and universities are always competing for the best
students and faculty. It is true that the education sector is (mostly) not a profit seeking one, but it still needs to
market itself to attract the right kind of talent. This is why one of the most effective marketing techniques for
other industries content marketing is a boon for the education sector too.

A survey sponsored by the National Research Center for College and University Admissions and Noel-Levitz
shows that students, prospective students, and their parents engage heavily with the social media pages of
universities and colleges. The website, social media pages, and email campaigns of these educational
institutions are the top three sources of information for students and parents alike. Looking for the right
university is very confusing and how can students and parents know the good work that universities are doing
if they do not publish content about it. Like the business organizations the educational institution’s marketers
are increasingly using content marketing tactics to engage their target audiences with compelling content to
educate, inform, entertain and guide them along their institutional selection journey. As a field of study
“Content Marketing” still now well understood and to have a clear and universally accepted definition. The
confusion often arises because of the meaning of the word “content”. The problem is that “content,” in this
context, is so ill-defined and poorly understood that unscrupulous content creators flood the web with low-
quality schlock meant to appeal to base online instincts. However content marketing may be defined as in
following way: “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and
valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with
the objective of driving profitable customer action.”

Broadly the purpose of content marketing is to attract and retain customers by consistently creating relevant
and valuable content with the intention enhancing consumer behavior. It is not a onetime activity to be
undertaken rather it is an ongoing process that is best integrated into overall marketing strategy, and it focuses
on more customer engagement and value creation. Fundamentally it can be said that content marketing is the
art of communicating with target customers and prospects without using any interrupting marketing. Instead

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of selling and promoting about the products or services, this marketing technique is used to deliver
information that makes the buyer more informed about the products or services. The initiatives of delivering
consistent and ongoing valuable information to buyers finally reward the company in the form of greater
awareness and customer loyalty.

2. Objectives

The primary objective of the research is to find a proper strategy of content marketing for higher educational
institutions. The scope of this study covers the strategic pathway to promote higher educational institutions by
the means of using content marketing. Besides some specific objectives of the study are as below:
 Determining the implications of content marketing for higher educational institutions.
 Content development and finding a proper way to select the media
 Analyzing the methods to determine the target audiences
 Analyzing the current state of traditional marketing for higher educational intuitions

3. Methodology and Sources of Information

In order to undertake this study qualitative research methodology was used. A vast number of researches were
studied to determine an appropriate strategy for content marketing. Though no quantitative data were used but
the existing literatures regarding content marketing was analyzed with strict conceptual framework.

For this study very limited primary data were collected. We had discussed the current strategy and
effectiveness of traditional marketing strategy with institutional marketing resources. We also discussed the
implication and strategic priority of content marketing with content marketing scholars. However, this study
mostly based on secondary data. The secondary were collected from various sources, as:
 Previous Research Findings
 Journal Publications
 Media Reports
 Online Information Sources
 Institutional Reporting

4. Literature Review

It is widely accepted that the marketing concept has known a number of evolutionary stages in the developed
countries and these stages are also known as marketing approaches or marketing philosophies. Some have
associated such approaches with the history of the businesses and come up with a number of orientations
according to the different aspects emphasized by the organisations in time: the production era, the sales era,
the marketing concept era and the societal marketing era (Berkovitz, Kerin and Rudelius, 1989). Similarly,
Kotler (1991) considers that there are five concepts under which organizations conduct their marketing
activity, namely the production concept, the product concept, the selling concept, the marketing concept and
the societal marketing concept.

Taking into discussion the targeted markets in higher education, it is highly accepted that the sector has multi-
clients, as students, employers and society are seen to be the main beneficiaries of higher education services
(Maringe, 2006). Even though the whole notion of students as consumers attracts criticism (Hemsley–Brown
& Goonawardana, 2007), students are the direct and immediate customers of the higher education services.
Employers, too, benefit of the results of the higher education processes, as they use the skills and the abilities
that graduates acquired during their studies. Some called graduates „products” of higher education, while the
employers were seen as customers (Kotler & Fox, 1985; Conway et al, 1994), but we consider that both
students/graduates and employers are consumers of higher education services.

The use of these marketing specific concepts in higher education varies highly from one country to another. In
USA as compared to Europe marketing concepts in higher education have been assimilated to a higher extent,
as USA has gone through the clash of cultures between the traditional academic values and the market-
focused values 10 years earlier (Chapleo, 2004). Even in Europe there are differences, with UK being seen
among the earliest in Europe to introduce more market-like approaches to higher education (D’Andrea,

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Stensaker & Allison, 2007). But in many countries marketing related activities are at initial stages in higher
education, communication being usually the first step to introduce a marketing orientation in the institution.

In general terms we can state that many marketing concepts are applicable to the higher education sector, if
we consider their main meaning. However, the practical ways in which they are applied to the higher
education sector present a number of peculiarities, as discussed in the paper, that rather make us state that for
most of them, there are limitations in their application to the higher education sector (Nicolescu, 2009).
However, the specificity of higher education is that most students (undergraduates) are one time consumers
(Temple & Shattock, 2007), as opposed to the business sector where repeat purchases take place often. This
results in differences in consumer behaviour in the two sectors and possible different marketing strategies to
address consumers in the two sectors. In other words marketing principles and marketing ideas can be applied
to the higher education sector, but not in the same way as in the business sector. The differences in types of
products/services offered the scope of targeted markets and the organization of specific marketing activities
that exist between the business and the higher education sectors make marketing concepts only partially
applicable to the higher education sector (Nicolescu, 2009).

5. Content Marketing Strategy for Higher Educational Institutions

The growing trend of content marketing indicates that it is a powerful strategy today to reach maximum
number of audiences, branding and more. Strategically content marketing is considered as an umbrella term
for a range of tactics and techniques whereby content is used. However the who approach need to design in a
strategic, consistent, continuous, customer-centric and connected way to fulfill various marketing goals and
support other customer-facing business goals. An idol content marketing strategy is described below
considering the higher educational institutions in Bangladesh.

Figure – 1: Content Marketing Strategy


Source: Compiled by Authors

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The figure-1 shown above presents a detail outline of the content marketing strategy. In this figure the content
marketing strategy starts with establishing objectives of the content marketing. The box on the right side of
each objective presents some specific examples. However when establishing objectives of the content
marketing, a careful assumption of resources and staffs is required, otherwise to some extent the objectives
may proved to misleading. Besides assessment of assets and top management commitment is also needed to
be ensured. The objectives should focus on the core value and strategic priority of the organization. After
establishing the objectives then define your target audiences to whom the content you are planning to be
reached. In order to define target audience understanding of the community is much required. An ineffective
target audience will turn out to be a complete waste of the content marketing. Once you would be able to
identify what types of audience you want to reach then it would be easy for you to determine the decision
making process of the specific target audiences.

The third step of the strategy is building the content to be used for content marketing. For developing
effective content the institution first come up with some creative ideas for content. Then appropriate message
need to identify that will be the key facts of the strategy. Some example content of the message is shown in
the figure. However in developing contents the following factors should be considered:
 Outline standards for quality
 Ensure consistency
 Build the roaster of contributors
 Flexibility for content readjustment

An integration of the components of above three steps need to be outlined here as plan of content marketing,
which is specified in step- 4. A careful observation and analysis is required to develop an effective plan for
the content marketing. An effective plan may not be helpful for an institution if the execution of the plan
could not do properly. The answer of the questions How and Where is answered in step- 5, which outline the
available medias and strategic to execute the content marketing plan. The effectiveness of the distribution of
content is as important as the development of effective content. If the distribution strategy failed to distribute
developed content then content means nothing but a literature for the institution. The strategy and tactics of
content marketing may uses various media and techniques to reach target audiences. The following table
outlines the basic strategy and tactics used for content marketing over internet media.

Strategy Tactics Functionality and Outcomes


The leading search engines, such as Google, Bing and Yahoo!, use crawlers to find pages for their
Getting indexed algorithmic search results. Pages that are linked from other search engine indexed pages do not
need to be submitted because they are found automatically.
To avoid undesirable content in the search indexes, webmasters can instruct spiders not to crawl
Search Engine Preventing certain files or directories through the standard robots.txt file in the root directory of the domain.
Optimization crawling Additionally, a page can be explicitly excluded from a search engine's database by using a meta
(SEO) tag specific to robots.
A variety of methods can increase the prominence of a webpage within the search results. Cross
Increasing linking between pages of the same website to provide more links to most important pages may
prominence improve its visibility. Writing content that includes frequently searched keyword phrase, so as to
be relevant to a wide variety of search queries will tend to increase traffic.
LinkedIn, a professional business-related networking site, allows companies to create professional
profiles for themselves as well as their business to network and meet others. Members can use
“Company Pages” to create an area that will allow business owners to promote their products or
services and be able to interact with their customers. Due to spread of spam mail sent to job
LinkedIn
seeker, leading companies prefer to use LinkedIn for employee's recruitment instead using
different job portals.
 A LinkedIn Company Page would be very powerful tool to reach the corporate
community and to promote institution for new hire.
Facebook profiles provide the details of the accounts. They allow a product to provide videos,
Social Media
photos, and longer descriptions. Videos can show when a product can be used as well as how to
Marketing
use it. These also can include testimonials as other followers can comment on the product pages
(SMO)
Facebook for others to see. Facebook promotes a product in real-time and brings customers in.
 The institution can open a company page in Facebook to promote the contents of the
institution. While LinkedIn helps to reach the corporate community, a Facebook is
more close to the target audiences.
Google+, in addition to providing the profiles and features of Facebook, is also able to integrate
with the Google search engine. Other Google products are also integrated, such as Google
Google+ Adwords and Google Maps. With the development of Google Personalized Search and other
location-based search services, Google+ allows for targeted advertising methods, navigation
services, and other forms of location-based marketing and promotion.

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Twitter allows companies to promote their products on an individual level. The use of a product
can be explained in short messages that followers are more likely to read. These messages appear
Twitter
on followers’ home pages. Messages can link to the product’s website, Facebook profile, photos,
videos, etc.
Foursquare is a location based social networking website, where users can check into locations via
their smartphones. Foursquare allows businesses to create a page or create a new/claim an existing
Foursquare venue. A good marketing strategy for businesses to increase footfall or retain loyal customers
includes offering incentives such as discounts or free food/beverages for people checking into
their location or special privileges for the mayor of that location.
YouTube is another popular avenue; advertisements are done in a way to suit the target audience.
Also, the ads on this platform are usually in sync with the content of the video requested; this is
YouTube another advantage YouTube brings for advertisers. Certain ads are presented with certain videos
since the content is relevant. Promotional opportunities such as sponsoring a video are also
possible on YouTube.
Instagram is a free photo and video-sharing program and social network that was launched in
October 2010. The service enables users to take a photo or video, apply a digital filter to it, and
Instagram
then share it with other Instagram users they are connected to on the social network as well as on a
variety of social networking services.
It includes an email blast regarding the admission information and any other development by the
Email Blast
regulatory agency. Ensure that in regards the name of the institution is attached.
E-mail
Content specific emails include emailing to the target audiences regarding any institutional
Marketing Content
developments. It may be regarding any annual programs, sports event, club competitions,
Specific Email
departmental event notification etc.
Everyday there are more reasons for companies to use blogging platforms for their social media
repertoire. Companies that recognize the need for information, originality, and accessibility
employ blogs to make their products popular and unique, and ultimately reach out to consumers
who are privy to social media.
Company Blogs  Blogs allow a product or company to provide longer descriptions of products or
services. The longer description can include reasoning and uses.
Blogging
 Blogs can be updated frequently and are promotional techniques for keeping customers.
 Other promotional uses are acquiring followers and subscribers and direct them to your
social network pages.
Company can also motivate its employees to engage in blogging. It will help the institution in
Employee Blogs building reputation of people resource. On the other hand from employee point of view it could be
considered as a step toward personal branding of the company employees.
Article and Involvement in research and publication help to build the trust of target audiences for a
Journal educational institution. The publication indicates the efforts and resources deployed by the
Publications institution for better knowledge and sharing.
White papers are one of the most effective marketing tools you can use to build business. In print
Articles and or digital, white papers help your readers (prospects and customers) understand the issues as they
White Papers evaluate their options.
Publications White Papers  Accelerates revenue growth by increasing lead flow
Publications  Validates institution’s credibility
 Enhances the effectiveness of institutional marketing programs
 Strengthens institution’s competitive position
 Third-party validation of institution’s offerings
Press release and news coverage is one the finest ways to promote institution in large scale
Press release Mess
audiences. Publishing institutional news and other related developments that go public would help
and News Communication
the institution to reach to it target audiences at mess level.

Finally a thorough analysis to measure the outcomes of the content marketing is to be undertaken. The final
step of this strategy includes testing and analysis of the execution of content marketing strategy. It will help to
identify the gaps between established objectives and the final outcomes of content marketing. But it doesn’t
stop here. After finding the gaps you need to determine the reasons behind it and reorganize the objectives as
well as the execution process.

6. Implications on Institutional Parameters


There are seven GAPs inherited in educational system, out of which GAP-7 belongs to learning side and other
six GAPs belongs to teaching side (Chowdhury, Hossain and Rahman, 2013). It was also found that the GAPs
are mostly because of lack of research and interactive communication between the learning side and teaching
side. The following figure (figure-2) presents the implications of content marketing in higher educational
institutions. The content marketing should start with analyzing the decision making process of a guardian or
student in choosing higher educational institution. The content marketing deals with each individual stages of
the decision making process and generate the corresponding benefits for the institution. The content
marketing of corresponding requirements of decision making process finally effect on the institutional
positioning in the mind of the students.

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Implication - 1 Implication - 2 Implication - 3 Implication - 4 Implication - 5

Guardian/Student Decision Making Stages

Choosing Path of Exploring Possible Coming to a solution Justify the decision Making the selection
Higher Education Alternatives for higher education of institution

Content Marketing Strategy

Create awareness Align the Help to identify the Align the Validate the choice
on the prospects of institutional factors to be institutional by providing proper
different higher objectives with best consider in strengths with the support and take
initiatives to prove
educational options possible options choosing an factor to be
best value
institution consider

Content Strategy Deployment and Implications

Awareness Assurance Empathy Reliability Responsivenes


s

Figure – 2: The Implications of content marketing in institutional parameters.


Source: Compiled by Authors

The strategic approach to the corresponding decision making stages will help the institutions
to fit them in the Segmentation, Targeting and Positioning (STP) mechanism of marketing. A
close loop observation will help the institution to shape up the behavior of their target
audiences.

The implications of content marketing on institutional parameters presented in the figure -2,
can be summarized as below:
Implication – 1: Awareness of the institutional presence in the targeted education segment.
Implication – 2: Assurance of the offering that match with target segment.
Implication – 3: Empathy on the target audience need and expectation by free hand
helping.
Implication – 4: Reliability and building confidence on the mind of target audience.
Implication – 5: Responsiveness and cultivating relationship by support services.

7. Recommendations
At its core, content marketing is about helping the customer to find an appropriate solution
for the problem. The most important aspect of content marketing is trying to find out which
problems are more worthy to address. It is quite easy to understand that more people you can
appeal to, the more customers you will reach. But not all problems are created equal – and
what might appeal to one customer group may very well turn off another. So to be effective
in content marketing selecting the target segment and addressing the problem is the prime
concern. Mass appeal by content marketing may turn out to be ineffective if the contents are
too broad to address any specific problem. In other words, by trying to appeal to everyone,
the strategy often ends up pleasing to no one. Following are few recommendations that could
be considered when designing content marketing strategy:

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1) Map out target Audience


Content marketing success depends on having a concrete idea of who you want to talk to. In
particular you should identify:
a. Who they are: Try and build out a picture of the group you want to reach. In addition
to demographic information (age, gender, location, etc.), you should also understand
their psychographics as well.
b. Where you can find them – Figure out which communications channels are going to
be most effective.
c. What drives them emotionally – Since emotions are a key factor in most buying
decisions, it’s crucial to know how your audience feels about their problems and
possible solutions you might have to offer.

2) Listen to What Audience is saying


It’s easy to assume that you understand all the problems your customers face. But without
actually writing it down in some way, you run the risk of missing (or forgetting) key
observations.

3) Focus On a Specific Customer Problem


The last thing you want is to force potential new customers to dig around for (or guess) what
it is you want to do for them. By concentrating on a specific challenge your customers face,
you’ll bring clarity to the value of your business.

4) Get habitual with social media


Just as many consumers seek out their favorite brands on social media, prospective students
often reach out to universities via social media. Daily education life can be highlighted on
social media with real time updates and news, while creating a more personal relationship
with followers. Institutions can also conduct Q&A sessions and interact with students via
social networking platforms. It is advisable to have separate pages for each department and
program to make it easier for students to find what they need, and for you to create more
targeted, intimate spaces to interact within.

5) Develop mobile apps with excellent content


The educational institution can bet most of incoming students own a smartphone and maybe
even another mobile device. This is why educational institutions should have customized
mobile apps to deliver content to students wherever they are and at any time. Massachusetts
Institute Technology and Brown University have some excellent apps for existing and
potential students. These apps should (preferably) be free.

6) Publish magazines
In this sense, instituions have been some of the organizations at the forefront of content
marketing. For example, Harvard University published its first alumni magazine in 1898.
Magazines can be published for alumni as well as current students, and universities can
describe latest courses, innovative research, career options, and more in these magazines.
These are also great places to discuss student and alumni achievements,. Best of all, these
magazines can inexpensive to publish and distribute as digital publication gain traction.

7) Create evergreen content


Evergreen content is the kind of content that stays relevant for a long time. Evergreen content
for the education industry includes FAQs, guides, study tips, ebooks, case studies, etc.
Students will always find this kind of content useful and will drive engagement for years to
come with little to no updating.

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8. Conclusion
The exact definition of content marketing has evolved over the years and depends on the
context within which it is used and who defines it. Brand marketers, custom publishers,
search engine marketers and more integrated thinking marketers – to name just a few – often
all have very different views. For higher educational branding and creating reputation to
target audience content marketing could turn out to be an effective strategy. Although content
marketing is not just about digital marketing, the digital dimension plays an increasing role.
In recent years and due to the success of the term and the increasing awareness of marketers
that relevant content is necessary and undervalued, the term content marketing is used for
many purposes and tactics. There are lots of universities and higher educational institutions
are leveraging the potentials of content marketing to promote the institutions in higher
educational sector.

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