Marketing in Higher Ed: Managing Internal and External Audiences

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By Patrice Meadows — May 15, 2018 11:00 AM


Often, marketing teams focus on understanding those outside of their organization they wish to influence, rather than internal stakeholders. This true in business-to-consumer (B2C), business-to-business (B2B), and business-to-government (B2G) campaigns. While external audiences certainly require a great deal of focus, marketers must also actively engage internal groups to achieve their goals.  

What’s the Difference Between Internal and External Audiences?

Internal audiences, groups, and individuals within companies that are related to the development or execution of marketing activities. Unlike some external audience segments, they are intimately familiar with your offering and can play a huge role in your campaign’s success. Failing to acknowledge their needs or respond to their input, can present huge challenges for marketing campaigns.

Question: What’s the difference between internal and external audiences?
Answer: Internal audiences are those within your organization that you must influence through targeted marketing initiatives in order to achieve your goals. External audiences are those prospective customers, market competitors, or governmental entities that you influence with advertising, sales collateral, or traditional marketing initiatives to achieve your goals.  

How To Manage Competing Priorities to Achieve Your Goals

Figuring out the goals and pain points of each audience segment will go a long way in helping you determine how to market to each group in order to be successful. In the case of higher education, faculty members generally want to use websites to showcase their achievements or share academic information, while marketers prefer to use sites to communicate with prospective students. In either case, marketers must determine how to craft compelling messages and leverage opportunities to address the needs of both groups.

Marketers can educate faculty members about marketing processes, research and goals while gaining the insights needed to improve campaigns. Whenever websites or new digital initiatives are launched, marketers must actively engage faculty members and other stakeholders to explain how the change supports larger organizational goals like increasing enrollments, or donations, or the institution's reputation.

What to ask:

  • What is a major challenge for you and your team?
  • How can we help you or your department find the right students?
  • If there was one thing to change about our website, what would it be?
  • What are you working on that you’re really excited about?

What to share:

  • Your goals for the website and related digital initiatives
  • How you determined what to emphasize on websites
  • Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you use to measure the performance of campaigns
  • How all of this impacts your institution

Marketers should involve faculty members in the creation of campaigns as they are an essential part of the organization’s brand identity. Often, they are the face of institutions for current students and can do a lot to or reinforce communicate brand messages. When creating or updating websites, you can use faculty member bios, accomplishments, or projects to differentiate your organization from the competition.

Next in Series: The Future of Content Marketing in Higher Ed

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