Episode 020

Explaining Empathy-Based Marketing With Springboard’s Marketing VP

All types of marketers share at least one objective: putting ourselves in the minds of our target audience.

This is particularly difficult for education marketers due to the length of the average enrollment cycle. Interests change as prospective students move through the marketing funnel. And the latest data on your education organization’s ideal student – or persona – can indicate a major shift in creative strategy. As education marketers wrack their brains to develop topics for content, they can’t help but think: “There has to be an easier way to figure this out.”

In today’s episode, we’ll cover:

  • What is empathy-based marketing?
  • Which questions should you address in your content?
  • Which types of content do different personas prefer?

This week, I spoke to Roger Welch, who is the VP of Marketing for EdTech company Springboard. This San Francisco-based startup offers career track courses on data, software engineering, coding, and UX. Unlike most other bootcamps, Springboard actually guarantees job placement for their students, or they get their money back. Springboard also works closely with recent graduates for several months to help them find jobs in their desired industry. Having such a career-oriented business model allows Roger and his team to anticipate the primary concerns of prospective students and ultimately understand why someone would be curious about a school like Springboard in the first place.

What is empathy-based marketing?

Empathy-based marketing refers to the act of providing critical information and answering logical questions for personas well before they are in the market for your services. This requires an understanding of the initial thoughts that trigger interest in a certain career path. At Springboard, for example, the majority of their students are working professionals looking for a career change. So, in order to utilize empathy-based marketing, Roger and his team must think about why someone would want to change careers, and why they would choose one of the career paths offered by Springboard.

In Roger’s case, he envisioned someone who is on their way to work and thinking “Man, I wish I could be going somewhere else.” Well, what kind of questions would proceed this thought? Maybe this individual would want to know how much time they’d have to invest in changing careers, or if it’s even possible to completely change careers at this age. Implementing these topics into content shows that you genuinely empathize with your persona’s dilemmas and are more focused on helping them than selling your services.

Which questions should you address in your content?

If you’re not sure which questions to address in your content, Roger recommends a simple but extremely clever strategy. Start with a fairly basic question, like, “What is data science?” If you enter this question into Google, you will see related searches at the bottom of the results page (“People also ask….”). It’s so easy that it almost feels like cheating!

This brilliant strategy can also provide different topics for each stage of your sales funnel. Someone at the top of the funnel might ask something like “How to get a career in data science,” whereas someone closer to the bottom might want to know “How to ace a data scientist interview.” Providing content for each stage of the funnel not only makes prospective students return to your website, but also establishes your reputation as a trusted expert in this career path.

Which types of content do different personas prefer?

An effective content strategy involves multiple channels: blog posts, podcasts, videos, infographics, etc. The type of content that your persona prefers largely depends on their age range. For example, while younger audiences clearly prefer videos, older audiences tend to prefer written content and long-form blog posts.

Odds are, your article or video is far from the only content a prospective student has encountered that day. This is why Roger recommends augmenting organic content with paid content. Someone who reads a blog post, for instance, should then be greeted with a display ad that conveys the same main theme as the blog post.

Marketers must connect with personas as people

Putting yourself in the mind of your persona means connecting with them on a human level. Roger and his team don’t just think about how someone becomes interested in a certain career path. They think about why someone would even start thinking about career paths in general. The deeper you go into your persona’s thought process, the deeper and more empathic your content will be.

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