Just Released: The 2024 State of the Arts Report - Your Blueprint for Arts Education Success

Grow Your Program

How To's

How to Find The Best Marketing Channels For Your Program

Nic Lyons

December 13, 2022

Today’s digital world offers plenty of options when it comes to choosing the best marketing channels to promote your program. You could write emails, compose a blog post, post flyers around town, draft a Tweet, take out ads in your local paper, choreograph a dance for TikTok, curate a Pinterest board, design a LinkedIn ad, record a video for YouTube, go live on Facebook…

Even if you had unlimited time, energy, and money, creating content for all those marketing channels might not be a good idea. Why? Because every marketing channel is different. Some may be more or less helpful in promoting your classes. Let’s look at how to experiment and find the best marketing channels for your classes. 

What Are The Best Marketing Channels?

The best marketing channels for your courses are unique to your brand. What works for the community college down the street, or the theater in the next town, might work differently for you. Before you start experimenting with different marketing channels, there are a few details you need to know about your program. 

What is your…

  • unique value proposition 
  • marketing goals
  • target audience
  • competitors
  • resources and budget

We’ll start by exploring each of these details. Then we’ll talk about how to test and see if the channels you’ve picked are working for you. 

Find Your Unique Value Proposition

In marketing, the term value proposition describes the special something that convinces a potential customer to choose your class. It’s about not just what you’re doing, but the result or value students will get from the class. In other words, what makes your program not just different, but exceptional? 

For example: 

  • Academy Metro West is a group therapy program (the what) designed to enhance self-image and social skills (the result). 
  • ColdTowne Theater promises that their classes “build confidence, improve public speaking, increase spontaneity, foster creativity, and — most importantly — are tons of fun.”
  • At Horses 4 Heroes they offer recreational and instructional equestrian activities (the what) to strengthen communities (the result) with programs that use horses to promote healthy living and lifestyles (also the result). 

To find your unique value proposition, you can ask

  • What problem do my classes solve or what needs do they fill? 
  • Why is it important that this problem is solved or this need is filled? 
  • What makes my classes different from those offered by other programs? 
  • Why should my students choose our classes over similar ones? 

Once you’ve answered these questions for yourself, you can begin thinking about your marketing goals. 

Identify Your Marketing Goals

Some marketing channels are good for awareness, others can help you register more students, and some are best for maintaining relationships with existing students. To choose between them, set some clear goals. 

Be as specific as possible in setting these goals. For example, rather than saying, “I want more students to register for my classes,” you could set a goal of registering 20 new students by the end of the month. 

Here are some other ways to frame your marketing goals: 

  • Increase website traffic by X% over the next Y weeks 
  • Grow social media following to X by the end of Q1
  • Achieve X% email open rate in Y months 

Here’s a handy chart to help you pick marketing channels likely to help you meet your goals: 

Chart showing marketing goals and what channels they can be achieved on

Any of these marketing channels could help you reach any goal, but these are the ones most likely to help on average.

Get to Know Your Target Audience

Who are your students? Demographics like age, gender, and income level are important starting points. Also consider their likely profession, hobbies, and other interests. The better you know your students, the more equipped you are to pick the best marketing channel to communicate with them.

And don’t forget that sometimes your student and your marketing audience are different people. If your classes are aimed at kids, your audience is likely to be a parent or guardian. If you offer workforce training classes, you might speak to businesses as well as professionals. 

Research any marketing channel you’re considering to understand whether your target audience is likely to spend time there. 

Check Out Your Competitors

You certainly don’t want to copy what other programs in your space are doing, but it’s good to be aware of where and how they’re interacting with potential students. Look around at other programs that offer similar classes or whose audience overlaps with yours. Where are they marketing?

You won’t always be able to tell if a competitor’s print ad or news story is working for them, but it’s pretty easy to see if someone has good engagement on social media. To compete in that space, research suggests you should post content that’s entertaining and memorable. Don’t just tell people about your classes. 

Assess Your Resources

Any successful marketing effort requires a combination of time, money, and creative effort. Here are some common marketing channels ranked by their cost (time + cost + creative effort:

Chart showing Time, Cost and Creative Effort of marketing channels

You can sometimes lower your time or creative effort costs in exchange for money. Consider whether you can: 

  • Hire a marketing professional to help you
  • Use a social media posting tool like Hootsuite, Later, or Loomly
  • Bring in an intern or volunteer
  • Partner with other local businesses to amplify your efforts
  • Use built-in marketing tools for services you already have

CourseStorm registration software includes automated marketing tools like personalized course recommendations, abandoned cart notifications, and low enrollment notices. Built-in tools like these can help you improve results without extra work. 

How to Test and Find the Best Marketing Channels

Using all of the information you’ve gathered above, you’re ready to start marketing. But don’t start drawing up a five-year plan just yet. You want to base your marketing investments on results, not hypotheticals. Start with a test to see what kind of return on investment you get with your new channel. 

Here are some best practices to follow when setting up your test: 

  1. Commit to at least three months (six if you can). For most marketing channels you need at least three months of data to really see results. It’s not that marketing can’t work faster than that, but three months will help you make sure that it’s not a temporary spike.

  2. But don’t overcommit. You probably shouldn’t commit your entire three-month marketing budget to this one test. Figure out what amount you can reasonably spend without hardship. In most cases, we recommend starting with about 10% of your marketing budget.

  3. Be consistent in your efforts. A single ad in a local magazine probably won’t give you enough data to know if it’s working or not. You’re better off testing with a smaller ad over a longer period of time. If you’re posting on social media, blogging, or emailing, make sure you’re communicating consistently across the test period.

  4. Track engagement and return on investment. Engagement is hard to gauge in traditional advertising, but digital media offers you plenty of feedback on who’s interacting where and when. Check out the data offered by social media platforms or use Google Analytics to track traffic on your website. Of course, also keep an eye on whether registrations increase during the test period. 

  5. Compare results across similar timeframes. Ideally, you’ll only test one new marketing channel at a time. Then, you’ll compare the results of your test to the results you were getting during a similar timeframe. That means, don’t test Facebook Ads during the holiday sales rush and then compare those results to what happened during the August lull. Comparing similar timeframes will help you control for outside influences that might confuse your results.

If you’re seeing the results you want, great! Keep investing in that channel. If something’s not working, it’s okay to move on to a new test. Just make sure you’ve put real time and effort into each attempt.

The Best Marketing Channels For Every Program

By now, you should have the basic information you need to start testing new marketing opportunities. But, if you’re still feeling overwhelmed, we recommend starting with these three marketing channels. According to our State of Informal Learning (SOIL) report, they’re the most successful digital channels for CourseStorm programs.

Staying current with marketing trends is an important part of using marketing channels to promote your business. Our SOIL report has lots of valuable data that education programs can use to enroll more students and grow their program. Get your free copy now!

Nic Lyons

Nic is skilled in scaling start-up edtech and education organizations to growth-stage success through innovative marketing. A former journalist and copywriter, Nic holds a postgraduate certificate in digital and print publishing from Columbia University School of Journalism's publishing course.

Customized support

Unlimited, Sensational Support

There’s nothing worse than being stuck on the phone forever waiting to talk to someone, anyone, who knows what’s going on. We can’t stand it either.

Click here
Related Posts
View All Posts