Higher Ed Corporate Partnerships Part I: Position Your School to Market to Businesses Effectively

Higher Ed Corporate Partnerships Part I: Position Your School to Market to Businesses Effectively

Corporate partnerships are effective revenue generators for many higher education institutions. But developing successful higher education marketing initiatives to establish these partnerships can be challenging. 

At MindMax, we’ve spent years honing our approach to helping schools effectively market to not only prospective students but also businesses they’re targeting for corporate partnerships. In this two-part series, I’ll share some of our key insights and recommendations for developing these partnerships.

Know Thyself

One of our core values at MindMax is to be mission-aligned—or, as I like to say: “Know thyself.” In our experience, even programs that generate significant revenue are difficult to sustain if they aren’t aligned with the school’s mission. 

Schools that let their missions guide them in considering why a corporate partnership initiative is important are most likely to get their efforts off the ground and enjoy long-term success. 

Begin by asking these questions:

  • What is your mission, and why is it important to you? 
  • What problem are you trying to solve? (Another way to look at this is: What opportunity are you trying to address?) 
  • Why are you qualified to solve this problem or address this opportunity? 
  • How do you get the marketplace to see you as qualified? 
  • Can you deliver on your promise to solve this problem or address this opportunity now and if you grow?

Demonstrate Value

What a company values differs from what an individual student values. When marketing to businesses, schools must demonstrate value in relation to cost. Here are several focus areas to consider:

  • Impact on the company’s ability to perform. Most businesses are looking to impact their ability to perform in relation to their value chain. How can you support them in achieving that goal?
  • Compliance. Show companies in highly regulated industries, like healthcare, that you’re a trusted provider that can help them achieve and maintain compliance.
  • Frictionless experiences. Identify opportunities to reduce friction so companies perceive you as easy to do business with.
  • Price benefits. Business is personal. Everyone likes getting a deal and feeling like they’re receiving special treatment. Provide price benefits, such as bulk discounts, to entice decision-makers. 
  • Speed and agility. Companies have unique cycles and timelines, and schools must be able to move quickly and flexibly to provide meaningful value. 
  • Trust and track record (relationship). In addition to leveraging your school’s brand value, prove that you have a track record of following through with businesses.

Hone Your Messaging and Value Proposition

When engaging with businesses and developing corporate partnerships, it’s vital to have consistent messaging and a clear value proposition. 

Examine the inflection points for a particular industry or vertical. Pinpoint where people in that industry require new information or education, and design a program to help them get to the next step in their career. Then, communicate your value proposition across marketing channels. 

Be patient and listen—a necessary component of B2B marketing is asking great questions and creating space to observe and notice how people respond. 

Schools also gain tremendous value from identifying “coaches” inside companies who understand the value of their offerings. Internal coaches can serve as allies, helping you navigate the organization and share your value proposition with decision-makers.

Target Stakeholders and Decision-Makers

Human resources and training and development teams are common targets for schools that are marketing corporate partnerships because they are often the decision-makers responsible for managing internal training initiatives. They prioritize compliance, ease of access, tracking, and mapping to LMS or competencies, so schools’ messaging should hit those points. 

However, the group of people I encourage schools to engage with most are line of business owners because they are empowered to make decisions quickly. These stakeholders are looking for speed (i.e., “just in time” programs), convenience, modular “just enough” content, and content that’s “just right” and will directly impact their business. 

I also recommend targeting professional associations or partners. This outreach is most successful when schools add value for members and provide a low-friction experience.

Next Up in Part 2: Sales Strategies

In part 2 of this series, I’ll focus on how colleges and universities can prepare effective sales strategies to drive corporate partnerships. Until then, if there is anything MindMax can do to support your school’s higher education marketing efforts, please don’t hesitate to reach out!