If you are an EDSI team member looking for ways to better reach your jobseeker customers and struggle with marketing, help has arrived! We have compiled extensive research, talked to workforce development experts and marketing experts, and would like to share the top best practices we’ve uncovered. Most importantly we have created a guide on how to build a customized marketing plan tailored specifically for workforce professionals like you, to reach customers and meet the needs of this unique industry. Best of all, you will have the opportunity to download a sample marketing plan at the end of the blog.
Digital Outreach in Workforce Development: How to Create a Marketing Plan that Brings In Customers
I met with EDSI Senior Consultant, Jen Giannosa, and Digital Media Producer, Kaitlyn Beaver, to discuss how to digitize and optimize workforce program outreach methods by using an effective marketing plan tailored for workforce development. Check out the interview with them below.
1. How did you come up with the idea to create a marketing plan for programs offering employment services to jobseekers
(KB) I had several workforce colleagues share with me that they wished they had marketing resources to help them connect with more customers trying to find jobs. We wanted to answer their call for help in finding and using all the latest outreach/communication tools necessary to reach jobseekers most in need of our services, so we decided to create this marketing plan
2. Tell us about the importance of having a marketing plan and how you got started.
(JG) All businesses should have a marketing plan. Many of our programs have clearly defined goals from the start (for example, a contract which stipulates the required number of program enrollments the contractor must achieve). This makes creating a marketing plan simpler, as they are generally based on clearly defined business goals.
(KB) At PA CareerLink, there are marketing activities that we do, yet there isn’t a strategy in place to assess on a high level which marketing tools we should be using. It’s a balancing act between strategy and execution, and we wanted a long-term plan to guide our efforts.
3. How were you able to get leadership buy-in?
(JG) By first understanding the goals of leadership and clearly defining the goals of the project. It’s important to partner with leadership as soon as possible when you begin the process of developing a marketing plan. This helps with buy-in, support and mutual agreement on goals and strategy. It also helps leadership understand how critical a marketing plan can be to achieving business goals.
(KB) From the start, because of mutual trust and understanding, we had the support of our leadership to work on this, which is very important. You’re only as strong as your strategy, and we were excited to undertake this project, knowing the end result would be helpful and impactful.
4. Why is a marketing plan beneficial for workforce development programs?
(JG) Many workforce locations offer multiple services/programs. Each program has multiple Buyer Personas to reach. It’s important to understand the buyer personas - targeted customers- each program should be trying to connect with. A buyer persona is a fictional representation of what an actual customer would look like. For instance, a youth program may be trying to reach high school students, where a Veteran’s program would be trying to reach Veterans. Even these buyer personas could be broken down further. In-School-Youth have different goals than Out-of-School Youth. Veterans span all generations and ages, and therefore have different life and career goals.
(KB) By creating a marketing and digital outreach plan in a program from the ground up, everyone starts on the same page. This transparency helps build the relationship with staff to show how they can help- through the marketing plan. It alleviates concerns about marketing direction and efforts, and it helps shift conversations, making everyone feel more involved in the process, such as defining program goals, buyer personas, etc. It makes the whole marketing effort more collaborative.
5. What research, training and experience did you use to create the first marketing plan?
(JG) I utilized my first-hand workforce development program marketing experience and did research online. I found various marketing plan templates and Kaitlyn, who is a digital media producer and oversees three of our locations in Pennsylvania, helped to develop the marketing plan. Her insight and deep knowledge of all things workforce-related was invaluable.
(KB) I used my firsthand program knowledge and partnered with the EDSI marketing team, and my colleague- Marketing Consultant Jennifer Giannosa. I took the time to lean in with staff from other programs and was able to collaborate with multiple team members in a variety of capacities. I learned how important it is to stay up-to-date on trends and news in order to learn and grow.
6. How has the marketing plan enhanced outreach so far?
(JG) As we have been implementing the marketing plan, we’ve seen great success. We have many people enrolled in our texting campaign services. We have also seen increased interaction and good success from our social media ads, including likes, shares, and clicks on our posts. We are in the process of recording marketing activity data and analyzing trends. We are still in the early stages of this, so no impactful trends have yet been identified. Our hope is that with collecting more data, we will be able to document and analyze the results of our efforts more effectively.
7. Any pushback/challenges to work through during the process?
(JG) One challenge was getting the qualitative data on buyer personas. Many times, the teams from the programs are the ones who understand their customers best. It takes time to organize meetings to brainstorm, discuss, organize and develop the buyer persona, then get feedback and refine them until they’re accurate.
Another challenge was obtaining the data on the business plan. A suggestion on how to overcome this is to partner with your program managers/leaders. Bring them in at the start of the process and help them understand the importance of a marketing plan. The truth is- the marketing plan is created to help achieve the goals of the business plan.
(KB) Beating the clock. Finding balance between giving time for strategizing, thinking etc. vs. creating a plan that we could implement sooner rather than later. Bandwidth is always an issue- balancing my primary responsibility, which is supporting programs to find customers, vs. providing everyday support and working on special initiatives.
8. What does the implementation process look like?
(JG) Implementation starts with using the buyer personas to develop targeted marketing campaigns for each program interested in using the plan and best practices. Building and maintaining relationships with vendors to help execute advertising campaigns. Keeping track of marketing metrics and checking progress to goals. Analyzing data to determine effectiveness of various campaigns and identifying best practices.
(KB) It’s an ongoing team effort. Jennifer is helping support our team where we don’t have the bandwidth. As Digital Media Producer, I oversee strategy, communications with vendors etc. The Communications Specialist has been helping with the development of the marketing plan and implementation as well, which includes implementing campaigns, and developing copy, imagery, and graphics. The Program Manager or Supervisor helps with guidance, support, and helping secure resources to make sure everyone has what they need to execute on the plan.
9. How will program staff measure success?
(JG) We will measure our success by utilizing a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) tracking spreadsheet. This helps evaluate which marketing methods are most successful. When we run a campaign, we check the data to see how successful our marketing activities have been. Some examples of information we track include office walk-ins, website visits, social media engagement, social media followers, attendance at events, and finally, new program enrollments.
10. What are the benefits/best practices of using a WD program-focused marketing plan?
- Marketing plans which are based directly on program goals lead to strong outcomes
- Analyzing and tracking data to identify program marketing best practices sets everyone up for success
- More effective marketing campaigns which are based on targeted buyer personas reach the right audience, the right way
- Planning out a budget over the calendar year (or a specific period) prevents overspending
- Identifying under-performing programs and putting more resources where necessary is possible with clear, identifiable marketing efforts
(KB) Not everyone understands how digital marketing can help a workforce program, but hopefully we’ve offered some helpful insights in this blog. Many participants want to know that your program is being transparent. When marketing plans aren’t program-specific, it can limit awareness about the individual programs and services, so be as specific as you can about your services. Use communication tools that help you come off as equals with your participants. By taking this targeted approach, it puts you in front of the people that you can actually help and more effectively communicates how you exactly you can help.
11. How involved will you personally be as programs implement/launch their plans?
(KB) When it comes to implementation, I have a standing weekly meeting with program staff to assign tasks and check back in on our progress on those tasks. We have a monthly KPI tracking meeting, which ties back to our marketing goals. Some of the tasks I handle are:
- Ask questions about what’s going well and what may need improving
- Track and analyze data
- Provide insight and suggestions for improvements
- Listen to concerns and gather feedback
- Develop marketing campaigns
- Offer assistance in completing various tasks
- Manage marketing platforms
- Conduct research
- And more
(JG) I have been working closely with different programs on their marketing efforts for almost 2 years as a marketing consultant. I will continue working with new and existing programs to provide support as needs arise.
12. What key advice do you think workforce staff need to remember as they work on marketing plans?
(KB) To stay open minded. When you say digital marketing, you think digital or online. However, there are components that we do in the marketing plan that fall out of the digital realm. It’s not just digital; it’s integrated marketing. You may end up incorporating a variety of marketing tactics, both digital and traditional. Above all else, keep your plan and outreach methods people-focused.
13. What tools/resources/support are available to programs along the way as the marketing plan is rolled out?
(JG) EDSI’s marketing team is able to offer any level of support. We can create and oversee all of the marketing efforts for a program, or work within a limited budget to offer specific support such as developing a flyer or creating a social media campaign.