Here’s an interesting fact about The Iron Yard Academy: in the city where the school was founded (Greenville, SC) we haven’t spent a single dollar on marketing. Ever.
There are several reasons. For one thing, we had an established brand (nationally) because of our accelerator programs. We had built a respected name in the tech industry. We also worked hard on getting press coverage. But the most important component was the word of mouth that spread from our graduates. After the first round of students went off into the world as developers, each subsequent course oversubscribed itself without us having to spend any money to get the word out.
As we looked at expanding to other cities (we have active classes in 5 now), my theory (and hope) was that after an initial push for awareness, word of mouth from graduates and employers would take over and we’d see our marketing budget begin to diminish. In fact, I outlined that hypothesis in training material for our Campus Directors:
Our overall marketing goal is to create significant life change for our students so that they will talk about our program and our reputation grows through word-of-mouth.
Practically, though, we can’t create life change if people don’t know about us, and that requires implementing some marketing tactics that will make people aware of who we are and how we can help.
We’ll dive into the tactical details below, but if we do our job right, our marketing budget in each city will shift from advertising spend to community spend over time—less self-promotion and more investment.
Today I spent some time with our Charleston team talking about enrollment for July courses and reviewing our marketing activity…and guess what? Significant decreases in marketing spend and higher enrollment numbers than we had at the same point before last semester.
I also took a few minutes to talk with several students and see their final projects. It was clear that each and every one of them has accomplished far more than they ever thought they could when they started.
Marketing is a tricky thing sometimes, but it sure feels good when it works right.