During some recent travel to Georgia, I connected with an old friend, Mark Shivers, to grab some dinner. Mark is the enrollment programs manager at SCAD, the Savannah College of Art and Design. Our first goal that night was to find a quality establishment where we could fill our stomachs, so naturally, we started accessing random travel apps on our iPhones looking for good restaurants nearby. Mark and I both stumbled upon a little Cajun Grill on Yelp — a place in Acworth called Henry’s Louisiana Grill.
As we walked into Henry’s that night, conversation was loud, and the bustle of the kitchen made the Cajun eatery buzz. Hardly a table was to be found. And a little overtone of blues and jazz music was emanating from the small ceiling speakers.
For Mark and me, it felt like old times as we caught up from over 10 years of not seeing each other. Mark shared about SCAD’s “Rising Star” program, a pre-college five-week summer program that awards college credit to rising high school seniors who are ready for a university experience. Mark is still fairly new in his position at SCAD, but from the short time he has been on staff, he is sold on the institution and its programs. According to Mark, SCAD is “doing it right,” from its prospective student programs such as “Rising Star” to its in-house creative design and social media outreach. I mean, what else would you expect from a college with the words “Art and Design” in its name, right?
But the story of our evening gets better … it was all about Chef Henry Chandler that night. See, Chef Henry, a graduate of Guilford Tech’s Culinary Arts program, makes a regular point of getting out of his kitchen and into the restaurant dining room. That night, he made his way from table to table, greeting folks and calling people by name, and then he glided over to us. Wow! This guy was excited and very personal. Henry took a few minutes to talk with us and engage us to determine whether we were regulars or newbies. After learning we were newbies, he warmly greeted us, thanked us for coming in for dinner, asked us how our meals were, and then proceeded to share with us his “cause.” He wasn’t asking for anything, but simply sharing a cause that was near and dear to him. It seems Chef Henry was diagnosed with liver cancer in 2008. Fast-forward a number of months, and things were looking pretty bleak. With only 24 hours to live, Chef Henry learned that a liver had become available — and underwent a transplant that literally saved his life. Today, his passion and zeal for cooking good food is only surpassed by his very literal love of life.
After chatting with us about the amazing food, Henry asked if we were locals. Mark said that he was, and Henry invited him to fill out a little card on the table to sign up for a newsletter that talked about local events at the Grill. Henry said, “Since you’re a local, we want to get you involved with us.” I told him I was from out of town, and he jumped right into offering to stay in touch with me by sending recipes of the Grill’s Cajun specialties via email. He was customizing his response to each of us based on the “who,” “what,” and “where” of us.
So how did Henry pull us in and make us customers, believers, and now promoters of his restaurant? Here’s how higher ed and Cajun food came together that night.
Henry’s was FINDABLE. Mark and I used Yelp to find Henry’s. But Chef Henry is also on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Foursquare. Pretty impressive. Is your institution findable on the Web and via apps? Is it active in social media platforms like Twitter, Foursquare, and others?
Henry’s was UNIQUE. Henry offers Cajun cuisine in Acworth, Georgia, in a small downtown strip of stores. I dare say your institution also has numerous differentiators, such as key academic programs, scholarship competitions, campus life events, and more. Are you taking maximum advantage of these by sharing your unique position?
Henry’s was ENGAGING. Chef Henry greeted us personally at our table. He lived and breathed the saying, “Nobody cares what you know until they know that you care.” He wanted to know a little bit about us, and then he shared about his cause. How are you engaging your prospects? Are you offering them social media swag, sending personal notes, and staying on their radar?
Henry’s was CUSTOMIZED. Chef Henry customized his response to each of us based on our profile, where we were from, and his understanding that Mark was more likely to engage in local events and that I would enjoy recipes as an out-of-towner. What about your admissions or marketing outreach says “customized”
It was through these four areas that Chef Henry and his Louisiana Grill bore testimony to just how important and universal marketing strategy really is. Upon his Cajun table, Henry has laid before us the perfect content marketing recipe. To help your prospects find your institution, create content that is findable, unique, engaging, and customized. And don’t forget this little word to the wise; you’ve got hundreds of resources walking on your campuses and taking your classes right now. Ask them what attracted them to your institution. Find out what engages them. Use it!
Finally, if you need assistance in figuring out how to use that recipe to create the right content marketing strategy for your institution, that’s where we’re cooking with gas. Just give me a ring — or, better yet, meet me at Henry’s for some Chicken Ooh La La!