The debate regarding the promise or pitfalls of corporate America and University research partnerships has been ongoing since 1980 (Bayh-Dole Act, which we won't get into today). On the one hand, there's the belief that these partnerships create jobs local to the University and certainly in the USA as a result of technology or businesses created out of the union. On the other hand, there's a perception that industry dollars mean tainted, or at best, biased research.
Regardless of where your personal stance lies, for the purpose of this article, we're going to assume you found your way here because you've been tasked with promoting your University research to corporate America.
For starters, you've got to accept that the average manager or director in corporate America probably doesn't know where your University is, (a) located and (b) the extent or focus of your research. Obviously, you need C-level executives to know and care, but they are by and large using someone on their team to research partnership opportunities. For some corporations, particularly in biomedical and manufacturing, there are specific offices designed to ferret out opportunities for collaboration. For these reasons, you need to be as forthcoming as your University allows on your centers, offices and research areas of excellence.
Next, you've got to have a process for aligning those public facing opportunities and offices open to collaboration with potential corporate partners. For example, these questions have to be dealt with before creating content and workflows to your website:
- Do these opportunities reside under the Provost, President (Chancellor), or Vice President for Research?
- Who "answers the call" - a development officer tasked with corporate relations or someone aligned with the academic unit hosting the research?
- What's the process for vetting competing opportunities? (a very good problem to have TBH)
- In addition to online recruitment efforts, is there a business development person(s) assigned to proactively solicit research partnerships with industry? In some cases recently retired Alumni who were well placed in corporate America make ideal candidates.
Lastly, there has to be a process for on-boarding everything from the legal aspects to the actual research to reporting on results to ownership and patenting. Since we're experts on Inbound Marketing for higher education and not attorneys, we're only going to focus on steps 1 and 2. #YoureWelcome
Niche and / or competitive markets are tailor made for Inbound Marketing.
You've got passionate scientists, faculty and graduate students. You've got facilities that sell themselves. If only the CEO of fill in the blank company would visit campus, it would be a match made in higher education heaven.
Enter Inbound Marketing.
In this specific case, we're turning strangers (corporate America) into interested visitors in order to develop a relationship that converts them from a lead into a customer.
To get started, do your research on what some of the problems are that your ideal corporate partner is trying to solve. You can do this by talking to the research team, the Provost, the development staff and any offices or centers you currently have on campus who serve as a liaison with industry. Find out the most popular questions, the current state of research and specific areas of expertise.
Next, you'll want to use that info to develop both a buyer persona and an editorial calendar so that you can create Search Engine Optimization (SEO) friendly blog posts, website content, social media captions, videos and content offers that will appeal to your buyer personas when they go searching online. And of course, you can have all that great content and process, but if your Call-To-Action (CTA) leaves something to be desired, your lead generation efforts will fall flat. BONUS: we have a handy guide to creating great CTAs!
You will need a robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform that marries seamlessly with a marketing automation platform. The MA platform will be used to create landing pages for your content offers, track keywords and measure the effectiveness of your content against your buyer persona and the all important piece: nurturing that lead to a successful resolution.
At every step of the Inbound Methodology, there should be a relevant content offer that provides real value supported by a CRM and Marketing Automation to nurture your lead to a point that the appropriate person on your University team can schedule a phone call, demo or more personalized contact. If you're lost....please see our sample workflow below.
In conclusion, there's a better way to attract, convert, close and delight corporate partners and it involves every step of the Inbound Methodology, use of marketing automation and CRM tools. By involving the correct members of the University team and aligning your marketing and lead generation strategy, you'll be making the phone ring and answering inquiries in no time!
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