SAGU’s David vs. Goliath Story – Tips for Competing Against Bigger Brands That Have Massive Marketing Budgets

SAGU’s David vs. Goliath Story – Tips for Competing Against Bigger Brands That Have Massive Marketing Budgets
Competition from major brands causes serious problems for small businesses. Here’s how one university managed to set itself apart from the heavy hitters.

Budget is always a key concern when it comes to marketing.

You operate a small business and you may operate under very fine margins.

You also have all of these massive companies to contend against. They’ve got huge budgets while you’re scraping to set a few dollars aside for marketing.

It can feel almost impossible for a small organisation to get a foothold.

That’s the position that Southwestern Assemblies of God University (SAGU) found itself in. SAGU is a small faith-based university in Texas in the United States. The university offers a range of business-related courses.

The problem is that most of these are things that larger universities in Texas offer too.

SAGU needed to find a way to attract great students despite the fact that they had fewer resources. And they needed to do it with a much lower budget.

Please pay close attention especially if you’re in an education business (such as coaching and consulting). You’re about to learn some useful tips you can put to immediate use.

The SAGU Success Story

SAGU differs from other businesses in the sense that students are their “customers”. As such, they had the following goals for their marketing campaign:

  • Raise awareness about the SAGU brand to attract student interest.
  • Prove the value of their “product”, which are their degrees.
  • Show why they’re the better choice.
  • Build a reputation within the professional community.
  • Communicate what makes them unique.

They needed to do all of that while competing against larger universities in the state of Texas.

Overcoming the Challenges

SAGU recognised that many traditional marketing channels were out of the question. Television ads, for example, would place a massive strain on their budget.

They turned to the digital arena. That’s how they discovered that an email campaign would offer the most value.

The university started gathering email addresses during trade shows and similar events. However, they struggled to manually keep track of their efforts.

That’s when they turned towards automation.

SAGU began using ActiveCampaign to automate their email marketing. Specifically, they used ActiveCampaign’s lead scoring capabilities. This helped them to determine when to contact prospective students.

Figure 1 –

This is an essential part of the university recruitment process. Each student needs one-to-one attention.

SAGU needed to contact those students at the right time to place themselves top of mind. They used their emails to establish their differentiators of faith-based study and ability to cater to student interests.

Using lead values helped them to track where individual students were in their sales funnel.

The End Result

SAGU’s marketing department is more efficient than ever before. The use of automated email campaigns allows them to target students at the right times and with the right content.

They now achieve a better ROI from their marketing efforts.

What You Can Learn

SAGU’s story teaches us a host of lessons that smaller businesses (including coaches and consultants) can take into their own marketing.

Here are four that you may find useful.

Lesson #1 – Emphasise What Makes You Different

Much of what SAGU offers mirrors what the major Texas universities offer.

But it has a key differentiator – its focus on faith.

This gave the university a unique selling proposition (USP). SAGU could advertise itself as a university that both supports and bolsters a student’s Christian lifestyle. Its Bible-based courses became a key selling point among a specific niche of students.

Having a USP is essential for a small business competing against larger brands. You need something that separates your offer from what the customer receives everywhere else. Otherwise, people will look at your business and see it as a follower of the major brands. Thus, it’s not worth their time.

Identify your USP and focus your marketing efforts around it.

Lesson #2 – Focus on Email Marketing

SAGU looked at a variety of marketing techniques when deciding what to focus on. Social media marketing tempted them. But they ultimately decided that email marketing was the more cost-effective solution.

That’s something that most digital marketers agree with. About 75% of marketers call email the most cost-effective digital marketing channel.

Despite this, email only receives an average of 10% of most organisations’ digital marketing budget.

SAGU chose to focus most of its digital marketing budget on email. And it paid off for them as it allowed them to target students based on several different factors.

Of course, this isn’t to say that other digital marketing strategies can’t reap benefits. For example, Facebook ads could help you to appeal to a wider audience. Plus, they provide a useful source of data that helps to better personalise your email marketing campaigns.

Automation Agency can help you to integrate data from social media platforms into your CRM. We can also help you to create automations that leverage this data so you create more effective email campaigns.

Lesson #3 – Assign Values to Your Leads

SAGU collects a host of leads from trade shows and other lead generation activities.

But they struggled with figuring out when to contact those leads. Each was at a different stage in the sales funnel. For example, a first-year high school student may only be in the research stage.

A final-year student is at the decision stage.

SAGU needed to target leads with the appropriate content depending on where they are in the funnel. That’s where ActiveCampaign’s lead scoring capabilities helped them.

With lead scoring, they could place specific values against leads depending on a range of conditions. Leads would reach certain scores. Then, they get placed into a new email automation. This automation sends them appropriate marketing materials.

This ensures that the leads always see the materials that SAGU needs them to see at the right times.

Using lead scores allowed SAGU to automate a process that usually requires a lot of manual tracking. Their marketing and sales teams no longer needed to spend time checking on lead status. That saved a lot of money for the university.

Automation Agency can help you to create email automations based on a lead scoring system. We can also do this for a variety of CRMs beyond ActiveCampaign, including Ontraport, InfusionSoft and more.

Lesson #4 – Target Customers Based on Specific Interests

SAGU added another layer to their email automations.

They recognised that every student has a different reason for attending university. Some want the best educational experience available. Others may have more of a focus on the social aspect and the “experience” of going to university.

In SAGU’s case, many of its students also appreciate the religious aspects of the university.

The point is that SAGU’s “products” have a range of features. Each of these appeals to a different audience segment.

Targeting those interests with appropriate emails got great results.

The university used site tracking to help it determine what individual students had the most interest in.

Figure 2 –

With this tracking in place, the university could identify the website pages that students spent the most time on. This allowed them to figure out that student’s specific interests.

From there, the student’s details could enter an automation focused on those interests. For example, a student who shows an interest in SAGU’s sports programs would receive sports-related materials.

This is a powerful tool as it allows you to personalise your email campaigns. You speak directly to the customer’s core interests, rather than sending them general materials. This increases response rates and helps you to create the personal touch that small businesses thrive on.

Automation Agency can help you to set up site tracking and integrate it into your CRM.

The Final Word

SAGU used automated email marketing to separate itself from the competition. This allowed them to appeal to the right students at the right times. And they did it without spending huge amounts of money on more traditional marketing techniques
All they needed was an effective CRM and the right strategies.

Small business owners, coaches and consultants can learn a lot from SAGU’s story. You have a USP and it’s something that you must emphasise in your marketing. But most importantly, you need to target customers at the right times to get the best results.

Automation Agency can help you to set up site tracking and create value-based email automations. Just send a task today to get started.

And if you haven’t signed up yet, have a conversation with our Right Fit Chatbot. Find out more about what we offer and whether we’re a good fit for your business.

About The Author

Carl Taylor

Carl Taylor is the Founder & CEO of Automation Agency. For the past 10 years Carl has been building businesses and marketing them online through the use of Sales Funnels, Email Marketing Automation, Landing Pages, and Wordpress Websites. Carl is also a #1 author and highly sought after speaker and consultant whose work has impacted thousands of businesses across various industries worldwide.