Improving Your School's Enrollment Conversion With Inbound Marketing
In higher education, digital marketing tends to take a back seat. For decades, sending students a view book and a personalized letter from admissions was enough to get them to visit campus, apply, and become a student.
Unfortunately, that's no longer the case. Thanks to online programs and for-profit institutions, competition for high school students has become fierce. Thanks to the increased choice, the average U.S. student now applies to more than 3 colleges, with sending out as many as 40 applications.
To successfully recruit an incoming class today, digital marketing needs to enter the foreground of your enrollment planning. More specifically, an inbound-based approach may be the perfect fit for your institution to distinguish itself in the eyes of both students and their parents.
What is Inbound Marketing?
The relatively broad term first originated in the mid 2000s. It describes any comprehensive marketing strategy that is primarily based on drawing audiences in, rather than pushing ads to them. Given how cynical today's internet users are toward promotional messages, it's the perfect solution to attract and get the attention of a modern audience.
The entire concept is based on content: if you can build content good enough that your audience wants to read it, you can use largely unpaid digital channels - such as search engine optimization and social media - to get attention at a fraction of a traditional marketing budget. More specifically, here are 4 ways modern universities are leveraging inbound marketing to turn prospects into students.
1) Inbound Delivers Relevant Content
As mentioned above, inbound marketing is largely content-based. If you can build the right content on your website, your audience will seek it out - and you can start to establish your institution as a helpful resource in the journey to college.
Fortunately, higher education offers plenty of opportunities to provide this type of content. Consider some of the most common questions high school students tend to have about their college search:
- How do I know which school is right for me?
- What extracurriculars are a good fit?
- What major should I pick?
- How can I search for and get scholarships?
- What do I need to know about the FAFSA?
These are just a sampling of the countless topics you can cover in your website content. On a blog or as gated content that is free but hidden behind a sign up page, you can educate your audience about the college search while simultaneously increasing your profile.
2) Inbound Minimizes Marketing Waste
Most pure inbound marketing tactics are entirely free. Rather than spending countless advertising dollars on paid search promotions and banner ads on college listing sites, you can achieve the same results - with an added degree of credibility - using organic social media and search engine optimization.
Too often, higher education marketing dollars are wasted. Vendors are getting good at selling opportunities like the above that don't actually result in much yield. We've seen a university spend $50,000 per year on a listing site that generated 800 new leads, but only three applications - and no new students.
Inbound marketing can reduce that waste. Studies show that on average, businesses pay significantly less per year on inbound marketing tactics than they do on traditional outbound efforts. And yet, the results are not just comparable, but actually better. Every college looks to minimize wasted budget, and a switch to inbound marketing may just be your gateway to that goal.
3) Inbound Leverages Student Preferences
Where do high school students spend most of their time online? The answer is not surprising: on their favorite social media outlets, from Instagram to Snapchat. Their parents are no different, though their choice of network - Facebook or LinkedIn - may differ slightly.
We're not telling you anything new when mentioning social media as an effective recruiting tool. In fact, chances are your university already uses it in more than one way. Where inbound marketing differs is in how you can reach both audiences through their preferred channels.
Messages - especially those that are helpful rather than promotional - can easily be adjusted to fit the individual medium. An embrace of social media is as relevant during recruitment events as it is during yield season, when you can creatively encourage new admits to show off their welcome packets.
4) Inbound Maximizes Your SAT Buy
Finally, inbound marketing can actually help you get more out of your SAT buy. Most universities get the majority of their prospect pool from these types of list buys, which means that you are competing against countless other schools for the same audience's attention. Each name costs $0.43 cents, which means that a significant buy can quickly get expensive.
When you get your yearly list, then, you have to make the most of it. A view book or postcard makes sense, but so does a more in-depth conversion strategy. And again, that's where the content comes in helpful.
Every college you compete with will send a high-gloss publication that shows smiling students and highlights success stories. But what if yours comes with a website integration where students can learn everything they need to know about the FAFSA? What if you then follow it up with an effective landing page that builds on the same themes and is easily available through search and social?
Building that path doesn't cost any more, but will significantly increase the likelihood of conversion for every name you buy. Rather than simply doing what everyone else is doing, you can leverage the student's journey more holistically help them from initial awareness all the way to enrollment.
The Significant Potential of Inbound Marketing
Marketing your college can be expensive and time-consuming. At the same time, when implemented correctly, it can also be immensely successful in reaching your audience and gaining their interest.
Whether you are looking to attract high school students, parents, or both, it makes sense to implement inbound-based strategies. Your ability to both drive prospects to your enrollment funnel and move them through it will increase significantly. Thanks to a digital marketing approach tailored to today's young adults, you can reap the enrollment rewards and increase your next class.
If you want to learn more about inbound marketing for schools and how to exceed your higher education lead generation goals, let's talk!