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Inbound Marketing for Universities: Reinventing the Wheel

Inbound Marketing for Universities: Reinventing the Wheel

If you're a marketer looking to improve your recruitment and promotional strategies, chances are you've heard about inbound marketing for higher education. It's a powerful, demand and value-based strategy with the potential to transform your marketing efforts

The good news: building a powerful higher ed inbound marketing campaign doesn't necessarily mean starting from scratch. Many of the recruitment and communications efforts already in place at most colleges and universities can easily adjust for an inbound focus. In this guide, we'll explain how below.

Table of Contents:

What is Inbound Marketing for Colleges and Universities?

At its core, inbound marketing is designed to attract, engage, and convert audiences through value-based digital content. Rather than pushing out promotional content, the goal is to execute an inbound marketing funnel that pulls in prospective students through content that is helpful, and answers enough pain points that they'll find you on their own accord.

Successful inbound marketing for universities requires an in-depth understanding of the student’s enrollment journey, from awareness to consideration and decision. Content-based campaigns designed to draw in prospective students have to address all three areas; from introductory college search help for high school juniors, to move-in tips for admitted incoming freshmen.

In other words, it's a complex strategy. The good news is that you don't need to create all-new content just to get started. Strategic use of existing knowledge and content can go a long way toward building your education inbound marketing campaigns.

5 Steps to Create an Inbound Marketing Campaign Without Reinventing the Wheel

Before creating any kind of inbound marketing plan, gather everything you know about your prospective student audience. Beyond demographics, an understanding of their behaviors, interests, and pain points will be valuable throughout the decisions you'll need to make for the campaign.

With that basic understanding in place, these 5 steps can help you build a successful inbound marketing campaign from what you already have.

1) Perform an Audit of Existing Content

The first step is to collect any existing content you have that might be beneficial for inbound purposes. Potential examples include:

  • Blog posts from students and faculties.
  • How-to guides and FAQs on key pages, like the health service or housing and residence life.
  • Social media posts that have had significant engagements from followers.
  • Testimonials from students and alumni about your school.
  • Really anything that adds value to the prospective student’s enrollment journey.

This already existing content will form the basis of your inbound marketing strategy. In fact, as we'll explore in future steps, some of it will even turn into lead magnets that generate interest and inquiries.

2) Leverage Insights From Your Students and Alumni

Your alumni office likely interviews former students regularly. Your school might even participate in a broader effort to gather and benchmark student insights, like the National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE). These efforts to learn more about your current and former students can become key in building inbound marketing content.

For example, insights from students and alumni can form the backbone of a downloadable admissions eBook on what new students can expect, or answer any questions they might have. Surveys can also help you better understand audience needs and interests, helping you select more relevant content to refine and refresh.

3) Map Out Potential Inbound Lead Magnets

Based on your existing content and the insights gained from surveys, it's time to create the backbone of inbound marketing: in-depth content that is free but asks for your audience's contact info in return. These so-called lead (or inquiry) magnets can take on a variety of shapes:

  • eBooks that help students narratively prepare for college.
  • Checklists and how-to guides that are more task-oriented versions of eBooks.
  • Webinars that showcase helpful content, often with an expert guest, in a more visual and interactive format.

The good news: none of these lead magnets have to be built from scratch. If your school has an active blog, chances are at least one of the posts can turn into a valuable eBook or webinar. Admissions emails, FAQ pages, and any other type of content can easily be repurposed into a downloadable content marketing piece used to add value and gain audience information.

4) Build Secondary Content Around Your Lead Magnets

With lead magnets in place, it's time to build the secondary content that drives your audience towards those centerpieces. Most often, that effort consists of a few key tactics:

  • Social media posts, like visual snippets or single facts from an eBook that link to the sign-up page.
  • Emails to inquiries are frequently used to drive your prospective student database towards content focused on the bottom of the recruitment funnel.
  • SEO-optimized landing pages, with relevant keywords that make the content easy to find in relevant Google searches.

If the content doesn't draw directly from your lead magnet, this is where your alumni and student storytelling can come in handy. For example, you can easily transform testimonials into short (even animated) videos for social media that link to your website for more information.

5) Evaluate and Adjust to Optimize Content for the Buyer's Journey

Finally, don't underestimate the importance of regularly evaluating and optimizing your inbound marketing content. Check out which lead magnets drive the most inquiries and which secondary content drives the most engagement. Then, use that information to continue improving your strategy over time – without ever having to reinvent the wheel.

Build a Lean Higher Education Inbound Marketing Strategy

Higher education marketing is all about being resourceful while maximizing opportunities. In many ways, inbound marketing is the perfect fit for that environment because recreating the wheel to be successful is not necessary. You already have the basics in place to build your content; now, all you need is to be innovative in applying what you have strategically.

The good news: you're not alone. While schools and universities can't afford to sit on the sidelines while other industries and competitors switch to an inbound marketing philosophy, the barrier to entering this type of approach has never been more attainable. With an education-based marketing firm by your side, you already have a baseline that will lead to future success.

Sonority Group can help you audit what you already have in place, then help you create, rebrand, or create new content around the resources you're already using. We'll work with you to create an inbound marketing strategy designed to attract the next generation of college students.

Ready to learn more? Let's chat!  

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FAQ Recap:


What is Inbound Marketing for Colleges and Universities?

Inbound marketing is a demand and value-based strategy designed to attract, engage, and convert audiences through valuable digital content. Unlike traditional outbound strategies, it focuses on pulling in prospective students by addressing their pain points and providing helpful information at every stage of their enrollment journey.


How can I create an Inbound Marketing Campaign without starting from scratch?

Building a powerful higher education inbound marketing campaign doesn't mean reinventing the wheel. By strategically utilizing existing content, knowledge, and insights, you can adapt your current recruitment and communications efforts for an inbound focus.


What are the key steps to create a successful Inbound Marketing Campaign?


Perform an Audit of Existing Content:

Collect relevant content such as blog posts, how-to guides, social media posts, and testimonials that add value to the prospective student’s enrollment journey.

Leverage Insights From Your Students and Alumni:

Utilize insights from interviews and surveys with current and former students to create valuable inbound marketing content.

Map Out Potential Inbound Lead Magnets:

Develop in-depth content (eBooks, checklists, webinars) based on existing material and audience insights, serving as lead magnets that gather audience contact information.

Build Secondary Content Around Your Lead Magnets:

Develop social media posts, emails, and SEO-optimized landing pages to drive engagement toward the lead magnets. Utilize alumni and student storytelling to enhance content.

Evaluate and Adjust to Optimize Content for the Buyer's Journey:

Regularly assess the performance of lead magnets and secondary content to optimize your inbound marketing strategy over time.


How can I build a lean Higher Education Inbound Marketing Strategy?

Higher education marketing requires resourcefulness. Inbound marketing aligns well with this environment, allowing you to leverage existing resources strategically. You can build a lean strategy by repurposing content and innovatively applying what you already have in place.


Why is regular evaluation and adjustment important in Inbound Marketing?

Regularly evaluating and adjusting your inbound marketing content is crucial for optimization. By identifying which lead magnets and secondary content perform best, you can continuously improve your strategy without the need to reinvent the wheel, ensuring sustained success over time. 


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