Need To Increase Student Enrollment?
Here's a sobering statistic: overall student enrollment in higher education has been falling over the past six years, according to the data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Unfortunately, this trend is unlikely to reverse on its own, as researchers believe that the decline is likely to continue in the coming years. As a result, it's more important than ever that you take action now to proactively recruit future students.
This is one area where you can take a page out of the business world's playbook and leverage one of the most effective marketing techniques in use today: inbound marketing. The primary idea behind inbound marketing is that each prospective customer (or student) journeys through a series of stages before making a decision as to whether or not they will purchase a product (or enroll in your program, as the case may be). It's the organization's role to provide information and help that individual through the customer journey, and build trust in the organization's ability to meet that person's need. If you would like, you can read a more in-depth overview of what inbound marketing is here.
Inbound - A Natural Fit for Higher Education
The student's enrollment journey is an opportunity for you to help those considering your school understand the school's programs, and more importantly, the career choices they are making. Inbound is focused on educating and sharing knowledge, and that is exactly what is at the core of most schools' missions statements. As such, inbound is a natural fit with higher education marketing. Plus, you have a built-in advantage when it comes to creating engaging marketing content. You have incredible resources at your disposal, starting with faculty who are there to share their knowledge and educate the next generation.
Done correctly, inbound marketing will result in increased student enrollment. Additionally, student retention will improve as incoming classes are better prepared for the program and more committed to their goals as they see how your coursework will result in better career options.
So, how do you get started with inbound marketing for education? Let's go over five tips to help you achieve your goals, as well as a few marketing ideas specifically for schools and colleges.
5 Inbound Marketing Tips for Education
1. Consider how you want to convey your message and use your resources.
Your institution's website is a great place for your inbound marketing efforts to start. If you don't already have a blog, consider creating one just for prospective students and their parents. That way, you will have a central repository for the information you want to share, and it will be easily accessible.
Then, ask yourself if you want to go beyond text-based blog posts, and if you can incorporate multimedia into your marketing. What's your school's strength? Do you have a fantastic art school that could assist with coming up with creative infographics or visualizations? Do you have film students who might be interested in helping you create a beautiful video (or an entire series) about choosing a school? Use the resources available to you.
Remember, this is your chance to educate prospective students on what to look for in a school's program, and how their decisions influence their career choices. The content you create and publish should be informational, rather than focused on persuading them to enroll right that minute.
2. Start with your most frequently asked questions.
Not sure what to write about first? Start with the questions prospective students ask most frequently when they're trying to decide if your program is right for them. You probably have the answers already written down in countless emails to potential students, so this is an easy place to begin. In addition, people are probably searching for these same questions on the internet, so it's a good opportunity to get more traffic to your website.
Another way to approach this would be to talk to current and past students, and ask them how they made the decision to enroll in your school or college. You can use the same interview or survey to ask them if they have any words of advice for prospective students, or any experiences they would like to share.
3. Optimize your content for SEO.
Search engine optimization, in a nutshell, is ensuring that your content is easily found online by the right people. There are a ton of free resources to learn from, such as this website. You don't need to become an expert in the latest SEO subtleties, but gaining an understanding of the most popular keywords or topics that matter to your prospective students and how to rank for them will be a great help when planning your content strategy. Basically, you need to know what your audience is searching for most often, and create useful, informative content that answers their questions.
4. Promote content on social media.
It isn't enough to publish an article on your blog and hope people find it. If it was written with SEO in mind, prospective students will find it online as time goes on, but to get the most from it, you'll want to promote it on social media as well. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are some of the most popular platforms to share on, and will help your SEO efforts as well. If you have the budget, it's a good idea to try sponsoring your content for greater reach and impact. You can get quite specific in your ad targeting on these sites, so you know you're reaching the right people.
One idea would be to highlight Alumni and their stories. A well-paced series of photos of Alumni, along with a quote about how they ended up in your program or why they are happy with their choice of school, could be quite powerful. The same strategy highlighting Faculty and their stories can also be very compelling to prospective students. Just remember to use relevant, popular hashtags as appropriate for the greatest impact.
5. Track your content's effectiveness and adjust your strategy accordingly.
For the best results, you will want to continuously review how your inbound marketing strategy is working and what you could do better. For example, if a particular message has been resonating strongly, you will know to create more content focused on that topic. Keep track of how many people are visiting your webpages, or liking and sharing your social media posts. All of these cues feedback into your evolving content strategy. It's all about ongoing learning and improvement.
So, there you have it: your guide to increasing enrollment by leveraging one of the most effective marketing techniques out there, inbound. By addressing each step of prospective students' enrollment journey, and the questions or concerns they may have, you're positioned to attract more students that are the right fit for your school.
With these tips in mind, go forth and educate your future students!
If you are interested in developing an inbound marketing strategy for your institution, let's talk.