In the united states alone there are thousands of universities, colleges, and other institutions for higher learning. Prospective students are most often young people in their late teens and early twenties, so when they begin thinking about which schools they want to apply to, one of the first places they (and their parents) will go to gather information is the internet.
Parents and students don’t take any part of this decision lightly - even the search for a broad list of schools to consider applying to involves scouring lists of the best schools, comparing tuition and living costs, and consulting friends and friends of friends about their respective alma maters. What does this mean for institutions looking to make it onto the lists of the best and the brightest? Highly effective digital marketing — inbound marketing.
Most higher-ed institutions are stuck using outdated, interruptive marketing tactics and are left wondering why their tried and true methods are no longer providing their desired return on investment (ROI). Inbound marketing has blown those older methods out of the water by basing efforts on providing consumers with the information they want exactly when they want it and porividing them with all the tools they need to make educated purchasing decisions.
Universities and colleges are presented with unique marketing needs, but they are still subject to changes in the ways consumers research and purchase. Consumers want access to as much information as possible so they can be sure they can make the absolute best purchasing decisions for themselves, and employing inbound methodology is the best way to give it to them.
Define your Ideal Visitors
To start thinking about how inbound marketing could work in relation to your university or college, you should do some research on the characteristics of your ideal audiences. Which students are you looking to attract? What do they love to do in their free time? What are their best subjects? Where are they in the decision making process? What about their parents?
Do your research and begin compiling outlines of these ideal personas - put together summaries of each of their backgrounds, their dreams, and the things they are looking for most in a college. Once you have defined these ideal personas, you can start catering your content (blog posts, social media posts, and website content) to these personas in order to provide them with the exact information they are searching for right when they set out to find it. This may sound complicated at first, but once you get into the inbound groove, this process will become second nature.
Use Social Media to Connect with
Current Students + Attract New Ones
Social media is a big part of most young people’s everyday experience, so when looking to attract prospective students it makes sense to reach them where they already are rather than hope they find your site on their own.
Universities and colleges can use social media to share news, events, and other aspects of campus life in real time - sprinkling in links to informational blog posts and other site content can be a natural and personal-feeling way to spread the knowledge prospective students are looking for.
Sharing experiences and statements directly from current students is also a great method for driving home specific aspects of your school’s culture in a genuine and authentic way.
Rethink Your Website
Inbound marketing should be an ingrained part of your entire web presence — that includes your website’s design. Your site should be designed, front- and back-end, to be a sales-ready inbound marketing machine. If designed effectively, your site should be lifting a ton of weight off the shoulders of your sales and marketing teams.
There are many components to inbound web design, but here are a few recommendations to start:
- Optimize your site for search engines by using the most up-to-date SEO practices to move your site toward the top of search engine result pages.
- Predict the way your individual personas will look for the information they need and organize your site in a way that guides them through the information gathering process.
- Provide remarkable, well researched, and informational content to deliver the information they’re looking for, conveying your University or College’s individuality and personality.
- Use calls-to-action, landing pages, and workflows to bring visitors closer to making an educated decision.
Keep Track of What’s Working and What Isn’t
One of the most important aspects of inbound marketing is measuring the effects of your marketing efforts and using those measurements to refine your processes. This is especially crucial for groups working within limited marketing budgets.
Tracking and analyzing data from your website visits, interactions with visitors, and your social reach will provide you with the insights you need measure how your marketing performance compares to your initial goals, determine which aspects of your marketing strategy are working well, and rethink efforts that may not be providing the ROI you had initially hoped for.