Done right, inbound marketing for student recruitment is far more effective than traditional outbound strategies. Get on board!
Every college and university has a social media presence -- so how can you make your institution stand out from the crowd and boost the success of your online recruitment efforts?
Too many student recruitment professionals think that online recruitment marketing is a simple matter of setting up a few social media accounts and waiting for prospective students to come along and see them. Or else they treat social media platforms as bully pulpits -- no differently than traditional advertising.
It should come as no surprise that these methods are less than successful at getting results. Think about it: how often have you retweeted a sponsored tweet, or ‘liked’ and shared a sponsored Facebook post? That’s right -- not often.
These days, sponsored messages appear just about everywhere we look, making it easy enough to tune them out, particularly online. We’re great at ignoring and blocking spammy emails, avoiding advertisements masquerading as articles, and closing down pop-up windows. And today’s prospective students?
They’re even better at detecting -- and ignoring -- anything that gives off the whiff of a sales pitch.
So how can you do better?
#1: Do your research
It’s impossible to have any success with online student recruitment without knowing a lot about your prospective students. Who are the students you’re actively looking to recruit, and how are they similar to and different from the students currently enrolled at your institution? Where do they get the majority of their information? What are their questions, concerns, and needs as they begin preparing for college admissions? Which search terms are they going to enter as they explore the web for standardized test preparation?
And what are they looking for in a school? Academics? Athletics? A particular geographic location? Exhaustive research -- both quantitative and qualitative -- is essential, because it’s going to help form the basis of your content -- and that’s how you’re going to catch the attention of high-quality leads.
Focus on content
Inbound marketing success rises and falls based on content. With inbound, the focus is less on you and the message you’re pushing and more on the prospective students and his or her questions, problems, and needs -- and offering the sorts of resources he or she needs going forward into the college application process.
For example, rising juniors and seniors will be Googling things like “how do I decide what to major in?” or “what is the best Christian college nursing program?” You’ll want to be high on the list of organic search results for the terms that best describe your institution (in the language that your prospective students would use) and to do that, you need to produce content that’s relevant and valuable. Quizzes, checklists, presentations, study guides, ebooks and other downloadable content -- and great blog posts! -- are the kind of things you need to offer.
Content is all about building trust and relationship with your prospective students. When they perceive you as knowledgeable and generous in your offerings, they’ll be much more inclined to keep you in mind.
Watch the numbers
At every stage of inbound marketing for student recruitment, analysis is key. You need to know what’s working and why so you can fine-tune, do more of what’s worthwhile and less of what’s ineffective. Too many admissions professionals blame external forces or bad luck when their marketing results are less than stellar. We prefer to see these things as challenges to be solved -- which email subject line gets people to click? Which call-to-action was most compelling? What kinds of content offers get the most results from the demographics we’re most interested in? Without answers to these questions, you’ll be spinning your wheels. You need data to give you insight so you can be constantly improving.
To Sum Up:
A successful student recruitment marketing strategy doesn’t rely on ads: it relies on the research that gives you insight into your prospective students’ likes, dislikes, needs, concerns, and online behavior. It relies on great content that speaks to those preferences and desires. And it relies on a marketer’s willingness to constantly reevaluate what’s working best and what’s less effective -- so that, going forward, you can reevaluate, refine, improve, and grow.
Unsure of whether your marketing efforts are having any results?