1. Create great content
Effective content marketing starts with great content -- and great content doesn’t feel like great advertising; it feels like the kind of thing that actually grabs your interest and distracts you from whatever it is you're supposed to be doing. We all know that the best publicity is the kind you don’t pay for -- it’s the kind you earn simply by being remarkable at what you do.
So it is with inbound marketing -- you begin by creating great content around the questions that your prospective student most wants answered:
- Which college in my area is most affordable?
- How do I decide which colleges to apply to?
- What are the best hints for writing a college admissions essay?
- Why should I choose a private college?
- When should I start prepping for the SAT?
By coming up with the kind of valuable, shareable, findable information that rising juniors and seniors are looking for, you’ll show up on their radar organically by rising to the top of the search engine results with compelling, well-crafted, valuable content.
2. Promote and distribute effectively
Your great content is out there. Great! Now you need people to be able to find it.
High school students spend a lot of time on social media -- since that’s where they are, that’s where you need to be, too. Make sure your admissions team is ready, willing, and able to interact professionally on social media. It’s also important to have optimized social media profiles on major platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
You might be tempted to use those platforms as virtual bully pulpits -- shouting your message over and over. Don’t do it! Best social media practices are all about responsiveness -- yes, you share the great content you’ve created, but you also interact with people, tweet and retweet interesting and relevant links from around the web, and have some fun.
3. Convert visitors into leads
High website traffic is great and necessary -- but it’s just not enough. You want to make sure, first of all, that you’re attracting the right kind of visitors for the right reasons, and that, once you’ve got them there, you find a way to keep in touch with them.
Think about the last time you entered your contact information into an online form in exchange for…what? A free ebook? A checklist, a whitepaper, a presentation? Whatever it was, it had to have been good for you to be willing to hand over your email address. The offer they were making -- their call-to-action -- made sense to you, and you entered your email address.
That’s inbound marketing methodology at work. Attract, then convert visitors into leads by making offers too good to turn down.
4. Nurture leads into applicants
So you’ve generated and distributed great content that’s highly tailored to the personas you’re looking to reach, and you’ve offered a successful call-to-action -- and they took you up on it. Well, what now?
As with every stage of inbound marketing, it’s important to remember to refiine the next steps according to the prospective student’s place in the admissions funnel. In other words, don’t send out a robo-email offering to waive application fees for the next month only to a high school junior -- that’s likely to be perceived as off-putting.
Instead, you nurture your leads into applicants by delivering messages that are specific to his or her interests at times that are relevant to the stage he or she is in.
5. Delight, Delight, Delight
We can’t say it enough: inbound marketing methodology depends on delight at every stage. Are your graphics beautiful and streamlined? Does the form fit the content, and the content the form? Is your tone appropriate to what’s being discussed, and is it true to the brand identity your institution maintains?
It matters that you delight your prospective students at every stage because delight not only closes leads into applicants (and matriculated students!), it is also one of the most potent tools in the marketer’s bag of tricks. A delighted customer is a customer who can’t stop talking about how wonderful you are -- and that kind of marketing strategy can’t be bought.
Summing it up:
Inbound marketing methodology is all about creating great content around the questions your prospective student is asking. When you have great content, you also need to make sure it gets found; to make sure it gets found, you need to be active, courteous, and responsive on social media. To generate leads, make compelling content offers and nurture those leads into applicants by delivering timely follow up communications. At every stage, strive for delight!
Learn how to beef up your college recruitment with our free Inbound Marketing checklist.