Inbound for higher education recruitment means much more than blogging. Here are top tips for leveraging inbound for enrollment management.
Higher education admissions professionals need a steady stream of prospects and leads—and ultimately, applicants—to maintain optimal enrollment levels.
Prospective students have literally thousands of options when it comes to where they’ll be applying and eventually attending. And rising juniors and seniors these days are experts at figuring out what they want to know about institutions of higher education all on their own.
Chances are good that traditional marketing isn’t all that effective with them, either.
We believe the solution lies in integrating inbound marketing methodology into your student recruitment strategy—and that means much more than setting up a blog and a few social media platforms.
There’s a lot to learn to make inbound marketing methodology work well—but these 8 tips will get you started.
- Set clear marketing goals
What does success look like for you? More applicants in general? More applicants from a particular demographic, or for a particular program? More highly qualified applicants?
You need to know the answers to these questions so that your team can focus its efforts toward them. Too often when they’re start implementing inbound marketing methodology, people get caught up with how many followers they’ve got on Twitter or how many pageviews their blog posts are garnering.
So, which numbers matter most to you? Until you figure that out, you won’t be able to reach them.
- Know your competitors
Sure, you’re pretty well schooled on what’s going on in the world of higher education, but there’s always more to know -- because things are always changing. Do a bit of poking around to see what colleges and universities that compete with you for students are doing on their websites and on social media. What appears to be working? What are the trends in student recruitment, and what efforts are most effective on an industry-wide level?
- Understand your ideal applicant
Here’s the thing: inbound marketing methodology doesn’t tag along after ideal applicants, hoping to be noticed. Inbound marketing methodology is all about getting those ideal applicants to reach out to you.
Sounds impossible, but it’s not. It just means that you need to know your ideal applicant as well as you possibly can. Is your ideal applicant someone who’s looking to major in health sciences and also to do humanitarian aid work overseas? Is your ideal applicant thinking about sports training or sports medicine, and hoping to attend a school close to home? What websites and social media platforms are these applicants using, and how? Do they listen to podcasts or download ebooks? What kinds of search terms do they enter when they’re looking for information on the SATs or ACTs and on choosing a college? What are the questions your prospective students most often ask?
To reach the ideal applicant with inbound marketing methodology, you’ve got to know your ideal applicant.
- Master SEO
Getting noticed in a constantly swarming sea of information online is no easy feat. Search engine optimization—SEO—sounds mysterious, but you just need to know what to focus on.
Keywords are key to SEO, which brings us back to #3—know your prospective student. What are the keywords he or she will be using when searching the web for college information? Identifying these keywords and optimizing every page of your website—using the keywords in the title, in your images, and within the content itself —around them is part of how you rise organically in search engine ranking: meaning that when a student searches for “small liberal arts college nursing Virginia” they land on one of your pages.
- Maintain consistency, quality, and credibility
Search engines—and prospective students—tend not to favor sites that aren’t updated frequently, or that are full of filler. Think about the websites you return to again and again, particularly those that always seem to show up at the top of the search results when you’re trying to figure out what your medical symptoms might mean, or which documentaries are most worth watching.
These websites grab your attention through consistency, quality, and credibility:
Consistency means posting regularly. Quality means posting content that’s meaningful and valuable to your ideal applicant. And credibility means that you’re finding ways (like using links) to show you know your stuff.
- Stay in touch
An integral part of a complete inbound strategy involves the use of strategic and compelling calls-to-action (CTAs). A CTA asks your visitors if they’d like to download premium content, sign up for a newsletter, or schedule a time to talk. This is where you’re aiming to convert visitors into leads, so be strategic.
Additionally, “staying in touch” includes being responsive, professional, and interactive on social media.
- Assess and augment your effectiveness
A/B testing of newsletters, content offers, and CTAs is a must—you need to know which efforts work best!
Additionally, you can augment your effectiveness by keeping careful tabs on who’s downloading what, and what sorts of information they’re sharing about themselves in the process. That’s an essential and integral component of inbound marketing methodology.
The industry-leading platform for inbound marketing methodology, HubSpot, has called inbound “marketing you won’t hate.”
We like to take that one step further and say that inbound marketing methodology is all about creating an experience that the prospective student (and his or her parents!) will love. Don’t just tout the virtues and benefits of your school—show them that you have valuable information and content to offer that’s helpful, surprising, and delightful.
Make them feel grateful to have found you. Make sure they can tell you’re listening.
Because if you’re listening, they’ll be likely to do so as well. And then to share the word with others—and that’s the best kind of marketing of all.
Summing it up:
Inbound marketing methodology is an involved process, requiring goal-setting, research, content creation, search engine optimization, and continual assessment, but it’s the proven strategy for reaching millennials—the very people college and university admissions professionals are looking for.
Done well, inbound will have them looking for you.
Unsure your marketing efforts are having any results? Check out our free Inbound Marketing Checklist.