From using social media to creating compelling offers, here’s how to boost student enrollment.
A changing landscape
You don’t need us to tell you that the landscape of higher education has changed dramatically in recent years. The economic downturn, changing educational technology, and shifting regulations have all contributed to a climate of fear and anxiety when it comes to the value of a college degree—are student loans worth it? What can a campus experience offer me that a MOOC or other online course can’t? Is there any value in studying the liberal arts or business in today’s economy?
Additionally, the way that higher education marketers connect with prospective students has changed dramatically. Once upon a time, rising juniors and seniors attended college fairs, riffled through viewbooks, and took calls from recruitment counselors.
These days, the best lead generation strategies for higher education are digital. And by that we don’t simply mean that colleges and universities should have websites and pay for online ads—though of course, having a website is pretty much a non-negotiable.
Instead, when we think of the best lead generation strategies, what rises to the top for us is the strategy known as inbound marketing.
“Marketing you won’t hate”
Inbound marketing is easily confused with content marketing—and in fact, there’s a lot of overlap between the two. Both work off the premise that most people (and people of ‘milennial’ age in particular) tend to ignore ads—that’s just a fact! And both are based on the idea that it’s much better to earn your way into prospective students’ attention than to buy your way in. The numbers bear that out, as inbound lead generation strategies tend to offer an ROI that’s over 60% better than traditional outbound marketing.
So inbound marketing, as a lead generation strategy, begins, like content marketing more generally, with valuable, worthwhile content. An article that’s readable, interesting, important, and shareable is worth much more than any advertisement you could possibly pay for.
Where inbound marketing and content marketing part ways
In many ways, inbound is identical to content marketing, but they part ways significantly when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of lead generation: content marketing offers good content and crosses its fingers, hoping that great content will function as great advertising. In that way, it’s not that different from traditional advertising.
What makes inbound marketing a uniquely powerful lead generation strategy is this: in the course of offering valuable content, it extends a hand to prospective students and their parents, allowing them to enter the admissions funnel on their own time and at their own pace.
For example, an inbound marketing program aimed at higher education lead generation will make compelling content offers and pair them with optimized landing pages that invite prospective students and their parents to opt in to receiving ongoing communications with the institution of higher education. Once they’ve entered the funnel on their own and exchanged personal information in exchange for great content offers, your higher education marketing team can walk with them through the process—at the pace that’s right for them, and for you.
Begin with the end in mind
We’ve seen way too many higher education marketers make the mistake of thinking that just because their school website has a few blogs and a couple of social media accounts that they’re doing inbound marketing. Too many marketing professionals make the mistake of thinking that lots of pageviews, retweets, and Facebook ‘likes’ mean that they’re winning at online lead generation, when that’s just not the case.
Instead of focusing on such ‘vanity’ statistics, or setting up an Instagram account simply because every other college seems to be doing it, it’s important to know what you’re doing and why—and when you’re using inbound marketing as a lead generation strategy, your goal should always be to generate high quality leads.
That means that everything you do online should be focused on getting prospective students and their parents to opt in to receiving communications from your institution. All of your content creation, social media engagement, and web design should be focused around that goal.
To sum up, higher education marketing has changed—and lead generation strategies have changed, too. Inbound marketing for student recruitment is the movement of the present—and the future. The time is right to get up to speed on it!
Double the effectiveness at half the cost? Here’s what you need to know about inbound marketing in one infographic.