It’s the greatest innovation in student recruitment since the advent of the college website. Here’s what you need to know.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Step 1: Attract. Draw them in.
Traditional marketing is outbound—it’s all about pushing your message out by paying for ads, making cold calls, sending direct mail, and purchasing email lists.
We like to think of it as the crop dusting method. You scatter your message far and wide, and hope it sticks in the right places: that is, that it’ll make it to your target audience.
Inbound Marketing is different. Inbound is all about attracting the attention of your ideal consumer or applicant. It’s about earning your place in their attention.
To attract hummingbirds you plant the kinds of flowers they love in places that are their natural habitat. To attract the attention of the right kinds of students, you’ve got to create the kind of content they’ll come looking for in the places they’ll be looking for it.
How do you attract your ideal applicant? By creating great content, of course—the kind that’s clickable, share-worthy, and worth coming back for.
It’s more than having a great website—although an effective, easy-to-navigate, and professional-appearing website serves as the hub for your online marketing.
It’s also about having the kind of website that’s loaded with content that your ideal applicant loves, and optimized so that the search engines “love” it, too.
Frequently updated blog posts that are targeted to your ideal customer help your website show up in search engines. An active social media presence is crucial, too—since most of the people you’re trying to reach regularly use social networks.
Step 2: Convert. Invite those lurking visitors to stay a while.
Great content and high web traffic is important, but it’s not where inbound marketing methodology ends. Far from it—we’re just getting started!
Here’s where inbound marketing methodology goes a step beyond content marketing: we don’t just aim for compelling blog posts with lots of pageviews.
We aim to invite as many of those visitors to stay in touch as possible.
That’s just one of the advantages of inbound marketing methodology: your leads select themselves. They opt in. Which is why inbound generates higher quality leads than other strategy.
And how do you get visitors to opt in, offer up some information about themselves, and stay a while?
Invite them to help themselves to more great content—whitepapers, checklists, ebooks—that you’ve got available. We call these “offers.” And, just like the website content, you’ve got to make them good.
Here’s where your prospective student is poised to move another step through the buyer’s journey—or admissions funnel, as we call it in higher education marketing. She knows about you. And she’s interested. And now you’ve got her on a great landing page that describes the offer and presents it in terms she can’t refuse.
The proven process goes something like this:
- Create a landing page that describes the offer
- Invite the visitor to opt-in to the offer by using a great Call-To-Action
- Convert the visitor into a lead by using a form to collect lead information before delivering offer
- Deliver the offer and thank the lead
Step 3: Convert. Turn leads into applicants.
We've already noted that by inviting them into a process of self-selection and opting-in, inbound marketing methodology tends to generate higher-quality leads. But how do you nurture those leads into actual applicants?
Inbound marketing methodology relies on sophisticated software to collect intelligence on your leads. It’ll tell you which pages your leads view and when. It’ll score each lead so you’ll know who to follow up with and when. And it’ll segment your leads into lists based on the information your landing page collected.
What this means is you’ll never make the mistake of contacting a rising junior with a message targeted for a rising senior. And—by the way—automated inbound platforms can handle all that for you. Inbound rests on automation.
It’s not magic. But it’s sure close.
Step 4: Delight. It’s what steps 1-3 are all about, too.
Sure, inbound marketing methodology depends on fancy software that helps you attract, convert, and close prospective students into applicants through drawing them in, helping them opt in, and nurturing each lead at the appropriate time with the appropriate message, but what the whole system is really powered by is delight.
No one plants flowers to attract hummingbirds because it’s useful: people do it because they find it delightful. Inbound marketing is about delight at every stage of the process because we believe that reaching prospective students effectively happens when we offer information and stories that are true, timely, relevant, helpful —and delightful. That’s what keeps the visitors coming. That’s what keeps your school on their minds.
Summing it up:
Inbound marketing methodology is all about delight: you attract prospective students with great content, you convert them into leads by capturing their contact information through compelling offers, and you nurture them into applicants (and advocates!) by following up with targeted and timely emails. Supported by industry-leading marketing automation software and powered by delight, inbound marketing for student recruitment is the greatest innovation since the college website.
Learn how to beef up your college recruitment with our free Inbound Marketing checklist.