How to use this dynamic new marketing tool, which disrupts traditional marketing and lets colleges and universities attract students, parents—and applicants—reach their enrollment goals.
Inbound marketing is a technique tailored to the needs of contemporary consumers.
Most of us stream TV shows and movies, use DVR to speed through advertisements, block pop-up ads, ignore sidebars, avoid advertisement links, and drop direct mail in the recycling bin. Clearly, it’s time for a change.
The situation is no different when it comes to student recruitment. Anyone with a junior or senior has experienced the deluge of unsolicited college marketing materials filling the mailbox—and the recycling bin.
Unsolicited mailings are an example of traditional marketing—or what savvy marketers are now calling outbound marketing. Outbound marketing pushes content out: it cold-calls, buys email lists and ad space, and, in today’s crowded media landscape, often has to shout (or pray!) to be heard.
The Inbound Marketing Difference
By contrast, inbound marketing is purposeful and proven. Instead of shouting out your competition or flooding potential students and their parents with information they haven’t asked for—and therefore are likely to ignore—you attract them to you by offering great content that’s tailored to appeal to their growing need: deciding which colleges to apply for.
Getting Up to Speed with Inbound for Christian Colleges
Your prospective students are out there—despite everything you’ve been hearing about the challenges facing student recruitment in higher education in general, and Christian higher education in particular, most graduating high school students still plan on going to college, and many Christian students are strongly attracted to institutions that can offer them a great education while also offering the opportunity to engage their faith in the classroom, to live out their faith through faith-based service work, and to be mentored by Christian faculty.
If you’re a college admissions officer, you know that your institution offers something unique and valuable prospective students. It’s time to learn to use Inbound marketing to reach them.
Tip #1: Know your prospective student
Don’t go off hunches. Research. Write specific personas. Find out who your ideal applicant is and figure out what makes her tick. Why does she want to attend a Christian college? What assumptions might she make about Christian colleges? At what stage is she (or her parents) beginning their college search? What do her college-related search terms look like? What problems does she want to solve; what questions does she want answered?
You need to know the answers to these questions if you’re going to reach her with the right messaging at the right time. Inbound marketing for student recruitment is all about getting personal.
Tip #2: Attract your prospective student
Once you know what your prospective student is likely to be searching for, you need to attract her attention by creating quality content that’s of value to her.
It’s not enough to have an admissions blog on the university’s website that functions as a 24-hour billboard, endlessly touting the institution’s greatness—that’s not content marketing. You need to be creating content that answers her questions and meets her needs. When she’s up at midnight searching the Internet for answers to her college search dilemmas, you want her to be landing on a great resource that meets her needs and answers her questions—not an ad that simply blurts out the message you want her to hear.
Because chances are, unless you’re listening to her, she won’t listen to you.
Tip #3: Connect with your prospective student
It’s definitely not enough to post great content on a university blog. It’s not even enough to promote that great content effectively using social media best practices -- which can be tricky to get just right.
You also need to have a well-designed system in place to convert your prospective student into a bona fide lead. You can’t expect your prospective student to be ready to send in her application after reading a few helpful blog posts—so don’t put an “apply now!” button at the bottom of every post.
Rather, you should consider offering premium content—such as an ebook guide to the college selection process—that offers your prospect the opportunity to engage your great content more fully while she shares a bit more information about herself.
To sum it up:
Inbound marketing is “the proven methodology for the digital age.” Unlike traditional marketing, which crop dusts information over vaguely defined areas in hopes that some will stick, inbound is highly responsive—it’s all about publishing the right content, for the right people, at the right time, so that your potential applicants are attracted and delighted by what they see from you.
Inbound marketing for student recruitment creates the difference between landing a spot in the recycling bin and landing a spot on a prospect’s Facebook wall.
Learn how to beef up your college recruitment with our free Inbound Marketing checklist.