Why Inbound Marketing is crucial to Christian college and university admissions and marketing professionals.
Traditional marketing and its shortcomings
When’s the last time you opened your mailbox—whether physical or electronic— and looked carefully through all the random offers and ads that have come your way?
I’d be willing to bet that it’s been a while.
Ads for a free estimate for a bathroom remodel? Not especially relevant if I happen to be a renter.
College recruitment materials addressed to my fourth grader? A waste of marketing dollars—we’re just not there yet!Even if what’s being advertised looks great and appealing, if I’m not the right person —or it’s not the right time—I’m going to ignore, or, worse, become annoyed.
We’ve all experienced this: we’ve all been on the receiving end of ineffective traditional marketing: receiving cold calls and bulk mailings for great rates on products or services for which we have no need.
We politely decline and hang up. We asked to be removed from the call list. We toss the brochures and coupons in the recycling bin.
The Inbound difference
I buy a book when I’ve heard a knock-your-socks off podcast or read a viral, moving blog post by the author.
I’ve attended that a consultation with the solar-panel sales team when I’ve searched for—and found—a valuable online guide on saving energy and going green at home.
The secret tool to the effectiveness of these marketing techniques that traditional methods can’t match is called inbound marketing—and it doesn’t just apply to selling books or home solar panels.
Inbound marketing is the tool that accomplishes what most traditional college advertising never will—and the return on investment that it offers is highly cost efficient in comparison with outdated, interruptive marketing.
Thought leaders and researchers in higher education agree that the most successful institutions in this competitive marketplace will be those who most effectively use Inbound marketing for enrollment management: for finding, attracting, and recruiting students.
The Golden Rule of marketing
You might think about Inbound as the Golden Rule applied to marketing: consider the potential client’s needs before your own.
Traditional marketing doesn’t follow this rule: it’s marketer-centric. It puts the marketer’s agenda first. And that stance puts potential customers on their guard: why are you advertising this to me, now?
Inbound Marketing couldn’t be more different. So how do you leverage it to increase applications to your Christian college or university?
Inbound is about putting your prospective students’ needs and interests first; about anticipating the questions they’ll be asking—and the college-related questions they’ll be Googling!—and being poised to respond as effectively as possible.
That doesn’t mean sending the glossy college viewbook to every rising senior your organization is aware of. You want the college recruitment process to unfold organically—not bombard prospects with information they haven’t asked for. Your competitors are already doing that—and traditional interruptive marketing techniques such as these simply aren’t as effective in a world where consumers encounter thousands of ads each day.
To be successful in an increasingly competitive marketplace, Christian college admissions offices must implement the philosophy, strategy, and methodology of inbound marketing.
Know your audience
There’s a lot involved in creating an effective inbound marketing strategy—first, you’ve got to understand your college or university’s unique brand identity and articulate it clearly. Without knowing who you are and what you’re offering, you won’t be able to identify the students you’re looking for.
“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time”—and that’s true when considering target audiences as well.
Without knowing the student you’re trying to reach—their age and interests, their parents’ interests and concerns, and what they are and aren’t looking for in a Christian college—you’ll never be able to create content that’s relevant and attractive to them.
A website and Twitter feed is great—but not enough
You can have a great college website full of original and engaging content—but if it isn’t optimized for the search terms your prospective students are actually using, your institution won’t show up in organic searches on the crucial first pages of a Google search. Optimizing your institution’s website around long-tail keywords that speak the same language as your prospective students—and their parents—is crucial.
And don’t just direct web traffic to the school’s homepage—you need well-crafted landing pages to help convert the people you’ve attracted, and get them to share a little bit more about themselves with you.
Everyone knows that social media is an important part of marketing in today’s world. But too many colleges and universities use social media and content marketing much as they may have used traditional media: by over-reliance on marketing automation and by pushing their “look at us!” message all day, every day, without realizing that these tweets and posts are just as easy to ignore as traditional advertisements.
An Inbound strategy is nimble, responsive, and personalized, using real people to engage real prospects in real time.
And it gets real results.
To sum up, here’s what you need to know:
Glossy viewbooks and cold-calls are going the way of the rotary phone. To successfully manage enrollment and succeed in the 21st century, colleges and universities are going to need to get onboard with Inbound.
Learn how to beef up your college recruitment with our free Inbound Marketing checklist.