The Educated Marketer


What Your Competitors Can Teach You About Inbound Marketing

by Leah Peters | Nov 11, 2015

 |  college recruitment, college recruitment strategy, inbound marketing, social media recruiting strategies



How the most successful companies are changing what ‘advertising’ means.

Just because your college or university has a marketing budget that’s closer to “shoestring” than “sizable” doesn’t mean that you can’t compete against larger institutions with bigger checkbooks.

As industry-leading blog HubSpot put it, the marketing strategy we call inbound marketing methodology “helps level the playing field for marketers with less budget, and more brains.”


Even if you’re lucky to have abundant marketing funds at your disposal, you can learn a lot from companies big and small that leverage the power of inbound to see their sales grow.

Here are some of the ways successful companies are using inbound marketing:

Keywords are Key

A husband-and-wife legal team in Pennsylvania managed to reach the number-one search engine result for “legal separation in PA” and dozens of other family-law related search terms.

How did they do it? Sharon, who was handling the marketing and business management side of things, realized that there wasn’t a lot of valuable content around the frequently-used search term “legal separation in PA” -- so she created that content, and more, targeted toward related keywords.

The result? 30% quarterly growth in both web traffic and lead generation. (Wow!)

The takeaway for higher education: figure out what your ideal prospective students are searching for, and where the gaps are in the content matching those most-searched-for terms. Then create great content around those keywords, and make sure you’ve got fantastic landing pages and compelling calls-to-action to convert visitors to leads!

Great Content Can Take You Far

The Rodon Group, a B2B that makes injection molds and injection molded plastic parts, won recognition from President Barack Obama as a company that has fought for “Made in USA” goods -- he actually flew to their plant to give a speech.

Now that’s the kind of thing you can’t pay for!

How did they do it? They wrote a little ebook called “Top 10 Critical Reasons to Bring Your Plastic Injection Molding Back to the US.” And by offering a valuable resource to potential clients, they captured clients’ contact information, promising never to sell or spam. That allowed them to follow up strategically and win more accounts.

The takeaway for higher education: There’s no replacement for great content. While it can take various forms (whitepaper, presentation, ebook) it’s got to be something that’s really worth students handing over their content info to receive. Your generosity will pay off in the form of leads, and is likely to pay you back: inbound users report that leads generated through inbound cost more than 60% less than leads generated by traditional advertising!

Use Email With Care!

No one wants to get endless promotional emails. But who doesn’t want a free birthday cupcake?

That’s right -- pretty much everyone wants a free birthday cupcake.

So if a customer signs up for the equivalent of a free birthday cupcake, don’t seize upon that as an opportunity to bombard her with weekly promotional emails. It’s important that you use the information that your prospects have offered to direct timely, appealing emails that are crafted just for them.

The takeaway for higher education: Okay, so you've leveraged inbound content offers and garnered a respectable list of emails. Don’t just bombard everyone with the same emails -- that’s way too spammy for inbound. Give prospective students the equivalent of a cupcake on their birthday -- the right kind of offer that’s tailored to where they are in the college admissions funnel. That means no “waiving the application fee” offers should be sent to students who are still high school juniors, and that detailed updates on what the drama department is up to go only to those students who’ve indicated that they’re interested in the drama program.

Create the Kind of Social Media Buzz No One Can Resist

Okay, so we’re guessing that Starbucks isn’t hurting for marketing dollars. Still and all, there’s a certain buzz around the brand that can’t be bought: by actively engaging customers on social media -- and inviting them to share about their Starbucks experiences through hashtags -- Starbucks gets people talking. And that’s the best kind of promotion.

The takeaway for higher education: Being active on social media is an absolute must. But don’t use social media platforms as a pulpit from which to shout your message over and over. The best thing to do -- if you can swing it -- is to invite people to participate in your campaign through the clever use of hashtags. Can you create some buzz around #my[Blank]University on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram? Issue a call for selfies of students, alumni, and prospective students with the challenge to represent more than fifty countries. Get people excited. Get people sharing.

See what the best companies are doing to earn their way in to people’s attention instead of buying their way in.

And get inspired. Think about what inbound can do for you.

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