Inbound Marketing for Higher Education

In the race for dollars, new enrollments, and higher rankings, Institutions of higher learning are finding the challenges greater than ever. The marketing methods that helped grow and sustain these venerable institutions for generations are showing signs of weakness. Whatever messages schools wish to get across to prospects, student bodies, and alumni, the message they are getting in return is increasingly one of silence.

According to research, direct mail goes from the mailbox to the trashcan at the rate of 44%, television viewers skip 86% of commercials, and ad-laden websites repel visitors at the the breakneck rate of 84%. It’s not that students do not want to learn what a school offers, or that student bodies and alumni do not want to stay informed. The problem is, the public has become blind and deaf to sales pitches in general. The average person was exposed to 500 ads per day in the 1970’s; today, that number is 5,000 ads per day. In short, marketers have overdosed their markets, and throwing more ads in the mix is only making matters worse.

The solution is the same as that for any problem caused by change: one must adapt or risk being left behind. But how do you sell to people who have become tone deaf to your advertising message? The answer is simple—stop advertising.

The key to engaging students, today—prospective, current, and former—is to stop pushing your message toward them and to make them want to come and get it. It’s called inbound marketing and it’s what will put your institution back on top.

Inbound Marketing Defined

Traditional marketing involves using television, radio, newspapers, direct mail, billboards, online banners, and cold calling to tell people about your school. This marketing strategy is outbound, with your marketing resources being devoted to getting your message out in front of people.

Inbound marketing, in contrast, brings together high quality content and data analytics to identify the interests of prospective and enrolled students, and alumni. It allows you to engage prospective students on their terms and at their level of interest, without annoying them with advertisements. Instead of forcing your message on your audience, it entices them to visit your landing page. It keeps the student body informed and interested in activities on campus. And it allows alumni to stay engaged without fear of being asked for a donation.

Inbound marketing is a strategic methodology that uses email, websites, and social media to deliver targeted content of value. The focus is not on sending a message out, but driving traffic in. The content may be a free ebook, a case study, blog, article, or a video or podcast that entertains or educates the viewer. By offering something of interest, you have changed the dynamic from one where you were asking something of the viewer to one where you are giving them something. As a result, students and prospective students seek you out, rather than you having to seek them out.

To be effective, inbound marketing must present something of value to the student in a place the student is likely to be, such as their email or social media account. The content does not necessarily have to focus on your school, but by the end there has to be a tie-in. For colleges and universities, the content needs to inevitably draw the viewer to your website landing page or social media postings, where they will learn more about your school.

When deciding what content topics might attract visitors to your landing pages, remember your audience and what is important to them. Prospective students will flock to your website if you have articles on scholarship programs and make them easily accessible. Students are always interested in news of campus events. And alumni will gladly support your fundraising efforts, when they align with causes they care about.

Inbound marketing does not eliminate the need for SEO best practices, the use of interactive features, the value of games and widgets, and certain other marketing strategies. Rather, it unifies them so that they become strategic assets in your overall inbound marketing strategy.

When done right, inbound marketing offers the following advantages over other marketing methods: 

Powerful Analytics

Whether you purchased a list of prospective students or culled their information from your own website database or college fair, you must know your prospects, your students, and your alumni. An effective inbound marketing program will let you know who is looking at your website and social media posts, what your current students needs are, and what issues matter to your alumni.

Targeted Engagement Based on Interests

It is a waste of your time and theirs to engage students who are not a good academic fit for your institution, or who are looking for programs you do no offer. An effective inbound marketing program will keep you abreast of who is showing interest in your school and how well-matched they may be to your curriculum. Likewise, inbound marketing statistics will keep your alumni engaged based on their specific interests, which leads to higher voluntary donations.

The Ability to Compel Prospect to Action

Ultimately, the goal of inbound marketing is to compel your audience to act. With inbound marketing as your marketing strategy, prospective students will contact admissions earlier in their search, current students will work together to make the campus increasingly better, and alumni will find programs they will be happy to support—all without a single intrusive advertisement.

Consider the Market

To see why inbound marketing works so well—and it does, we need to consider some demographics. Generation X’ers (parents of prospective students) are heavy users of the Internet and mobile devices. In fact, 66% of them are on the Internet daily. Since they will heavily influence their children’s choice of college or university, inbound marketing is the most effective way of reaching them.

The power of inbound marketing to engage students at all stages of involvement with the school will increase participation among your alumni. This will significantly affect your school’s ranking in US News & World Report. That’s no small benefit.

How KDG Can Help

KDG has 15 years’ experience providing technological solutions to institutions of higher learning. Our can-do attitude has helped us forge partnerships with businesses, non-profit organizations, and some of the most respected colleges and universities in the US. As the leading Lehigh Valley computer consultant, KDG has the skills and resources to provide a custom-tailored solution for you, regardless of your needs.    

Central to our commitment to higher education is our proprietary automated platform,

ReachBrightTM. ReachBrightTM is the first inbound marketing solution designed for higher education that leverages the power of web analytics, social media, and targeted email. The result is a powerful tool that enables you to deliver targeted content to prospects, students, and alumni on their terms.

Not only is ReachBrightTM a powerful inbound marketing tool, but it provides all the tools you need in order to identify, track, and engage prospects and students automatically.  The intelligent analytics engine actually performs better over time, as it learns about your school and your students.  

The automation capability of ReachBrightTM is more than a time-saver. According to Aberdeen Group, organizations that use marketing automation software convert 53% more leads to qualified leads, with a 3.1% growth in revenue compared to companies that do not. WIth ReachBrightTM , a complete breakdown of your ROI is only a few clicks away.

Whether you need web design services, assistance setting up a fundraising campaign, or Allentown mobile app development, KDG will partner with you to meet your objectives on your timetable and within your budget. Contact us, today, to receive a free demo of the ReachBright automated higher education marketing platform.

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