How to increase student admissions with Inbound Marketing

Ranya Barakat

February 09, 2017

Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales give universities a tailored, content-based marketing and sales strategy. Colleges can use CRM to improve student admissions.

College admissions are facing a serious challenge. According to  University Business, prospective students demand customized information.

So, higher education admissions are turning to a different type of marketing and sales strategy.  Many colleges are hiring Inbound Marketing and sales enablement agencies to help. They are also investing in branding, recruitment, and digital positioning, says Hanover Research.

They look for:

  • Responsive website design on multiple devices and platforms.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO): for a prominent spot, especially for their informative content
  • Online lead generation: different paths for prospects to convert on the site.
  • As the number of material institutions has online, data analytics and analysis are enormous and very valuable.
  • CMS and CRM systems so that admissions professionals can outreach prospective students.

The Inbound Marketing and Inbound Sales Strategy

With inbound marketing, prospects come to you. So you don't waste efforts fighting for their attention, says HubSpot.

Inbound helps build a relationship between the student and the institution based on trust and transparency, says U-Planner. As a result, colleges can run an educational and informative content strategy. In the end, this allows your prospective students to find you while searching online. In today's world, the prospect is empowered with the might of a search engine.

Every prospect goes through a buyer's journey.

Inbound Marketing works better for industries where prospects have a considered buying process. That is, they need time to research before deciding on a purchase.

Few areas convey this better than higher education. Potential students engage in a very long buying process or buyer’s journey. Prospective undergraduate -and, especially graduate- students take their time on: 

The Awareness stage:

your prospect is looking to study something.  They want to blend a major that relates to their interests and has a financial return in the future.

The Consideration stage: 

your prospect has selected several degrees to explore then further select from. 

The Decision stage:

Your prospect has decided on the degree and is now comparing pricing and benefits.

Your prospect is searching online in all of these stages and looking for honest, informative, and unbiased orientation, be it in blogs, ebooks, customer reviews, ratings, etc.

👉  Related posts:  7 Inbound Marketing FAQs

Do you know your Buyer Persona?

Unlike conventional market research, a Buyer Persona is a semi-fictional character of your ideal customer. We create them based on real data, demographics, behavior patterns, motivations, goals, and challenges.

Remember your prospect student that was searching?

When you know what they want to achieve, you can help them reach their goals and overcome their challenges. It's the human side of marketing and sales.

Qualified Lead Generation

It's no secret that purchased databases of emails are worthless. Why? Because to communicate with someone, they need to agree. If they haven't asked to receive information from you, they won't engage. So, in your university's case, you want prospects willing to join a university or return to higher education. 

  • They’re people who have expressed interest in your institution or one of your programs.
  •  They’re people who are actively searching for education alternatives.
  •  They are willing to talk with college representatives, receive their emails, and answer their calls.

How do you nurture your prospects?

According to HubSpot, lead nurturing is a way to stay connected to prospects collected through forms on your website. Not all prospects are ready to make the leap and buy, and nurturing them helps build trust between the prospect and your institution.

It's literally an educational process. It's almost like you're walking with your prospect through their doubts and providing them with helpful information.

Relationship marketing: segmentation and personalization

A good Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool is key for higher education enrollment.

Experts consulted by University businesses say that the key with CRM is to simplify.  This is because many institutions have complicated processes and track too many phases and stages. Instead, they need to focus on milestones on their prospects' application process.

These experts explain that CRM is a map that brings together marketing efforts, enrollment outcomes, "and everything in between." 

"It’s going to give you the right visibility to be able to understand what’s going on at your school intelligently.”

Imagine the case of Maria. She is looking for a Master’s in Economics at a university with hundreds of different programs.

  • She starts browsing online. She finds different options in your department of economics, and she fills a contact form. 
  • Where does the form go? To an institutional representative. That person starts feeding her with different options at the department.
  • After thinking about it, Maria becomes interested in Behavioral Economics. So, she starts talking with a college representative.
  • But her previous contact at the university is not fit anymore to help her out. The advisor refers Maria to the Behavioral Economics academic advisor through a CRM.

 Maria receives personalized and specific information about the university and her interests. This changes when she decides for a program and enrolls.

How do you do all of this?

What is the ultimate value that your higher education institution delivers? Knowledge.

If every university offers knowledge, what lets you stand out on the web, inboxes, and social media?

Content. And not just content. Content in context. In the right place, at the right time, in the right format, for the right person.

Content Marketing creates and distributes "valuable, relevant, and consistent content," says HubSpot.  This helps attract and retain a clearly defined audience and drive profitable customer action.

Look at outbound marketing practices. The largest universities in the world pay for placement on the right media. They promote the opinion of their academics, insight of their professors, and expertise about their fields.

The intention is great, but the ROI is very low. This can be better channeled through online content marketing and analytics. 

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Ranya Barakat

Ranya is a serial entrepreneur with over 8 years of experience working on the HubSpot CRM. She loves pushing her sleeves up , and getting s*** done. When she is not running her HubSpot partner agency, you can find her upside down on her yoga mat.

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