Inbound marketing is the new technique that could radically improve student recruitment. Inbound marketing builds upon content marketing by adding lead tracking and nurturing. A lead is someone who interacts with you website.
A survey of newly enrolled students across four different colleges found that websites are the number one source of information about a college during the research stage of the decision making process. Therefore it is crucial that your college is found quickly when people search using Google, Bing and other search engines. Recent changes to search algorithms by the leading players, most notably the Hummingbird update by Google, is biasing search results towards those sites that have high quality, regularly updated content.
Essentially content marketing helps you be seen by your audience and helps you to engage with them. For colleges, that means increased awareness of your offering and greater enrolment rates.
Inbound marketing takes content marketing one step further by using processes and techniques to gather information about visitors to your website and turn them from just site visitors into engaged contacts through to brand advocates.
Creating meaningful content can be a challenge for in-house marketing teams, which is why many outsource the creation of content from specialist agencies. Content needs to be relevant and well written and many search engines value good quality English. College's are not short of content, there is a wealth of high quality content, but it needs sifting, prioritising and writing in a way that search engines will find.
So let's assume we have content, or a plan to get the content, how do we publish this content?
Marketing automation platforms
There are many channels to get content seen by your target audience, including blogs, website pages, emails and social media platforms. However this is fraught with problems. Each communication channel has historically required different systems, such as a website content management system (CMS), a social media platform and an email broadcast tool. This proliferation of systems complicates the process and adds time and inefficiency.
In recent years marketing automation platforms have emerged which bring together every aspect of digital marketing, giving marketers great control in publishing content. Examples include the market leader, Hubspot, and other solutions providers including Marketo and Pardot.
Essentially, in one cloud-based system, you can rapidly publish content and measure the impact that this content has. In a matter of minutes it is possible to create a campaign, build an email and send it to only relevant people, create a landing page with a smart data capture form and populate social media.
In essence, inbound marketing delivered through marketing automation will increase web traffic, attendance at open events, and applications. It will also improve applicant to enrolment conversion rate by ensuring regular communication.
John Wilford is founder and managing director of Rave, a specialist marketing agency providing strategic advice, creativity, media planning, social media and campaign execution to many FE colleges and sixth form colleges