- General Best Practices
What a difference a decade makes.
In 2009 I was graduating high school, heading off to college to pursue a career in TV journalism. I didn’t select my college by Googling “best colleges for TV journalism” or being bombarded with social media ads. It was snail mail, billboards, assistance from my high school guidance counselor, and non-personalized email from schools that I felt didn’t even know me.
And while it was actually a phone call to my parents’ landline (I was yet to own a smartphone!) that led to my final decision, looking back, I can’t help but think — I wonder where I would have ended up if inbound marketing had nurtured me down a different path?
Inbound marketing was around back in 2009, but no one was using it. The strategy was introduced and coined in 2005 by HubSpot’s co-founder and CEO Brian Halligan when he realized that consumers were very good at recognizing and ignoring interruptive marketing and sales tactics like direct mail, email, and cold calls.
The concept didn’t take off until 2012 in most B2B and B2C markets...and in the school industry, just in the past couple of years. A very small portion of schools are implementing inbound strategies (and according to our research, only 2.5% are using it correctly)! Yet for schools, inbound marketing is more important than ever before.
What is Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing (for schools, specifically) is the process by which you use numerous digital mediums — including SEO, PPC, social media, email, and your website — to attract, recruit, and retain families.
The idea behind inbound marketing is that by creating and sharing the right content in the right place at the right time, your marketing becomes relevant and helpful, rather than disruptive.
Over the past decade, the world has become filled with a faster, more connected, transparent, social media-driven, review-seeking, Internet-addicted group of individuals...and we don’t see anything slowing down. Needless to say, the need to build effective inbound campaigns will be more important than ever.
Here are our top six reasons you should be investing in inbound marketing in 2020:
- You’ll Save Money (And Have a Bigger ROI)
- You Will Save A LOT of Time
- Your Brand Awareness Will Skyrocket
- Your Genuine Marketing Approach Will Be Rewarded
- You’ll Upgrade the Quality of Your Leads
- You’ll be Ahead of the Competition
Download our 25+ page Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report to gain insight into how schools around the world use digital marketing strategies. It's free!
1. You’ll Save Money (And Have a Bigger ROI)
Which marketing strategy seems to be the most cost effective?
- A radio advertisement that costs up to $5,000/week.
- Optimizing your website content and claiming your Google my Business page to ensure your school is in the top search.
- Purchasing numerous billboards in the local metropolitan area for about $5,000/month.
The obvious answer is B.
This is because many of the components of an inbound marketing strategy — such as Search Engine Optimization (SEO), social media, and content creation (blogs, eBooks, whitepapers, etc.) are completely free. Granted, you will have to spend money on email automation software and other inbound tools — but the annual costs of these can be far less than traditional advertising methods.
In addition to not spending as much money, the impact is greater.
Studies show that inbound marketing costs 62% less per lead than outbound marketing. Additionally, the average cost per lead drops by 80% after about five months of effectively implementing an inbound strategy.
And as a content marketer, my favorite stat that backs up the impact of inbound: content marketing gets three times more leads than paid search advertising. There’s a reason Finalsite doesn’t make a huge investment in paid ads (we do some, but not many!). It’s because blogs like this work in generating traffic, awareness, and even leads. (Not to give away any secrets or anything…)
With an effective inbound strategy, you don’t need traditional outbound methods. But, they can help supplement your strategy.
For example, let’s say you run a print ad in the local magazine every month. On that ad, you could direct readers to a landing page that has a downloadable content offer. When someone downloads that content offer, marketing automation steps in with a series of emails to keep that prospect engaged with a series of specific content. In the end, he or she inquires. Mission accomplished.
Combining traditional marketing efforts with inbound marketing means:
- You’ll end up with hard data to tell you what works and what doesn’t.
- You’ll eventually spend less money by ceasing traditional efforts that don’t work.
- You’re reaching all of your target personas, and nurturing them throughout their journey, which saves you time.
That brings me to my next very important point.
2. You Will Save Time
With inbound marketing, you will save time. A lot of time.
Marketing automation, which is a large component of inbound marketing, is a tried-and-true way to increase productivity while decreasing time. According to research:
- Marketing automation drives a 14.5% increase in productivity, and a 12.2% decrease in marketing overhead.
- 75% of marketers say the biggest benefit of automation is saving time. Other benefits include increased engagement (68%), more timely communications (58%) and increased opportunities (58%).
- Four out of five marketers who use automation see an increase in leads
- 77% of marketers using automation saw an increase in conversions
Saving time while increasing leads and conversions? Sounds too good to be true! (But it’s not!)
While inbound marketing might require a hefty chunk of your time up front as you set up email campaigns, craft well-written title tags and meta descriptions for SEO, and even get some PPC and social media campaigns up and running. But once they are up and running, they will continue to work for you.
3. Your Brand Awareness Will Skyrocket
Achieving the level of brand awareness that companies like “Apple”, “Nike”, “Coca-Cola” have doesn't happen overnight. It happens by consistently delivering valuable, educational, engaging and even entertaining content and experiences that has a unique voice, look, and feel.
Increased brand awareness is an intentional by-product of your inbound marketing strategy. In short, the more you blog, create content, post on social media and optimize your website for search, the more likely the chance a prospective family learns about your brand.
The inbound marketing methodology assumes that your school cares not only about recruitment and retention, but being a thought leader in your space. By creating free and knowledgeable posts you are paving the way for your school to be seen as an industry leader and providing an invaluable service to those who take advantage of your posts.
4. Your Genuine Marketing Approach Will Be Rewarded
Today’s consumer is unique. They are informed buyers. They research reviews, social media, and ask for recommendations. They loathe the inauthenticity the typicals sales process — which is probably why services like Carvana were created. They want to be personally recognized, instead of being seen as part of the masses.
With inbound marketing, you are the reaction to your prospects’ action. Instead of guessing, you are thoughtfully responding. You’re the help that they need, when they need it.
Rather than wasting money on trying to force everyone to hear your message, you are supplying your target audience with the tools that they need to help make a decision to a question that is already on their radar.
With inbound marketing, you can better appeal to today’s savvy and informed audience. Here’s how it helps:
- You create information that is readily available to help them. By investing time on your blog, social media, email and landing pages, you can create personalized experiences that are helpful and educational.
- Email campaigns get targeted, personalized, and automated. With inbound the sky's the limit for how broad or targeted you want to get in your email marketing efforts.
- You create freebies that will benefit families and your school. Perhaps a checklist of questions to bring up at a school visit would be helpful for a prospective family, but it will also help you hone in your audience.
By being there to help families find the educational path that is best for them, you may be surprised at how much trust you gain and turn into leads.
5. You’ll Upgrade the Quality of Your Leads
With outbound marketing you are throwing out your message and hoping it sticks to something...somewhere. Hopefully someone driving on the highway sees your billboard, has time to read it, and is thinking about sending their child to private school, and remembers the name of your school from that billboard. If that isn’t wishful thinking, I don’t know what is!
Everyone knows it’s not about quantity — it’s about quality. And with inbound marketing, the quality of your leads can increase significantly. Studies show that 49.7% of companies using inbound marketing see their sales increase within about seven months.
A combination of responding to your target audience’s needs, having a gentle and helpful approach, providing educational freebies, and having a great website all lead to a better researching and buying experience for your prospective families.
6. You’ll be Ahead of the Competition
Right now, inbound marketing isn’t widely adopted by schools — and not because it doesn’t work. It’s because it still feels “new.” To some, it still feels risky. And for you, the lack of inbound strategy could be a huge benefit if you’re willing to invest the time and resources.
According to our inbound marketing benchmark report…
- Only 28% of schools have created personas for prospective families
- About ¼ use marketing automation
- 75% of schools haven’t invested in inbound marketing software
- Only 20% of schools have a content offer
- Less than half of schools have a blog
In short, building brand awareness, optimizing content for search and engaging leads is easier when there is less noise. So if you’re thinking about inbound, don’t wait to be a late adopter.
Inbound marketing is a better way to serve your families and set your school up for a great pool of leads. If you’d like to learn how inbound can help your school specifically, we’d love to chat. Contact us today, or get started with a free 15-minute website consultation.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, eBooks, and reports, including Finalsite's Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report.
- Inbound Marketing