Inbound Marketing ExplainedApril 30, 2019
A note from Digistorm: This post was originally published in March 2018. We’ve updated it to include more valuable, relevant content and more recent statistics.
Inbound marketing is an ultra-common term that’s often thrown around in the digital world, and is especially prevalent in marketing blogs and articles. It refers to the practice of attracting customer engagement via company-created content, which ultimately will draw leads to the business naturally. This means that you don’t have to vie for the attention of consumers through pushy, outdated tactics (known as ‘outbound marketing’).
It’s summarized by the name ‘inbound’, as this refers to the idea customers will come to you rather than you having to push and shove your way under their noses. The latter sounds pretty intense, right? That’s why inbound is so successful — it puts the power in the hands of the customer. In addition to businesses around the globe, inbound marketing has shown proven success for schools and the process of generating enrollments.
Not sure how inbound marketing will work in practice at your school? We understand — it can be quite hard to visualize without an idea of what inbound marketing efforts actually look like. There are an endless number of inbound marketing tactics a school can employ, but here are a few of the most common ones.
Digital inbound marketing
Most inbound marketing tactics used by big businesses are purely digital. After all, we’re immersed in the online world, and there’s no going back (unless the apocalypse happens, then we may have to reevaluate). Most of the digital marketing efforts you may have already used for your school will be considered ‘inbound’. If you’ve got no idea of where to start, are a few to get you thinking.
Blogs are resolutely inbound marketing tactics, as the practice of creating them involves writing content and putting it out in the world to be clicked on — or not. Anything that passively exists like this gives the reader the choice of whether or not to consume it, and later, whether to take the intended action (e.g. filling out a survey, sharing on social media or signing up to an email newsletter). Blogs are a great tool as they encourage parents to engage with their child’s life at school, and give insight into things they may not otherwise hear or learn about. They also allow schools to publish a diverse range of content (i.e., not just newsletters and internal updates!) to then generate new leads through organic search on Google or Bing.
Social media is another inbound marketing tactic that could potentially help boost your school’s profile, and generate new leads as a result. Most adults are on social media these days, with even the unsure adopters quite active on Facebook at the very least. So, why not extend your marketing strategy to include a few well-curated social media accounts? Like blogs, they carry a sense of exclusivity, as teachers and staff can share ‘behind-the-scenes’ images of in-school happenings parents aren’t usually privy to. They’re also great for encouraging thoughtful and friendly interaction via comments, likes and shares. If a potential family looking in the area happens to see your social media profile, full of happy, smiling kids, user engagement and shots of your excellent facilities, the likelihood they reach out is probably quite high.
Finally, a great digital inbound marketing strategy to employ is email — tailored to the school context, of course. You may have a certain perception of email marketing, coloured by the hundreds of effusively-flashing sales you receive in your inbox every week. For schools, email marketing must take another approach, but that doesn’t mean it should be any less successful! As a school marketer, you instead want to be creating email content that nurtures people through the enrollment process effectively, and as a result, keeps them coming back for more.
For instance, it’s important to set up auto-emails that are triggered by a certain tag or category in your CRM that then reach out to a prospective family after they’ve signed up for a tour, or completed a form. These show each family the level of care your school invests into its potential students and ensures greater lead retention throughout each stage of your enrollment pipeline.
Print inbound marketing
In the school context, print documents actually have more application than you may think. Of course, these don’t actually have to be on paper — we’re more so referring to documents that aren’t collaborative but instead, encourage parents or students to go home and take a certain action rather than feeding it back into a computer. There are so many examples of great print documents that will enhance your digital marketing strategy, but we’ve narrowed it down to a few that are super effective and will maximize lead retention.
After completing a tour or chatting with your staff, prospective families are likely to want to retain the information they’ve just received — but doing so with sheer brainpower is a big ask. Why not help them keep your school top of mind by offering an informational packet or downloadable file featuring everything you’ve just talked about?
Most schools are already doing this, as it’s an integral part of maintaining good relationships with prospective families and guiding them through the enrollment process. If you’re not, we recommend you jump on the bandwagon ASAP! While you’re at it, maybe you could drum up a few creative ways to present or offer the information. For instance, maybe you email your wrap-up as a pdf file, thus ensuring you receive an email for your mailing list if you haven’t already. Or, you could encourage parents to join your social media community through links to the school’s platforms and any relevant groups that address their unique needs.
Another great way to really engage your school community (both parents and kids!) is through interactive documents. This may be a worksheet they could fill out, a template they could implement or even just a comprehensive guide on a certain subject you know will be of interest. Once again, it’s up to you if you opt for print documents or a simple pdf or Google doc.
The purpose of this kind of content is twofold, based on what you do with it. You can distribute the material to existing parents to encourage them to interact more with the school community, with some kind of call to action that asks them to promote your school (e.g. a social media share). However, if you’re able to really fine-tune your content, you could also generate new leads by posting these interactive documents online. Whether you decide to offer them for free or perhaps via a gated email sign up (hello, killer database!), you’ll be adding value to your school’s site and gathering cred for SEO at once. The more your content appears on Google, the more prospective parents you may have in your midst.
Here are a few examples of shareable, relevant print content for schools:
Create checklists for parents to use as part of their daily or back-to-school routines — for example, getting their kids ready for prep, selecting the perfect school or even things to do before heading back to school for the year.
Designing a branded template for parents to use to plan various activities is a great way to keep your school top of mind. Plus, it’ll be a total time-saver for parents — a great example is a homework planning template that can be used to help students sort out and allocate the week’s workload.
How-to guides are consistently popular, whether they be in the form of blog posts or downloadable content. They give parents something to refer to when they’re out of ideas, time-pressed or simply need a little refresher course. We love the idea of a how-to guide packed with amazing school lunchbox recipes, including ingredient lists and photos.
Whichever inbound marketing strategies you decide to implement for your school, the key to generating great engagement is relevance. Keeping it relevant and valuable to your school’s audience, both current and prospective, is essential. Of course, make sure you’re not giving away all this golden information for free — gather email addresses or social media followers to ensure it becomes a mutually-beneficial relationship.