If you've spent any amount of time reading our blog, or even networking with other school administrators, you probably have heard about the concept of inbound marketing by now. You know, the idea that the traditional means of advertising are falling by the wayside with today's audiences (ie, parents of little ones) in favor of non-intrusive online engagement.
Like blogs. Webinars. Videos. Social media posts. And a great website to boot.
And as a non-profit private school who strives to be an exceptional steward of your resources (and keep tuition low), you might rejoice in this new wave of marketing, because it's way less expensive than running radio, television, or print ads. And, it doesn't sound too hard, right? Anyone can write a blog or post on Facebook (just look at the millions of bloggers and social media users out there).
Maybe you and your team can execute your school's content marketing in-house with the people you already have, right?
Possibly. But, as with so many big decisions, you must make sure you count the cost before taking it on.
Yes, of course, we are a marketing agency that specializes in doing inbound marketing for schools, universities, and ministries, so we are understandably biased toward the decision to hire an agency to manage these activities. But there is a reason we exist, and why we're passionate about helping schools like you achieve your enrollment goals through inbound: because to do it right takes an immense amount of time. And just as many schools are tight on money, we know that their staff is likewise pretty short on time, too.
Time is just the tip of the iceberg. Running an inbound marketing campaign requires expertise beyond knowing how to hit "publish" on an eloquent post or show-stopping video. Let's take a moment here to look at exactly what is involved in inbound marketing so that your team can have all the tools you need to decide whether you've got the resources to do it yourselves.
Wait, What Is Inbound Marketing Again?
First off, in case you're not that familiar with inbound, here is a basic rundown: it is an internet-based marketing strategy that involves creating relevant, engaging online content that draws potential customers to your website, establishes a relationship with them, and in so doing, convinces them to buy from you.
Inbound authority Hubspot puts it like this: “In very simple terms: Inbound marketing is the practice of using content to attract quality visitors to your website, convert those visitors into leads, and turn those leads into happy customers. It uses content (such as blog articles, videos, and ebooks) to appeal to your ideal customer by addressing their basic questions and pain points, and demonstrating that you offer the best solution for them.”
For a school, using inbound marketing to grow enrollment means that you work to attract ideal prospective families by earning their trust, as we wrote in a blog earlier this summer. You do this by providing valuable content that solves their problems rather than interrupting parents to tell them about your school.
If your school uses inbound marketing, you employ technology and tactics such as your school website, social media, SEO, keywords and a school blog to draw in new families, rather than relying on print advertising or other media marketing such as radio ads, TV commercials or billboards.
Let's look at what is required to pull it off right.
We said earlier, but we must say it again and put it at the top of the list. Inbound marketing takes time. A lot of it.
Why? Between regular website updates, blog posts, social media posts, creating and promoting engaging resources, and so much more, it's nearly a full-time job.
To do it right, your school should post about two blogs a week. These blogs should be organized and scheduled well in advance (even months) with topics to coincide with seasons, events, and other aspects of your campaign that you're running at a given time. Do any of your current staff have the ability to add that into their schedules?
Add on top of those two blogs a week a few social media posts a day, crafting premium content like webinars and e-books, produce videos, updating web pages, creating visually appealing call-to-action buttons, nurturing your leads with follow up communications, and managing parent personas.
Speaking of those parent personas, one thing that is crucial to a good inbound marketing strategy is knowing your audience, and knowing them well. That means not just assuming what they want, but regularly researching and discerning what your potential parents' "pain points" (problems they face that you can address) are. You must know them like your best friends - their habits, their problems, their lifestyle, their preferences. They won't find you online or connect with your content if you can't meet them where they are (and then all of your hard work on those beautiful videos and blog posts will be for naught). This can be a fluid process, as generations and preferences shift with the years and even the seasons, so you need someone to critically and continually look at who your audience really is. Watch our video on parent personas here.
Hubspot has outlined an example of what a monthly inbound marketing campaign looks like as such:
- Buyer Persona Development: 6 hours
- Content Idea Development: 3 hours
- 8 Blog Articles: 16 hours
- 1 premium offer: 6 hours
- Call-to-action button & Landing page: 1.5 hours
- Email nurturing series: 3 hours
- Social Distribution: 2 hours
- Paid Promotion: 4 hours
- TOTAL: 41.5 hours
Truly, all of these responsibilities combine to make inbound marketing more than what you can probably add onto someone else's full-time workload, be it your school admissions director or other administrator, so if you're not going to work with an agency, you may want to consider hiring a new staff member to handle your marketing efforts.
So, if you're going to find someone to take on inbound marketing, what all do they need to know how to do? It requires a wide range of capabilities since inbound encompasses many disciplines, including:
- web design
- graphic design
- public relations
You'll need to stay abreast of internet usage and trends to find out which social media platforms or technologies are currently at the forefront of your target parents' online activity. You must know how to find and use the right keywords, and other search engine optimization (SEO) tactics that help ensure your website content is found by Google and placed near the top of users' search results. The internet world is always coming up with new platforms to communicate and engage, and you must stay up to speed on what's cutting-edge to ensure you're not using outdated practices.
It keeps going. You must strategically plan your social media posts for proper timing and relevance, creating cohesive and engaging campaigns that are adequately promoted. You'll need to regularly create quality, relevant content like webinars, ebooks, and videos that position you as a relatable and knowledgeable partner for parents. Add in public relations, web analysis, and cross-functional project management to tie everything together, and you need someone who possesses a wide range of expertise and competencies.
It may be tough to affordably find someone to handle all of these aspects themselves. You might be able to piece them out among multiple team members, or use an agency to help you manage the moving pieces with ease.
Your inbound marketing campaign is likely to fall flat if you're not employing best practices and procedures that help to ensure success. Do you know all the nuances to creating an effective webinar campaign? To keyword optimization? To social media strategy? Checklists can help to manage these sometimes minute but crucial repeated inbound tasks. For example, we at Schola have a detailed checklist for webinars. Not completing each point is likely to diminish the effectiveness of your webinar, whether in its ability to be seen by your audience, to engage with your viewers, or to capture and follow up with the leads it brings you.
Additionally, inbound marketing is a mindset and a strategy, not a once-and-done shot. Your team needs to make sure that they have all the right pieces in motion at the right time in order to maximize your campaign. Yes, inbound is substantially less expensive than most traditional advertising avenues. But it is still an investment of time and money, and to make it worth the investment, your inbound marketing activities require a 12-month, 52-week a year approach.
If all this sounds overwhelming, take heart: any marketing campaign takes time, resources, and expertise to pull off well. And because inbound media generally costs so much less than traditional media, your monetary investment should be smaller for inbound activities, whether you use an agency or do it in-house. But the bottom line is: you're doing all of this in order to get more applicants and enrolled families into your school. Your staff and faculty puts their all into giving your families the educational experience they are seeking. Isn't your school marketing strategy worth giving your all as well, so that your school can continue to grow and be healthy for generations to come?