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Inbound Marketing for Graduate Enrollment Management

Tony Fraga

Next week I will be attending the annual NAGAP conference in New Orleans, LA. I’ve been going to their conference for the last 9 years, and this is definitely my favorite higher education industry event. Each year I look forward to the networking and educational workshops on graduate enrollment marketing — and, of course, having fun and building relationships with our clients who attend the conference.

But this year will be different from the past 9 years. For starters, the theme for the conference is “GEM Defined: A New Kind of Rhythm” — a perfect theme for the changes that are already coming to the field of graduate enrollment management. So whether you’re attending the conference or not, you can expect to hear a lot of new ideas coming out of the conference workshops (HINT: Be sure to follow #NAGAPlearns on Twitter to see the highlights!).

One of the new concepts that is rapidly growing in the higher education marketing industry is inbound marketing. And at the NAGAP conference, I guarantee that this will be a hot topic of discussion! Here’s why...

Inbound marketing is more than just content marketing.

Many of you may already be familiar with the content marketing, which involves publishing content to establish thought leadership, and then using that content improve your marketing reach. Content marketing involves blogs, social media, published articles, press releases, videos, and more. Does the phrase “content is king” ring a bell?

However, content without context is not very effective at generating leads of qualified prospective students.

Of course, we all know that many institutions already have some sort of blog, but most of them lack an inbound strategy. Luke Glover, one of the Senior Marketing Consultants here at Direct Development, spends a lot of time analyzing blogs and researching higher ed trends. He recently did a study of 50 graduate school blogs and noted, “None of them included any offers to download premium content, and only 3 of them had any CTAs (calls-to-action) at all.”

An inbound marketing strategy provides the game plan for a graduate school to do content marketing effectively.

Grad schools need to win the SEO game.

No, I not talking about Google Adwords or other paid search tactics (that’s worth an entirely separate blog post). I’m talking about organic search results using real content that is chock-full of keywords!

Google is constantly updating its Panda algorithms, and (without going way off on a technical tangent) the key thing to remember is that the search engines want to deliver to users what they are looking for. So if your graduate enrollment marketing plan does not include creating fresh, program-specific information that is layered with keywords relevant to your student personas, then you shouldn’t expect to grow your website traffic from organic search results.

Inbound generates new leads for recruitment events.

Be careful not to jump on the bandwagon that says “direct marketing is dead — inbound is the way to go!” In the world of graduate enrollment management, direct marketing campaigns are alive and well, and they help generate inquiries and applicants for many graduate programs, both big and small.

That doesn’t mean that it’s easy to find good lists of prospective students within your target market for your next multi-channel campaign. In fact, finding new sources of leads is one of the hardest aspects of graduate school marketing and recruitment! And that’s why inbound marketing is going to be such a hot topic this year — because most grad schools are looking for fresh new leads to invite to their next information session, web chat, or open house.

Here’s how inbound marketing generates new leads:

  • You create content that aligns with your personas’ interests
  • That content attracts new visitors to your site pages
  • Those visitors give you permission to market to them (in exchange for more content)
  • You track what they read, where they go, and what they want
  • You send relevant offers to specific segments based on what you know about them

Is this starting to sound familiar? It’s probably because you may have, at one time in your life, purchased something from this little, tiny supplier called Amazon.com. I know that online shopping isn’t the same as deciding about grad school — nor is an inbound marketing strategy limited to optimizing a user’s website experience — but there are some important lessons to learn about providing people more of what they want, instead of aimlessly blasting static messages to every one of your inquiries.

Learn more about inbound marketing at the NAGAP conference!

There is a lot more to inbound marketing for graduate enrollment management professionals to consider. We realized that, and so we decided to help break down complexities by offering FREE Inbound Assessments at the NAGAP conference next week.

Just go to the link below and answer a few questions about your graduate school, and our team will provide you a custom assessment that you can pick up at the conference.

Another opportunity to learn more is to attend the Friday afternoon educational session — Inbound Marketing for GEM: How to Leverage Content to Attract Students which I will be co-presenting with Francesca Reed from Marymount University and Jamie Grant from Silver Lake College. This hybrid presentation/panel session begins at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, April 10 and will be jam-packed with real examples and data from both graduate schools.

I look forward to seeing you at the NAGAP conference next week! (And for those of you who won’t be there, stay tuned for a later post with highlights from the conference.)

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Topics: Inbound Marketing, Content Strategy, SEO

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