Marketing trends are always evolving. If you look back at your marketing tactics from five years ago — or even last year — compared to what you're doing right now, I guarantee many aspects have changed. In today’s ever-changing, technologically-progressive world, it is no longer enough to simply publish content and rest assured that it will reach your audience.
In the digital world we live in, there is an immense amount of content pining for the attention of your prospects on a daily basis — Millennials alone spend an average of 11 hours consuming content each day.
As inbound marketing continues to break into the enrollment marketing space as a new way to attract students and convert inquiries, higher education professionals are learning more and more about the power of producing compelling content for all stages of the applicant journey.
But here’s the problem: many enrollment managers do not have the time, the staff, or the resources to create and promote content at the rate that is necessary to stay competitive in today’s oversaturated online landscape.
Institutions of all shapes and sizes are relying on partnerships with agencies to help them develop and execute their content marketing strategies. But how do you know if you’re ready to enter into a relationship with an agency partner?
Here are five things to consider when assessing your marketing efforts in 2017 and when deciding if it’s time to get help from a partner agency:
1. You are not blogging on a regular basis.
Blogging provides many advantages.
For one, it is an opportunity to establish your brand and voice in order to be seen as a thought leader in the fields and industries that align with your various programs.
Second, institutions have loads of content and stories just waiting to be told — from student testimonials to application tips and everything in between. It is important not to sell yourself short in this area, because maintaining a blog is one of the easiest ways to connect with prospective students and ultimately cultivate a deeper relationship that leads to application.
Inbound marketing experts can help you create and publish content on a frequent basis, which will help build your credibility with search engines (and dramatically increase your quality score with Google!). Inbound marketers will also help you create blog posts that prospective students want to read about. Consistency and relevance in your blog posts can lead to more traffic, subscribers, and inquiries.
2. Your social media strategy is lacking — a lot.
Social media seems like an easy marketing strategy to implement. All you have to do is post a couple times a week to your Twitter and Facebook, and that should be enough, right?
There are many misconceptions about the importance of social media when it comes to promoting your brand and connecting with your audience. Social media should be used for frequent posts and content promotion, but you must have a strategy or you will come off as mere noise on your audience’s Facebook timeline. To make your social media postings effective you must focus on the analytics behind each post or paid promotion. The data behind your social efforts will tell you more about your audience like what platforms they engage with most often, what content they liked, what content they disliked, specific demographics, etc.
Inbound marketers understand that it is hard keeping up with social media, not to mention staying on top of a comprehensive monthly strategy. These experts can help you create an effective inbound social strategy that will increase followers, likes, and retweets. They will also provide you more insight into your audience’s social habits and how to better engage with them.
3. You are unaware of who your personas are.
Did you read this question and ask yourself what a persona was? If so, let’s start there: A persona is a fictional-representation of your ideal students. For more on how personas work for enrollment marketing, check out this post. Student personas are meant to represent a specific version of your ideal student – based on real data analysis.
In higher education, you can and should have multiple personas that represent different students with different needs and interests. For example, a few of your personas may be Nurse Natalie (your ideal nursing student), Transfer Timmy (the best representation of your typical transfer student), or Freshman Felicia (the persona that comes to your institution from the local public school).
Knowing who you are marketing to is a vital step in making your inbound approach so effective. None of your content, social media, or promotional tools can work to their full potential unless you know who your personas are.
An inbound marketing agency spends a lot of time helping you find out and understand your personas. They help you sit down and ask yourself important questions to determine your personas’ challenges, needs, goals, and preferences. By figuring out who these people are, you will no longer waste your time and effort on visitors who may or may not turn into students but rather ones that will be quality leads. It will also allow you to provide your personas with the relevant and valuable content they are looking for.
4. You are unsure which platforms to promote your content on.
This situation is quite tricky and requires a lot of thought and analysis of persona behaviors. One mistake that a lot of universities make is promoting their content on all platforms. While at first this may seem like a good idea, we are here to assure you that in the long run, it will actually hurt your reputation and credibility. The goal is not to promote your content on as many platforms as you can; the goal is to use the most effective platforms for your specific institution.
Inbound marketing experts will lead your enrollment team in the right direction by doing data analysis on the behaviors of your personas. This research will allow you to understand where prospective students are spending most of their time (Twitter, SnapChat, Facebook), which platforms you should be focusing on, and how to best utilize these platforms with content students want to see (pictures, videos, infographics, etc.).
5. You are unaware of how your website is performing and what pages are doing well.
Do you know which academic pages on your website are visited most often? Is your home page generating any real conversion? Is your blog generating new subscribers every month? Knowing the answers to these questions is important to perpetuate a well-established website that leads to conversions.
If you don’t know your website performance, how do you know if you need to make changes to grow?
An inbound marketing agency would track the performance of your website and individual pages to see what is performing well and what needs some minor (or major) tuning. They would consider metrics such as organic traffic, referral traffic, and social traffic. They will also help you establish proper keywords, optimize your pages, and use SEO data analysis to determine how best to leverage your website content to augment your lead generation.
With an inbound strategy in place, enrollment managers can hone in on their personas, know what content to promote and where, and understand the data behind social media, blogging, and website performance.
All of these efforts work together to turn more strangers into your university’s students. If you can do all of this on your own, great! If not, it might be time to start looking for an inbound marketing agency to help you out!
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