Did you know that demand for trade and technical schools in the US is expected to grow significantly in 2020 because of the increase in the nation’s unemployment rate? If you want to take advantage of this trend and get more students enrolled in your school or college, then you need to use the right marketing strategies.
However, there are so many marketing strategies out there.
From putting together college brochures to finding potential students through Facebook ads, there are so many ways to market your school or college that it can be overwhelming and confusing.
It can also be stressful, because if you spend a ton of time (and money) on marketing, you want to make it count.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide. Inbound marketing is one of the most powerful ways you can reach your students and convince them that your school or college is right for them. Once you know what it is, how it works, and how to use it, enrollment will skyrocket.
Want to learn more? Read on to find all the answers that will give you the power to get more students enrolled at your school or college.
What Is Inbound Marketing?
In order to use inbound marketing correctly, you need to understand how it works. That way, you can implement it the right way. The best way to clarify what it is by comparing it to traditional marketing, which you probably know quite a bit about already.
When you’re using traditional marketing, you’re using what’s called outbound marketing.
With this tactic, you’re putting information into the world about your school or college in the form of print advertisements, commercials, cold calls, cold emails, online ads, and brochures.
For example, when you send potential students an informative booklet about the courses you offer and how those can help them advance their career, that’s you using traditional marketing.
While this can be effective, your marketing strategy should also include inbound marketing. So, now, we’ll answer the question: “What is inbound marketing?”
Inbound marketing is when you’re providing helpful, entertaining information to your potential customers that gets their attention and engages them. You’re not speaking directly about what you have to offer—you’re helping your customers.
That, in turn, nurtures them as leads, because they trust you and are interested in how else you can help them. Often, this additional form of help is the service you offer, which in the case of a trade or vocational school or college is education.
Types of inbound marketing include using Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so that your school is the first that shows up in a Google search, posts on social media, blog posts, subscription-based email newsletters, and videos.
Why Do You Need Inbound Marketing?
Inbound marketing is incredibly effective. In fact, according to Finances Online, 53% of marketers believe that inbound marketing yields higher return on investment (ROI), and 90% of brands rely on social media to make customers aware of their brand.
It’s especially important to use inbound marketing if your potential customers are Gen Zers and Millennials.
These younger consumers are irritated when they see pop-ups (a form of outbound marketing), and, if you mail them something, they might not even get it—or throw it away. The best way to get their attention is with inbound marketing.
Inbound marketing also follows your customers along their journey as they get to know your brand and eventually purchase what you’re offering. While traditional marketing simply puts you in front of them, you’re in touch with customers in inbound marketing.
This is how to make inbound marketing work. It works in three stages: the awareness stage, the consideration stage, and, finally, the decision stage.
The Awareness Stage
In the awareness stage, you’re making your customers aware of your brand. To do this, you provide them with lots of free information online, such as free videos, social media posts, blog posts, checklists, eBooks, guides, and tip-sheets.
This nurtures your leads, getting them to trust you and potentially provide you with useful contact information such as their email, which helps you stay in touch with them.
The Consideration Stage
Then there’s the consideration stage, which is when you’ll provide branded content to customers who are curious to learn more about you. This content includes catalogs, case studies, free webinars, and blog posts about your school.
With this content, you should be able to make it clear that you can offer the solution to your customers’ needs without saying so out loud.
For example, one of your blog posts might mention the success of your graduates—without directly saying, “You can succeed with us, too!”
The Decision Stage
Finally, there’s the decision stage, which is when you can provide your customers with information directly related to what you can offer them and what they’ll get out of attending your school or college.
Decision stage content includes estimates or quotes (how much tuition might cost, and fellowships available), interviews with a representative where they can learn more about what you offer, and the opportunity to visit a class to see if your school is the right fit.
As you can see, by guiding your potential students through the awareness, consideration, and decision stage, you’re helping them slowly get to know your school. If done right, they’ll believe that you have the best to offer because of how much you’ve helped them already.
Step One: Know Your Audience
Now it’s time to review how to make inbound marketing work. The first step is to know your audience so that you can curate all your branding and content with them in mind. To do this, you’ll want to create a buyer persona.
A buyer persona is a fictionalized version of who you’re selling your service to. You may have a vague idea—you know you want to attract students who want to study what you offer—but this buyer persona has to be incredibly specific.
You’ll want to put together a document outlining different answers to questions related to demographics, interests, and needs. Start by answering all of these questions:
- How old is my ideal customer?
- What is the gender of my ideal customer?
- What’s their family situation? Are they married? Do they have kids?
- Where do they live?
- What’s their work situation like? Are they employed? If so, what industry do they work in, and what’s their position?
- Are they looking to make a change in their career? What change?
- How would I speak to this person?
- What kind of communication will they react positively to?
- How often are they online, and on which platforms?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’ll start to get an idea of who the person is that you’re going to be tailoring all your inbound marketing efforts toward. Print out these answers, and add a picture from a Stock Image site of what you imagine they look like.
This will help you fully envision them as a person when you’re creating your content.
Some additional considerations to think about when putting together your buyer persona—and creating content for them—are shopping habits and needs. Specifically, if they’re interested in a trade school or college, what are they looking for?
What problems do they want to solve with going to school? How can you help them solve that problem? By thinking about all these considerations, you can tailor your content to solve these problems.
You can also educate and entertain them with your content, truly connect with them, because you’ve put in the work of creating a fleshed out buyer persona. Before we move forward, keep in mind that you might have to split up your buyer personas.
This is called “segmenting your leads.” If you have more than one buyer persona—for example, one group is older single moms, while the other is high school graduates—you’ll want to create a different buyer persona and different content for reach.
Step Two: Use the Right Strategies
Now that you know who the audience is for your content, and you’ve created a buyer persona (or several buyer personas), we’ll cover the different inbound marketing strategies that work best.
The first thing you want to do is draw in your customers in the attract stage. To do this, you’re creating helpful content that solves a problem and engages them. For example, you might write a blog post on the different degrees that might help them find a job.
The next stage is to engage. This is when you provide specific solutions to the specific problems your potential students are dealing with. For example, if they’re unemployed, you might give them a guide on how to write the perfect cover letter in their industry.
Finally, there’s the delight stage. In the delight stage, you’re providing your customer with delightful content after they’ve purchased your service. So, once a potential student has decided to enroll, you can, for example, give them access to an online community where they can connect with other students.
For all of this content, you’ll be putting together blog posts, guides, videos, online tutorials, and other kinds of content. Then, you’ll share it so that it reaches your potential customers—which we’ll cover in this next section.
Step Three: Get Out There
Once you’ve started creating content that’s specifically made for the buyer persona you made, you need to get it out there. The best way to do this? By sharing everything you’ve created on social media.
Remember how, when you created your buyer persona, you had to identify how often your customer went online and on which platforms? This is where having that information comes in handy.
With that information, you’ll know where it’s best to share your inbound marketing content. Whether you’ve created an informational blogpost or a fun video, you now know whether to post it on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, or Twitter.
You’ll also know when it’s best to post it, and what hashtags to use. When you’re posting, don’t forget to engage! Like a person’s post when they’ve shared yours, and answer and like (or love) comments.
Make sure you reply to any direct messages, as well. If you find this overwhelming, it might be worth using AI technology so that you can let potential students know someone will soon be looking into their query about tuition or classes.
Finally, don’t forget about the importance of scheduling your posts. By using a software like Later, you can plan everything to post on social media in advance, so you won’t have to set alarms on your phone or calendar.
Step Four: Use the Power of SEO
Another important part of inbound marketing is search engine optimization (SEO). Especially with an industry like education, many of your customers are going to be Googling solutions to their problems. SEO ensures that your school pops up higher up in their search results.
They might Google, for example:
“What trade schools are near me?”
“What trade schools or colleges can I go to in Pasadena?”
“What are the best trade and vocational courses to take to improve your career?”
When you’re using SEO correctly, you’re creating your content in such a way that Google algorithms think you have the best answer.
A good way of showing this is how you’d write a blog post, using SEO. When you write a blog post, you’re likely to use some keywords that appear in one of these searches (for example, “best trade and vocational courses”), and sprinkle it throughout your post.
By using the right SEO strategies, which also includes using secondary keywords and ensuring you don’t overstuff (using them too much), your blog post will appear higher up.
Other SEO strategies include using the right number of words and making sure your site loads quickly. By using SEO correctly, all the content you create will appear sooner in a Google search.
This, paired with a strong online presence on social media, will make your potential customers see you as the authority in your field—and, therefore, they’ll take you seriously as a choice in where to go to school.
Need More Inbound Marketing Tips?
Need more inbound marketing tips, or need help with your online marketing in general? Maybe you want to get a better idea of when to use inbound marketing. Whatever your needs, we can help you, here at Local Finder.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can get your school on the map.