Where Should I Start With Inbound Marketing For My School?

inbound-marketing-for-schoolsDuring a recent presentation I conducted during the Association of Independent School Admission Professionals (AISAP) Summer Institute, I spoke about how we implemented inbound marketing at Sewickley Academy. It all began in the fall of 2008 after the stock market fell and the economy began to slow. We found that our interest indicators (Inquiries, Visits, and Applications) trailed the stock market by about a month and we needed to do something about the drop.

Outbound Marketing

Our first reaction was to run to what we knew best – so we launched an outbound marketing campaign using traditional advertising in the newspaper, billboards, signs in the airport, and direct mail. Although we’ve always tracked our inquiry sources, we stepped up our tracking efforts with this campaign in the hopes of determining our true return on investment (ROI). Although we had some positive anecdotal feedback from current parents we were unable to trace any new students to our efforts. Talk about a disappointment…

Social Media

Our new reaction was to run to social media. Our thought was that if we launched a school twitter account, school Facebook page, and school YouTube Channel that would solve all of our problems. It didn’t! Social media, by itself, ended up like hanging out a singles bar. We got a few phone numbers, had a good time, but nothing meaningful materialized out of our social media efforts with regard to our interest indicators.

Inbound Marketing

Although we failed with outbound marketing and social media by itself, I don’t regret those outcomes because it forced us to find inbound marketing. We began implementing our inbound marketing strategy in the follow way:

  1. Determine Keywords
  2. SEO audit of our school’s homepage
  3. Launch school blog
  4. Relaunch school twitter account
  5. Relaunch school facebook page
  6. Relaunch school youtube channel
  7. Launch Lead Nurturing
  8. Launch PPC Google/Facebook Ads
  9. Create Landing Pages
  10. Analyze
  11. Test/Retest…everything
Although the above list is an oversimplification of our inbound marketing strategy and implementation, it did serve as the source behind the most common question I heard at the end of my presentation: “Where should I start with inbound marketing for my school?’

Start Small and Do What You Do Well

Where you should start with inbound marketing for your school really is a function of how much expertise you have in-house and how many people you have to help you manage your inbound marketing efforts. Make no mistake about it – inbound marketing is all about creating content that will draw people to you and creating that content takes a lot of time and energy.

You should start by identifying keywords that you would like your school to be found for in search engines.

Your next step should be to optimize your current school website around the keywords that you just identified previously.

If you have limited resources I would start, and spend all of my time, blogging for my school. Blogging allows you to create content around your keywords which will help you earn inbound links which will help you show up higher in search engines for your selected keywords. While blogging is where I would start I want you to know that it is also the most difficult social media channel to maintain. I would argue however, that although blogging will take the most time and energy to maintain it also has the highest potential return.

There are a number of different platforms that you can use to start blogging for your school and I plan on addressing those choices in a future blog post.

But What About Facebook And Twitter

After I answer that you should begin blogging for your school first I always hear a follow-up question, “But What About Facebook and Twitter?” While I do believe in the value of these social media channels please understand that I’m assuming you have limited resources to implement and maintain your inbound marketing strategy for your school. As a result, focus on blogging and add Twitter and Facebook as time permits. I believe that you are better off not using Twitter and Facebook unless you can fully invest with those efforts. I think there is nothing worse than a school launching a social media channel and maintaining it fully.

Your Turn

I would love to hear your thoughts on inbound marketing for schools and implementing and using Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and blogging in that regard. Let me know what you think by posting in the comments section below.

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