Inbound marketing is the strategy of using content marketing, social media, search engine optimization (SEO) and building a credible online presence so potential families come to you, rather than you having to go out and get them.
Basically, you create content, potential families find it (or more accurately you position it so it’s easy for them to find), they consume it. They love it, they love your school, and then they come back for more.
The Power of Inbound Marketing
From the very first days when I discovered inbound marketing, I absolutely knew and loved the power inbound marketing could have for independent schools. After all, who wouldn’t want a magic funnel that just magically made families appear at your school, magically?
The other thing that inbound marketing did for me was it made the enrollment process completely seamless, and I absolutely loved this part. Using an inbound marketing strategy enables you to overcome any objections or answer any questions that may come up during an interview with an admissions officer, which you can do way ahead of time, just by creating content that solves it.
Take, for example, the discussion about cost. Cost of a private school is a significant factor. You can address this question head-on by publishing your prices and scholarship opportunities on your website.
Afraid of getting the “I’m too busy”, or “I’ll think about it” or “I’ll call you back later” objections? You can handle these ahead of time by stressing the importance of making a decision in a timely manner with a sense of scarcity or urgency.
Don’t want your admissions officer to make it all the way through an interview only to get blind-sided with the “I don’t think this is right for my child” objection? Then make sure it is right for their child ahead of time by giving them content through a video or podcast or even a blog article that explains exactly who your school is a good fit for – and who it’s not for – and identify why it’s important and how your school will help their child.
There’s a side benefit to this as well. When you clearly stake your flag in the ground in terms of who you’re for – and who you’re not for – you build more trust with the families you are trying to attract, and the families you really didn’t want anyway, well, you didn’t want them anyway. Win-win.
Using an inbound marketing strategy, you can also paint a really clear and compelling picture of how student life is for your current students – and how this can be for their child too. A natural by-product of all of this is that it positions your school as the expert, authority and essentially the go-to resource when they’re ready to take action. And guess what? You can do all of this without talking to anyone in person. This makes inbound marketing the perfect strategy for independent schools. The beauty of inbound marketing is that it has thousands of “mini-salespeople” out there working 24/7 365 days a year spreading the good word about your school and attracting potential families.
Intercepting Attention with Inbound Marketing
One concept of inbound marketing is called “intercepting attention”. With outbound marketing, your goal is to go out and try and get your message directly in front of someone who may or may not be interested in your school and then try and convince them to pay attention and care about your school. With an intercepting attention strategy all you’re really doing is redirecting and intercepting attention they are already putting out there and redirecting it towards your school.
And that’s the beauty of inbound marketing. With an inbound marketing strategy, you don’t have to go out there and create demand. You’re simply taking advantage of demand that’s already there and then guiding it toward your school as the solution for their family. You don’t need to make them care because they already care. That’s why they were looking. All you need to do is present information or content or some kind of marketing materials and then guide them to you.
What About Outbound Marketing?
OK, now that I’ve made inbound marketing sound like the greatest marketing strategy ever, it’s time to take a hard look at where it may not be the best case or viable solution at all and where you’d be much better served by using an outbound marketing strategy.
The number one reason to prioritize an outbound marketing strategy over an inbound one is if you need to generate leads quickly. Inbound marketing can take some time and it can vary based on different factors like how much search volume is there for what your school offers. If you need inquiries and you want growth now, you need to consider an outbound strategy, because with outbound you can control the volume and flow of the marketing you’re putting out there. With inbound, you can’t exactly make parents search more for the content you’re providing.
Another reason to prioritize outbound marketing is if you have a unique or differentiated offer you know parents are going to respond to. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to sit around and wait for an inbound marketing strategy to have traction or essentially start bringing in all the traffic you know your school is capable of handling. For this reason, an outbound strategy is going to work wonders because Facebook Ads or Google Ads are scalable and they allow you to pump more volume out there and get seen by more people.
Outbound marketing, such as PPC advertising, allows you to test things and find out which one is going to work best and gives you insights fairly quickly. Inbound marketing takes time – sometimes three, six or even twelve months – and if you want to test out which headlines, creatives, content, or strategy is going to deliver the best results it makes more sense to use outbound marketing strategies.
As an example, making changes to your inbound marketing strategy and leveraging a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy by making changes on your website could take three months, six months or even longer for those changes to start showing up in the search engines.
With outbound marketing, on the other hand, using an advertising tool like Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads or YouTube Ads, you can have ads out there in as little as hours and start collecting data right away about which headline or image or message is going to resonate best with your target families.
Leveraging an inbound marketing strategy is phenomenally powerful, but you’re going to want to customize it a bit. Parents are looking for more than information about your school, but often other topics related to private schools or education in general.
When it comes to an outbound marketing strategy, many schools have had success with Facebook Ads, Instagram Ads and YouTube Ads, which allows you to get your school’s message directly targeted to the families who are most interested in what your school offers. To do this, make sure your message is on point by A/B testing your messaging.
Which Is Better for Generating Inquiries – Inbound or Outbound Marketing?
In order to attract inquiries for your school, both inbound and outbound marketing strategies are going to be valuable strategies. However, there are going to be differences in what these strategies look like. The solution here to true school marketing success is a combination of inbound plus outbound. Use outbound for short-term wins and use inbound marketing for long-term growth.
Does your school use inbound or outbound marketing – or both? Is this strategy working for you? Please share your experience in the comments below…