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We’ve received many calls this year from colleges and universities looking for help in enrollment marketing efforts for traditional undergraduate students. The things that worked in the past just aren’t working.  When I ask them about their current enrollment marketing efforts, I often hear the same things. Many institutions continue to use search services like College Board, ACT, NRCCUA and CBSS to market to potential students for their outbound efforts through mail and email. Others pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to companies like RuffaloCody and Royall & Company who apply sophisticated predictive modeling to efforts for which they will charge ten of thousands of dollars. So I ask… Why continue to funds these efforts at the same level with decreasing results? The answer is always the same: “We’ve done it this way for years and it has been our highest yielding effort.”  My response is always the same… “It was your highest yielding effort!”

So what has changed in enrollment marketing? Plenty! Students have become savvier and often opt out of marketing outreach when taking standardized tests, or create a new email address for college search efforts, which they never check. Undoubtedly, the biggest change is the use of search engines and social media by students to conduct college searches. Prospects may visit your site just to “rule you out,” so having engaging content on your site is more important than ever.

Now is the time to adjust your enrollment marketing focus from outbound to inbound. Inbound marketers offer their audiences useful information and tools to attract students to their site, while also interacting and developing relationships with these potential students. Inbound marketing tools include blogging, content publishing, search engine optimization and social media. Inbound marketing contrasts with traditional outbound marketing, where colleges push their messages at potential students using techniques that include direct mail, telemarketing and college fairs.

Not only is inbound marketing more effective, it can also save you money. The Hubspot chart below demonstrates over the last three years inbound has dominated when it comes to cost per lead over outbound efforts.

inbound vs. outbound cost per lead

A shift from outbound to inbound marketing can seem like a major transition for any institution. We recommend getting started by taking stock of your current approach. Assess your current communication activities and their impact on inbound prospects. Can you begin by shifting the balance by changing your approach in one or two critical areas? Make sure you make any changes with reporting and measurement in mind so you can prove the value of this mindset and extend it even farther as time goes on.

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