Inbound Marketing for Colleges: The 3 Stages to Success

College kids jumping in the air for a photo.

Inbounding Marketing is a three-stage system, popularized by the marketing company Hubspot, that moves potential students from prospects to leads to enrollment. The objective for inbound marketing for colleges is to provide information and experiences that are unique and valuable to potential students and makes them come to your university rather than you going to them.

The primary medium through which inbound marketing strategies are implemented is online, but these campaigns are more effective when bolstered by print or in-person communication. In this article, we will demonstrate how to orchestrate an inbound marketing strategy for Higher Education through each of the three stages and provide guidance on incorporating promotional products and college swag items to double down on your marketing efforts.

Attract Stage

At this point, a student still needs to be made aware of your institution, and it is up to your marketing team to put your school on their radar in a way that serves them. Outbound marketing focuses on interrupting the consumer; think digital ads for a local college when you’re online looking for recipes. Inbound marketing focuses on providing content that answers preliminary questions a potential student might have at the very beginning of their college search process and showcases your college as a trusted resource. Thinks blogs, newsletters, or guides that answer questions like, “what to expect when you apply to a school” or “is college the right path for me.”

Engage Stage

At this point, your potential student has interacted with your school via these low-hanging content pieces. They’re aware of you and consider you a trusted wealth of information. Plus, they likely have offered to get in touch with you in exchange for the content you shared in the attract stage, like subscribing to your newsletter or exchanging their email for a guide on what to look for when vetting colleges. Now that you are in touch with them directly, you want to engage them with more information about how your school serves students like them. Your content becomes more focused on your institutional offerings but should still provide value by answering questions they may have about YOU.

Direct mail that talks about programs and the experiences students have within them is a perfect content asset for this stage. Promotional assets like lanyards, pens, hats, phone cases, or letter openers are great to send out to the potential students you attracted to showcase that your institution is interested in giving or providing to them rather than talking at them or taking from them. Inviting students to tour campus is another excellent way to engage them and showcase what your institution offers without pressuring them to commit.

Delight Stage

At this final stage, you want to exceed expectations purposely to lock in students and establish brand loyalty. Promotional assets will be one of your greatest tools for this. Giving away branded water bottles, lanyards, tee-shirts, baseball caps or knit hats, folders, notebooks, pens, Frisbees, and more will validate that your new student made the right decision to attend your school. The delight stage is about avoiding buyer’s remorse and capitalizing on the excitement of making a new purchase decision. Be extra in demonstrating how much your school values them, and they’ll reflect that feeling in return.

Velocity Print: A Trusted Marketing Partner for Higher Education

With over 36 years of experience working in higher education marketing, Velocity print has formed over 100 partnerships, reaching thousands of students each year. Our deep understanding for the demands of recruitment and retentions coupled with cutting edge marketing management systems and vast promotional product offerings allows our clients to excel. Learn why colleges choose Velocity Print, and contact our team to get started.

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