Inbound marketing is an ultra-common term that’s often thrown around in the digital world. You've probably come across it in various marketing blogs and strategy templates. It's risen in popularity over the past few years because, well, it works. 

Inbound marketing refers to the practice of attracting customers through company-created content, which ultimately will draw leads to the business naturally. This means that you don’t have to vie for the attention of consumers through pushy, outdated tactics (more on that in a minute).

The name ‘inbound’ is the perfect descriptor, as the goal of this strategy is that customers will come to you rather than you having to push and shove your way under their noses. The latter sounds pretty intense, right? That’s why inbound is so successful — it puts the power in the hands of the customer. Businesses around the globe have found success by moving their marketing strategies inbound, but schools can also take advantage of these tactics to generate admissions.

When did inbound marketing start?

Back in 2006, HubSpot coined the phrase 'inbound marketing' to describe tactics that they were using and promoting to organically attract customers using content creation. Even today, if you Google inbound marketing, there's a very good chance you'll come across a wealth of HubSpot content.

HubSpot revolutionized the traditional marketing model, moving their model from a top-down funnel approach and creating something that they call the flywheel model. The aim of the traditional marketing funnel was to capture prospectives at the top of the funnel and then push them down through the funnel to a sale, usually with every department working separately to move customers to the bottom.

The flywheel model, on the other hand, has marketing, sales, and customer services teams all working together throughout the entire process to create the best possible experience for the customer.



Source: Hubspot

The flywheel model operates in three stages:

  • Attract — this is where you draw in the right leads by creating relevant and valuable content that aims to address a specific need or problem.
  • Engage — here we're aiming to nurture those relationships and build trust for your brand by creating relevant content that aims to educate or inspire.
  • Delight — this stage provides a positive customer experience even after the lead has become a customer (or, in your school's case, an enrolled student). 

To sum it up, while the traditional marketing funnel is designed to push leads towards a sale, the flywheel model is focused on building a long-term relationship with clients to foster growth and retention

What's the difference between traditional marketing and inbound marketing?

As we mentioned before, traditional marketing tactics are often focused on pushing out a message to a wide, non-specific audience. These tactics (also known as 'outbound marketing') include everything related to 'advertising', from pay-per-click (PPC) ads to putting up a billboard in a local thoroughfare. 

It's often a very one-sided conversation, where schools are hoping that a percentage of the people who see the ad is able to connect with it. Inbound, on the other hand, is a two-sided conversation, where schools bear the responsibility of listening to parents' specific concerns and words to create a dialogue. The goal is to build trust and credibility so that when it comes to making an admissions decision, your school is already top of mind. 

Now, outbound marketing can often get a bad rap, however, we've seen the most effective marketing strategies use a whole range of tactics together to push out the same message.

How can your school get started with inbound marketing?

So now we've run through what inbound marketing is, it might be hard for you to know where to begin. Here's how you can start using inbound marketing tactics at your school.

1. Check your marketing plan

The first place you want to start when developing your inbound marketing strategy is to familiarise yourself with your marketing plan. We've written extensively in the past about how to develop a comprehensive marketing plan, so we won't rehash that here. 

The important thing to note is that when you are looking to introduce inbound methodology to your school, it should always be working towards achieving one (or more) of your marketing objectives. 

2. Choose your inbound tactics

Now that you've familiarised yourself with what you're trying to achieve, it's time to plan out how you will achieve it — by choosing the right tactics for your school. We've listed out a number of the most common inbound marketing tactics in our informative post, Which Inbound Marketing Tactics Are Best for Your School?

You will want to ensure that your tactics:

  • fit within your budget
  • support one or more marketing objectives
  • are familiar to and commonly used by your target personas.

3. Set your KPIs 

Once you've picked your tactics, it's important that you plan out how you will track the success of each tactic. Your key performance indicators (or KPIs for short) are metrics that help you to measure your marketing initiatives.

You will probably find that it's harder to measure an inbound marketing strategy than more traditional marketing tactics. That's because your success indicators have to do with whether you are attracting, engaging, and delighting your target personas — this can be hard to quantify. 

Some good indicators you may want to consider are:

  • admissions application numbers
  • adoption of new communication channels (e.g. downloads and usage of a school app)
  • tracking your net promoter score (NPS) 
  • subscriptions to your blog or newsletter.

Wrapping it up

And that's inbound marketing explained! There is so much to explore in this topic, which is why we put together a comprehensive guide to implementing inbound marketing at your school. It covers all of the ins and outs of inbound tactics, as well as how to get your school moving inbound.

Published April 30 2020