Do you want to increase student enrollment in your school district? Wondering how you can improve your enrollment numbers without spending major money on marketing?
In this article, you’ll discover how the Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District uses inbound marketing to help boost enrollment on our campuses.
What is Inbound Marketing?
According to Optimizely, inbound marketing is a marketing methodology that is designed to draw visitors and potential customers in, rather than outwardly pushing a brand, product or service onto prospects in the hope of generating leads or customers.
HubSpot defines inbound marketing as the process of attracting, converting, closing and delighting customers. Through using various types of content at different stages of the buying cycle, the ‘inbound methodology’ is “the best way to turn strangers into customers and promoters of your business.”
I like to define it as using content marketing to build trust with your audience in order to develop a relationship so they will choose your school district as the educational expert.
Why Inbound Marketing Matters to Your District
Traditional marketing is dying a slow death. With increased competition in public education, school districts must use innovative approaches to market their schools and programs.
Now more than ever, helpful content can move our marketing from mediocre to remarkable.
Using a combination of content marketing and inbound marketing, schools and school districts can build trust with their stakeholders.
Remember the Optimizely definition of Inbound Marketing… designed to draw visitors and potential customers in, rather than outwardly pushing a brand, product or service onto prospects in the hope of generating leads or customers.
Inbound marketing is not about bombarding our parents and students with sales messages about your district. It is about providing your customers with valuable content to help solve their pain points. Inbound marketing uses a pull approach rather than the push approach commonly used in traditional marketing.
The ultimate goal of using the inbound method is to build trust with your consumers, so they continue to engage with your content, and then eventually opt in to some type of Call to Action. This could be signing up for an email list, attending a district event, or enrolling in your school district.
How We Use Inbound Marketing in Our School District
According to HubSpot, content marketing costs 62% less than outbound marketing, but generates more than 3 times as many leads. Content is a powerful tool to pull customers through the marketing funnel without using pushy sales techniques. It’s all about giving power to potential customers, building a trusting relationship, and creating valuable content that educates your audience.
In the next section, I will walk you through the steps our district takes to develop a successful inbound marketing campaign:
Stage 1: Promoting Your Content
How do you discover content to educate yourself about school communications or school marketing? I am sure you get educational content from a variety of sources like social media, blogs, podcasts, YouTube, magazines and journals.
It is important to use channels to connect with your old and new audiences. It is important to know all you can about your audience.
The more you know about your audience, the more you know about where they consume their content and interact with your brand.
Do you know your audience, or are you just guessing? Never make assumptions. Just because your googled your audience, does not mean you know your audience.
Every company, brand or school district has a different audience that makes them special.
In CFBISD, we had seen stagnant growth in our Pre-K and kindergarten enrollment. Instead of using traditional marketing, we took a risk and used inbound and content marketing to engage with parents.
Our goal was to increase enrollment by three-percent. After the following approach, CFBISD saw Pre-K and Kindergarten enrollment jump by over 10%.
Here is how we reached parents of young children in CFBISD:
1. Organic Social Media
Social media is an important amplification tool to target parents, students, and the community. Social media is a way of life for many people. More and more people, especially young adults with school-aged children, are interacting digitally. The Hispanic population, one of CFBISD’s largest demographics, is embracing social media faster than any other demographic.
Using social media gives CFBISD an effective way to increase visibility and connect with specific audiences. Social media campaigns are an excellent way to educate our audience and drive them to our website or landing pages through well thought out “Calls to Actions.”
In CFBISD, we do not use social media just to post information. We use social media to educate our parents with awesome content, and to dive them to our website and parenting blog we created in 2014.
Facebook is Still Number 1
Facebook is CFBISD’s most engaging platform with our parents and the community. Our top fans on the platform are between the ages of 25 to 45, with 78% of them being female.
Those fans accounted for over 30,000 referral clicks from Facebook to our district webpage and parenting blog this school year.
CFBISD is always analyzing engagement for each one of our posts on Facebook. We strive to always have a visual associated with posts on the platform. In 2018, video became our top performing post on our district Facebook page, which has continued into 2019.
Instagram Coming on Strong
With more and more people joining Instagram every day, the social media app is about to surpass one billion daily active users. According to our Instagram insights, our key demographic, young parents 25 to 45, are the biggest audience for our CFBISD account. It has been key as we continue to develop this platform to reach our students and young parents.
We have emphasized bold content that is on target with our visual brand. This helps pull our audience through the inbound marketing process. The more useful content you create and distribute to your customers, the more trust you are going to build.
We have also invited our students into the process by using “User Generated Content” from our five high schools. Instagram “takeovers” by student leaders have been a huge success for our growth and engagement.
2. Paid Social Media Ads
In addition to organic posts, Facebook and Instagram advertisements create a low-cost way to target a specific audiences including parents with young children. These ads allow us to target individuals that have children and live in CFBISD.
These hyper-focused ads have been a great way to increase visitors to our website and help pull them through the inbound process in CFBISD. Ads with a specific and useful call to action work best with our parents. We offer a checklist or educational blog post to help parents navigate the world of education.
3. Blog Posts
CFBISD wants to provide parents with useful information about of our unique programs and excellent schools. We want potential parents to be better informed, so they are confident that they are making the right decision for their child. We want them to trust CFBISD and our excellent Stellar Programs.
An epic blog post is a catalyst for our content marketing success. Great content fuels social interaction. Good content creates conversations, which lead to engagement, and ultimately, conversions towards enrollment. This is why we created the School-A-Hoop Parent blog in our district.
An awesome blog post full of useful content will help brand CFBISD as the “Educational Experts”, which will gain the trust of prospective parents, which helps tremendously with Inbound Marketing. Each blog post has some sort of call to action to continue to pull our parents through the inbound pipeline or funnel.
4. Pay Per Click Google Ads
We have begun to experiment with Google Ads in CFBISD. So far, they have been a tremendous success to drive parents to specific webpages on our site. We have seen great Return on Investment with our ads. Most ads are producing at a rate of approximately fifty cents per click.
We also use Google Ads to promote our helpful content. We have seen great results promoting our Pre-K Checklist on Google Ads. We have had almost 100 parents opt-in to our email pre-k list through our Google ad.
5. Pillar Pages
Another great way to promote useful content and drive our parents to opt-in to our offers is to create a webhub for our specific programs or classes. The website is a mini-website that provides educational content for our parents. The hub becomes a one-stop place for parents. We have blog articles, videos and downloads for a specific topic or program.
6. Facebook Live
Video have become our top priority on Facebook with a strong emphasis on Facebook Live. The streaming service offered on Facebook has developed into a tremendous engagement tool with our audiences.
Being able to interact with parents across North Texas without them leaving their homes has become very important for busy parents. Our Kindergarten Live, teacher Q&A on Facebook was a huge success, with over 24,000 people viewing the live stream or the archived replay.
Make sure to visit www.cfbkinder.com
Posted by Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District on Wednesday, January 25, 2017
During our live broadcasts, we promote our checklists and educational offerings to encourage parents to download our forms and sign up for our niche email lists. A captive audience that your are helping with your videos are much more likely to download your other educational offerings. The more your help, the more your audience trusts you.
Stage 2: The Landing Page and the Lead Magnet
Landing pages are a focused and customized sales pitch, specifically designed to get your visitor to take an action. Also known as “Micro-Sites”, landing pages will enable us to collect email addresses to use to invite parents and students to events and distribute educational material about our programs. It’s a perfect way to start a database of all the district’s niche audiences including kindergarten parents.
1. The Landing Page
We create landing pages to offer our parents useful checklists and other educational downloads. We use LeadPages.net to create our pages.
The site allows us to create visually appealing landing pages with the ability to collect email addresses, and allow our audience to have their download sent directly to their email address. It is an easy way to build engaging pages without coding experience.
We have had great success using Landing Pages to promote Gifted and Talented as well as the Dual Language Program in CFBISD. Each landing page helps build our niche Mailchimp email lists.
2. The Lead Magnet
According to Tresnic Media, a Lead Magnet is something that you offer prospects in exchange for something they give you in return. The most common goal of a Lead Magnet is to capture website visitors’ contact information and gain permission to market to them directly. In exchange for their valuable contact information, you as a business, need to offer something that your prospects deem of high enough value to trade their contact information for it.
Our lead magnets are usually checklist to help our parents prepare their child for school or our specialized programs. Lead magnets help build our niche email lists in CFBISD.
Stage 3: The Email Marketing Campaign
CFBISD has had great success using email to communicate valuable resources and awesome positive stories to parents, students and the community. Email is a one-to-one communication channel that is used daily by most of our most valuable target audience, parents. It gives us exceptional targeting capabilities and reach. Engagement is high with our audience.
Niche email lists have allowed CFBISD to send more personalized messages to its target audiences. We have created lists for Kindergarten Parents, Gifted and Talented Parent Groups, High School Seniors, and many more. Using landing pages and valuable content, we are able to secure email addresses and open the communication pipeline with our audiences.
Niche email lists that we have built through the inbound process using landing pages and lead magnets have been the best tool in delivering specific content to a very specific audience. Personalization is key in Inbound Marketing.
Content We Put in Our Niche Emails
1. More Educational Content
In CFBISD, we do not email our parents to sell them our programs or beg them to enroll in our schools. At first, we continue to provide them with more valuable content they can use to choose the best option for their child and feel like competent parents.
2. Video Snippets
Video Marketing’s effectiveness is increasing in strength for CFBISD. Speech, music, images, and motion converge in a video, making it the closest medium to reality. A video is a shared experience. To quote marketing expert Ann Handley, “Video is simply a rich way to tell your story.”
Video is now a key component of marketing in CFBISD. It is vital we have visually appealing content that tells a story. We feel video is one of the best ways to engage parents and other members of the CFBISD community.
With YouTube being the second most used search engine in the world, we have begun to optimize our videos for this platform, as well as developing style guides. Our younger demographic is using this platform, making it an ideal choice to drive engagement with our students and young parents. Video is a perfect way to spread more educational content for our parents.
3. Events and Tours
In our emails, we always invite our parents to events happening in our district. The events must relate to the topic of the niche email list. If it is a kindergarten list, we invite them to kindergarten events. You never want to promote an event that does not relate to the reason why they signed up for the list.
Your events must be another form of helpful content. The event needs to educate parents. It needs to help them make better decisions.
Stage 4: The Right Hook
The more you help your customers, the more they are going to listen to you. The more you give, the more they trust your as a school district. After helping your parents and solving their pain points, you can ask them for a favor. Your favor can be your right hook.
A right hook is all about finally asking for the sale, or enrolling in your school district. Once you gain trust, the more likely they are going to accept your offers.
The Inbound Marketing Conclusion
The explosion of digital marketing brings unlimited channels and methods to reach our ideal parent. Inbound marketing and email marketing is an opportunity for our district to have true ownership of our marketing efforts. By using inbound, we build our own audience that meets us in our own space.
With inbound, we combine blog posts, email campaigns, videos and guides to nurture our prospective parents through our enrollment funnel. The most important thing is that everything we do in our inbound campaign has a digital trail, which means it is creating data CFBISD can analyze to make better decisions in its marketing campaigns.
Do you have questions about Inbound Marketing? Let’s talk. Feel free to reach out to me at email@example.com