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An Introduction to Inbound Marketing for Universities

March 27, 2017

The education sector has changed remarkably over the last decade. But one of the most significant changes has perhaps been the shift in attitude prospective students have towards higher education.

Higher education is now seen by students as a service purchased, and as such, they expect value for their purchase from the evaluation of courses to post-graduation and alumni support.

– And why shouldn’t they – the average fee for a three-year course is currently £26,000 after all.

Arguably, this shift in attitude first gained momentum in 1997, when Labour Education Secretary David Blunkett announced the introduction of £1,000 tuition fees to be paid by every student in each year of study, beginning in September 1998.

In 2005 almost all universities set fees at the maximum level of £3,000 per year and fast forward to 2012 and the tuition fees cap was raised to £9,000 a year for UK and EU students, with around 76% of all institutions charging the full amount in 2015-16. A further announcement of a cap increase is also likely.

Below are some interesting graphs showing tuition fee increases and the increases in the number of University applications:

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Although application numbers are higher than ever, competition for student recruitment is also fiercer – and competition is not restricted to local rival Universities or even the UK – competition is global.

So is there an efficient way for an institute to stand out from the crowd without blowing the budget?

The University of Reading doesn’t think so – with advertising and PR spend racking up a £2.6m bill in the 2013-14 academic year alone. But we do think so – and clever use of inbound marketing could be the answer.


What is inbound marketing?

Inbound marketing is all about lead generation. It’s having control and visibility over your sales funnel to prospective students.

Let’s explain visibly how this works:4 1

Attract: Attract prospective students (qualified traffic) to your site through digital marketing efforts: SEO, PPC, Content (blogs, web pages) and Social Media.


Convert: Convert as much of that traffic as possible into leads. You can do this by asking your qualified traffic to fill out a form on your website. For example:

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Fields that could be added include:

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With the option to select specific courses of interest via a dropdown menu.


Now you have contact information for your leads and know more about what they are looking for. This means you can market to them in an appropriate and timely manner.

For example, you can send out personalised prospectuses, enhancing the buying journey whilst making cost savings by sending out only the version of the prospectus relevant to that student (e.g. just containing information about the courses they have expressed an interest in).


Close: Now that you have plenty of leads, it’s time to recruit those students. You know a lot of information about each individual applicant and can pinpoint more precisely where they are in the buying journey.

Present your leads with an offer to convert them from leads to customers. This might be through an Open Day visit or an alternative opportunity to commit to your University.


Delight: Once your applicant is recruited, the buying and marketing experience should not stop there. Now is the time to delight them – just as a retailer would with a customer.

Ultimately, this is where your overall University ranking could benefit, as students that do not feel abandoned once recruited will be much more likely to reflect their positivity towards your institute as a brand within student surveys.

If you’d like us to show you exactly how you can improve student recruitment at your University, register for your fee audit now.

Written by Andy

Andy is Venture Stream’s Chief Operating Officer and has over 15 years’ experience in ecommerce consultancy, design and retail marketing.

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