Bespoken Management

Inbound Marketing for Universities and Colleges

In the United States alone there are thousands of higher learning institutions like colleges and universities. To stay afloat, they need to appeal to prospective students, who are most often in their late teens and early twenties. When they begin thinking about which schools they want to apply to, their first stop for information is the internet.

Parents and students don’t take any part of this process lightly. Even the search for schools to consider involves scouring ranking lists, comparing costs, and consulting others about their alma maters. What does this mean for institutions? To make it onto the lists of the best and the brightest, they need highly effective digital marketing. They need inbound marketing.

Most higher-ed institutions are stuck using outdated, interruptive marketing tactics. They wonder why their methods are no longer providing their desired return on investment (ROI). Inbound marketing has blown those older methods out of the water. Inbound strategies aim to provide consumers with the information they want exactly when they want it. They give users all the tools they need to make educated purchasing decisions.

Universities and colleges have unique marketing needs, but they are still subject to the factors that make inbound great. Consumers want access to as much information as possible. They want to be sure they can make the absolute best purchasing decisions for themselves, and employing an inbound methodology is the best way to give it to them.


man-person-school-head.jpgStart thinking about how inbound marketing could work for your university or college. You should research the characteristics of your ideal audiences. Which students are you looking to attract? What do they love to do in their free time? What are their best subjects? Where are they in the decision-making process? What about their parents?

Next, begin compiling outlines of these ideal personas. Put together summaries of their backgrounds, dreams, and the things they value most in a college. Once you have defined these personas, you can start catering your content (blog posts, social media posts, and website content) directly to them. This way you can provide users with the information they are searching for right when they need it.  This may sound like a complex process, but once you get settled this process will become second nature.




33H.jpgSocial media is a big part of most young people’s everyday experience. When looking to attract prospective students, it makes sense to reach them where they already are rather than hope they find your site on their own. This means taking advantage of social media. 

Universities and colleges can use social media to share news, events, and other aspects of campus life in real time. They should share links to informational blog posts and other site content to spread the knowledge prospective students are looking for.

Sharing experiences and statements directly from current students is also great for driving home specific aspects of your school’s culture in a genuine and authentic way.


Inbound marketing should be an ingrained part of your entire web presence. That includes your website’s design. Your site should be designed, front- and back-end, to be a sales-ready inbound marketing machine. If designed effectively, your site should be lifting a ton of weight off the shoulders of your sales and marketing teams.

There are many components to inbound web design, but here are a few recommendations to start:

  • Optimize your site for search engines by using the most up-to-date SEO practices. 
  • Predict the way your personas will look for the information they need and organize your site in a way that guides them through the information gathering process.
  • Provide remarkable, well researched, and informational content. Be sure to convey your University or College’s individuality and personality.
  • Use calls-to-action, landing pages, and workflows to bring visitors closer to making an educated decision.


One of the most important aspects of inbound marketing is keeping track of the numbers. You should be consistently checking your website analytics to measure the effects of your marketing efforts. Use those measurements to refine your processes. This is especially crucial for groups working within limited marketing budgets.

Tracking and analyzing data from your website visits, interactions with visitors, and your social reach will provide you with the insights you need to measure how your marketing performance compares to your initial goals. Use the data to determine which aspects of your marketing strategy are working well and rethink efforts that may not be providing the ROI you had hoped for.



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