Creating Internal Buy-In for Inbound Marketing in Higher Education

March 17, 2015 Holly Stayton

internal buy-in higher education inbound marketing teamwork

You’ve read all the books, you’ve listened to all the top influencer podcasts, and you’ve analyzed case study upon case study. You’re sold and ready to start implementing an inbound strategy for your higher education institution. Now comes the tough part, selling your colleagues on the value.

When Val Fox, a director in Bentley University's marketing and communication department, wanted to implement Hubspot for their PreparedU program, one of the first things she had to do was “sell people internally” on the idea.

Change can always cause some anxiety, but being strategic and proactive is your first step towards marketing automation bliss. We talked with Val and she walked us through three tips for creating internal buy-in.

1) Communicate Openly

Many of your higher education colleagues may shudder when they start hearing marketing jargon. You’ll need to create a shift in mindset and demonstrate the value for your industry. As Val put it, “This is where marketing is headed in terms of creating awareness.” This couldn’t be truer for the higher education industry.

Solution:

Describe the process and impact of inbound marketing in terms that make sense for higher education institutions. Instead of saying, “We are creating content to build our brand equity” maybe try, “By using an authentic voice to tell our story, we will be able to recruit students who are a better fit for our university.”

2) Start Small

The higher education industry isn’t really known for having an abundance of resources at its fingertips. Shifting your strategy and taking on something new usually means you’re going to have to use your already short-handed staff. Val knew that switching to a new marketing system wasn’t going to be “just 5% to 10% of someone’s job. There is work involved and would require at least half of a full-time person to be dedicated to an implementation and strategy plan.”

Solution:

Starting small might be the best option. You don’t have to implement a new website, blog, email marketing campaign, and SEO strategy all at once. You don’t even have to do all that in one year! Pick out a couple of tactics that you think will show the most significant change for your institution and test them out. Probably best not to completely revamp your website at first. Instead, edit the content for search engine optimization and make your lead capture opportunities more prominent.

Are your colleagues still skeptical and not sure they want to mess with something that’s been working pretty well? Why not create a separate, optimized landing page that will drive prospects to your website. Assign click-through-rate goals for the landing page and compare them to previous tactics used to drive prospects to your website.

3) Set Expectations and Overshare Results

With higher education prospects taking on average 2-3 years before they make a decision, setting expectations is crucial. That’s a long wait time to show any sort inbound content marketing impact and quell the internal grumblings.

Solution:

Val used two tactics to help get her colleagues more comfortable with the idea. First, she did what anyone working in education would do…she educated. She and her team read the same inbound book and attended the INBOUND conference. Educating your colleagues will help them get a better understanding of inbound marketing and how it might be used at their own institution.

Second, Val celebrated the small victories. While they may not be able to measure the ROI of their higher education marketing through to accepted and matriculated students for awhile, they can see an impact in the short-term. “Our leads have already doubled just by simply optimizing our lead capture.”

Track the small victories by doing a month-to-month analysis of your leads, conversions, site visits, and click-through-rate. When your leads go up year-over-year for the month of March, drill down on how your content contributed to that increase and share it with your colleagues. If your click-through-rate seems to be remaining stagnant or even drops, reevaluate your approach and explain to the team what you think might have caused the decline, how it should be tweaked, and why this adjustment will show more positive results. Not everything is going to be a home run, but showing how convenient it is to change and how quickly measurable results can add up on even the smallest of tactics shows the flexibility of inbound marketing.

Your colleagues may take time to convert to inbound marketing. Give it some time and do a little lead nurturing with your teammates. Address concerns upfront, get them comfortable with the idea, start small, and celebrate the little victories.

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