If you’re not familiar with these strategies, you’re probably familiar with the buzzwords. They all work great for schools and businesses...if done correctly. There are pros and cons for each, and some make more sense based on your business. Let’s start with the one that gets leads the fastest…
Google didn’t get so rich by ranking your school or busienss for free. Over time they’ve shifted the search results to feature the paid advertisements while pushing the organic (free…or “natural” results) farther down the page. PPC is the single fastest way to generate leads from parents and consumers who are searching the Internet. Why? Because you are paying for the privilege of showing up on the top of the search results. How high you show up is mostly dependent on what you are willing to pay.
Pros: Incredible control. You can target specific keywords, precise geographic areas, what the search results say, and which page the consumer goes to. Also, very accurate reporting. As a bonus, you can turn it on and off, or up and down like a faucet.
Cons: If you don’t know what you are doing, it can turn into a money pit. If you choose the wrong keywords or targeting area, or design a poor ad, or don’t have a well thought out website, you might as well just write Google a check.
I’m a huge proponent of PPC for certain industries, and almost all schools. Here are the basics on our short Pay-Per-Click video. Time: 2 minutes 50 seconds
PPC Works For: Schools and businesses that have decent margins. For example, the average tuition for a private or charter school, or higher education may only take one additional enrollment to offset the advertising budget. However, if you are selling widgets for 99 cents one at a time, it would probably be a loosing situation.
SEO is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by a search engine. Perennially the Holy Grail of marketing.
Pros: It’s Free! Not exactly, but you don’t have to pay for each individual click. It’s not actually free because it rarely happens by itself, it typically takes some expertise and some work. However, when you do show up high in the search results for your most valuable keywords, it’s like money in the bank. Organic rankings are often associated with a higher level of credibility because they are “earned” not bought.
Cons: Google has over 200 SEO ranking factors that must be considered. The more competitive your industry, the tougher it is to get one of these precious first-page rankings.
It’s likely you can do a few of these things yourself, but unless you want to make a full-time career out of it, you might consider calling in a professional. Just be aware that not all “Professionals” are created equal.
SEO Works For: Products and services that people actively search for. If you need an attorney, you probably need one now, and you are going to search for one. If your child comes home with a black eye, you might actively start searching for alternative school.
Author’s Note: See the link to my guide on how to separate the Professionals from the Pretenders at the bottom of this article.
Google doesn’t make money from giving away free advertising, and neither does Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn. Somebody’s got to pay the bills. Social media platforms know everything about everyone. They know demographics, gender, location, income level, likes and dislikes. Why? Because we tell them when we create our profile and by how we interact with their platforms.
Pros: You call the shots. Who do you want to get in front of? You can reach virtually everyone by defining your audience. It’s currently very economical…if you have an integrated strategy and don’t just arbitrarily drive people to your website without a plan.
Cons: Not actually a negative, but it’s what we call a “Top of the Sales Funnel” audience. These are consumers who haven’t necessarily expressed interest in what you offer, they are just the likely suspects.
Social media advertising can stand on its own with an attention getting ad, and the right integrated strategy (good landing page and the right offer). It’s also the driving force behind Inbound Marketing strategies.
Social Media Advertising Works For: Products and services at the “awareness stage” of the sales funnel. In other words, consumers may not be actively searching for it (yet) but it seems like a good idea when they are exposed to it.
For example; not every parent is thinking about a new school for their family at any given moment, but as Mom is scrolling thought her Facebook newsfeed looking at what her neighbor's had for dinner, or the latest viral cat video, a well composed sponsored post could easily capture her attention and draw her farther down the sales funnel.
Lead Nurturing (also known as Content Marketing or Inbound Marketing) is where you use high-quality, useful content to build trust with your target audience over time. It goes hand-in-hand with marketing automation (pre-strategizing a sequence of emails to be delivered at predetermined intervals). Although it’s been around for a while, evolving consumer behaviors have made this one of the most effective marketing techniques for high-ticket items (considered purchases) and products and services with longer sales cycles. Not for selling “widgets” one at a time.
Pros: Highly effective where credibility is a factor and long-term customer relationships are a goal. It also has the residual effect of building long-term brand equity.
Cons: Requires a diverse skill set and substantial time commitment to produce and syndicate content. It also requires the use of specialized software to set-up and manage the marketing automation piece and maintain your database of continuously growing contacts.
Inbound marketing is a big-boy strategy that can skyrocket an organization to the next level. However, it’s best managed by someone as a full-time job, not as someone’s spare-time additional responsibility. This one is best left to legitimate professionals.
Inbound Marketing Works For: Services with long sales cycles where the consumer has an important decision to make. This is the right strategy when you have to build a relationship, trust and confidence before a consumer will consider your school or company. Examples include “What school to choose" or a “home remodeling project”.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” - Aristotle
Let me translate that for you. These strategies can work great independently, but they are somewhat co-dependent on each other. All this stuff works really well when you have an integrated strategy that pulls them all together in a well thought out cohesive plan.