The VPM Blog

The 3 Keys you MUST Have to Beat Your Rival College's Marketing

Posted by Chris Eckhardt on Oct 8, 2014 9:00:00 AM

championThere’s nothing like college football season to bring out the competitiveness of universities and colleges across the nation. If you’re like me, you’d love to beat the pants off of your rival school in practically everything, which would include marketing and communications. So, let’s go over the key components that you’ll need to put that other school in it’s place.

1. Complete Analytics

Are you losing potential students at your website? Are your Facebook efforts a waste of time? How do you know what parts of your marketing work, need improvement, and what you need to scrap?

Without analytics, you are running your marketing and communications blindfolded. You need to track prospective students, donors, etc. from their very first online interaction, all the way to registration or contribution and beyond.

Why? You can’t improve what you don’t measure. Once you know where you are losing prospects (or where your best are coming from), you can set about fixing those components (or leveraging them further).

Even basic analytics systems like Google Analytics can give valuable insight into how your communications connect with your audience.

Complete analytics are also an important way to show key people in your organization the impact of your efforts and are critical to securing future resources.

2. Inbound Methodology

Let’s face an important fact: One blog post, advertisement, tweet, etc. does almost nothing to further your organization.

Taking a prospective student or donor from stranger to stakeholder is a process, one that requires a methodology to build connection throughout your marketing efforts.

Without a method to get your marketing from point A to point B, you’ll waste a lot of effort and resources laying out pieces that don’t fit together.

Enter the Inbound Methodology:


image courtesy of HubSpot

The Inbound Methodology consists of four stages. These represent different activities you undertake to further the relationship between your prospect and your organization. Let’s go over those stages briefly:

Attract: This is the stage in which your blogging, tweets, Facebook posts, etc. are categorized. A lot of organizations do this part thoroughly and a number do it very well.

Convert: At the convert stage you are collecting information about your prospect. This is typically done through a form which, upon submission, will deliver some sort of offer (ebook, coupon, etc.). With particularly loyal alumni, you can simply ask for their information. Ask them to submit their name and email if they are interested in finding out about ways of helping your school.

This is the stage that we see most schools execute poorly. Converting prospects requires calls-to-action—if you rarely or never ask something of them, this is a stage you are neglecting. From a technical standpoint, it requires web forms, landing pages, and content delivery pages.

Close: This is where your prospect enrolls in your school or commits to a donation. Admissions and advancement departments are familiar with these activities, and we see that schools typically do this well.

Delight: This comes after the enrollment or donation. Delighting your new stakeholder means furthering that relationship even after they’ve completed the action you want them to take. It involves student engagement and donor relations, and can take many forms. We’ve seen schools do this well and poorly.


The Inbound Methodology has been developed by HubSpot, an inbound marketing software firm out of Boston. It’s what we use here at Verge Pipe Media with great success in marketing and marketing strategy development.

You can learn more about the Inbound Methodology and how to use it to accelerate your marketing efforts here.

3. The Prospect’s Journey

Just as the Inbound Methodology is a method for your marketing efforts, the Prospect’s Journey is a method for your content creation.

In our current era of content marketing, this “Journey” becomes the framework for producing content that produces results. When utilized correctly, it ensures your prospects don’t stall out in your content—that they continue toward the goal you want them to accomplish, enrollment, donation, engagement, etc.


image courtesy of HubSpot

The Prospect’s Journey is an adaptation of the Buyer’s Journey (also developed by HubSpot) and consists of three stages:

Awareness: “I need to get a college degree.” or “I’m grateful for what my college/school did for me.” Your prospect has a need or problem that they feel, but don’t know how to solve (ex. need for education or to reciprocate value)

Potential content for this stage could be:

  • ex. “5 Signs Your Limited Education Could Killing Your Career Goals”
  • Stories of generosity towards your college, targeted at your alumni

Consideration: “Which degree should I get?” or “How should I repay my college/school for what it’s done for me?” Your prospect has clearly defined their problem and are looking for solutions.

Potential content for this stage could be:

  • ex. “What Degree Should I Choose?: A Breakdown of Which Degree Programs Lead to Which Jobs”
  • ex. “Top 3 Reasons to Give Back to Your Alma Matter”

Decision: “Which school should I attend?” or “Is donating the best way for me to repay my college/school?” Your prospect is looking to make a final decision and take action.

Potential content for this stage could be:

  • ex. “‘If I had to do it again, I wouldn’t go anywhere else.’ [Your School’s] Students Tell You Why They Chose to Come Here”
  • ex. “The Three Best Ways to Give Back to [Your School]


Looking at this process, you may realize that everyone will go through it differently for any decision. For example, choosing what to have for lunch does not require every step to be thoroughly completed. Even for big decisions like picking a college, some will spend years in the student’s Prospect’s Journey, while others know from the time they can speak.

Despite this variance between individuals, you need to have content for every stage. The last thing you want is to provide great Awareness and Consideration stage content, only to have prospective students snatched away by rival colleges’ better Decision stage content. Or to not even be noticed by prospects because your Awareness or Consideration stage content is lacking.

You can learn more about the Buyer’s/Prospect’s Journey through the same resource as above.

Putting It All Together

If you’ve made it this far, congratulations on sticking with me—your efforts to improve your marketing will pay off!

That said, this has been a lot to cover. Let’s put it all together and see where we can start implementing this today.

The Inbound Methodology is your marketing strategy, the Prospect’s Journey is your content development strategy, and complete analytics is the system you use to analyze and measure your entire marketing process.

Developing your analytics capabilities is an easy place to start, though it will soon show you major problem areas if you haven’t applied the Inbound Methodology.

Developing your Prospect’s Journey is a great next step. Even though you’ll be lacking the huge leverage of the Inbound Methodology, this also takes very little infrastructure. If you haven’t set up your analytics before this step, you won’t have any feedback or ability to improve your content strategy.

The Inbound Methodology is where your marketing and communications can really take off. It’s like dumping fuel on an already roaring fire. It takes a bit of software infrastructure to take advantage of, but that software is easily accessible through a company like HubSpot.

Still have questions about these strategies or how to apply them to your school? Click the button below and we’ll get in touch with you, happy to answer any questions you have.

We’ll take a look at what you’re doing now, what next steps you can implement with the resources you have, and explain potential growth opportunities to you—all for free. What do you have to lose?

Request a FREE Consultation


photo credit: roger_alcantara via photopin cc

The VPM Blog

How do we know blogging regularly works? Because Verge Pipe Media began as a blog and grew into East Alabama's first HubSpot agency partner, that's how!

Join us as we share lessons learned, best practices, thoughts on leadership in the social media and mobile world of today and more.

Worried about missing something? Sign up for our monthly(ish) newsletter and you'll get to see the best of the best delivered right to your inbox.

Subscribe to Email Updates

Popular Posts

Posts by Topic

see all