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Attracting students using inbound marketing
About Newcastle University
Originally established as a pioneering medical school in 1834, Newcastle University is still pushing boundaries and helping shape the world we know today.
For example, there isn't a single computer game in the world that doesn't use lines of code that were made at Newcastle University. The New York Stock Exchange is run on their code too.
There are 27,000 students and 6,500 directly employed staff, all operating on the tight-knit, city-centre campus. Along with Newcastle United Football Club, Newcastle University is a vital organ that breathes life into this post-industrial, North Eastern city.
The University itself has a turnover of £500m+ and an economic impact of £1.1bn on the region each year.
But as the world has changed technologically and economically, so has the way universities now need to recruit their students. For the first time, historic universities, like Newcastle, can't be selective with applications. They need to compete to attract students.
Historically, it's been the case that students market themselves to universities, not the other way around.
More and more prospective students aren't taking what's on offer. They're choosing wisely and researching heavily.
Jude Browne, Director of Marketing, knew inbound marketing and HubSpot were the tools to keep Newcastle University ahead of the competition.
"It tells us whether the assumptions we've been making for a long time are actually correct."
She added, "We can understand, 'if we do this, it will have that impact.'"
However, she and her team had a four-fold challenge in front of them.
- Marketing for the first time from an inbound perspective.
- Reaching students earlier in their buyer's journey than anyone else.
- Be able to prove performance.
- And have student information feed into multiple teams and systems.
“We can now do things in this academic year that we could only dream of previously.”
Alaric Pritchard, Newcastle University
What we did
Big, targeted solution with combined multiple teams and systems.
Newcastle University needed to move quickly and at scale. So we allocated plenty of resources for the first job, which the client appreciated.
"We can now do things in this academic year that we could only dream of previously," says Alaric Pritchard, Student Journey Programme Manager at Newcastle University.
We planned and delivered nine different marketing campaigns in one year which were delivered using the HubSpot marketing platform. These were aimed mostly at international students.
We really tapped into the early stages of the buyer's journey for the first time.
We realised the first decision worth influencing was whether to study abroad and help with all the pain points associated with making that decision.
We did it through written blogs and downloadable content, videos for YouTube and paid social, organic social, email marketing and SEO.
"Avidly inherently understood that you are an extension of our team and an extension of us... it really helped us move forward," said Jude.
We also setup HubSpot as the central point of the software stack to inform other tools and teams.
That meant results could be tracked and information passed along to other relevant teams. And there was plenty to pass on.
Now, the results.
- The inbound marketing blog created for international students went from 0 to 17,733 views and counting, organically.
- Premium content downloads resulted in being able to nurture 5,976 contacts. And this number continues to grow.
- This was thanks to combined efforts driving 67,498 landing page views on the dedicated international student website pages.
- The five videos we created as part of these campaigns brought in 576,263 views and 4,126 clicks on Facebook.
- The video has also attracted 15,378 organic viewers through YouTube so far.
- We used HubSpot to help Newcastle's admission team better nurture 3,532 offline-sourced applicants.
All of these numbers are exciting and, but Jude hired us to help bring in more international students.
After just one academic year of influence and plenty of time for the compounding effect on traffic of evergreen content to kick in, inbound marketing has created:
- 1,320 marketing-qualified leads.
- 815 sales-qualified leads and 51 influenced applications.
- Which equates to circa £2.25m in international student tuition fees (the equivalent of sales).
Increased understanding of how marketing can have an impact
Professors are teaching world-leading courses and inspiring game-changing research. To Jude, marketing felt like this thing on the side and didn't feel as important.
But with inbound marketing, more resources are now available for the University as a whole. Both financially, as international students bring higher course fees, and also because the ideas and culture they bring are of huge importance to university life.
"People all around the University are beginning to really understand what marketing - marketing skills and marketing people - have got to add to the incredibly important work that they do," Jude told us.
She explained it to me, beautifully, when we were there filming on campus. She described how being a marketer, she felt like an outsider in the world of academia. She felt what she did was just marketing.
Also, for prospective students (home and international), lead nurturing, analytics and integrated software mean Newcastle University now know how to better market to students and their guardians.
This makes for a better experience for everybody who attends Newcastle University, even before they've submitted an application.