The Whitby School, a private Pre-K through Grade 8 school in Connecticut, wanted to make a change in the way that it attracted and interacted with prospective families. The marketing team sought to gain a better understanding of how these families engaged with their school online. To help Whitby attract families that fit their unique programs, they started using HubSpot and embraced the inbound marketing methodology. As a result, Whitby has seen a dramatic increase in organic traffic, leads, applications, and general awareness of their school.
increase in organic traffic within one year
increase in organic leads within one year
additional new contacts year-over-year
Located in Greenwich, Connecticut, The Whitby School is America’s longest continuing Montessori school and birthplace of the American Montessori Society (through Grade 2). Whitby School is the only triple accredited school in Connecticut, receiving recognition by the American Montessori Society, the highly regarded International Baccalaureate for Pre-K to grade 8, and the Connecticut Association of Independent Schools. Students benefit from both world class Montessori and International Baccalaureate (IB) programs which stress critical thinking, language development, asking questions, and inspiring a love for learning.
At Whitby, the mission has always been to provide a private Pre-K to Grade 8 education to their students grounded in passion, empowerment, and global citizenship. As a small independent school, Whitby has a small marketing and admissions team, totalling just five employees. Marketing had the big task of working with Admissions to make Whitby’s programs stand out from a highly competitive community of independent schools. Additionally, they sought to attract right-fit families to their institution. To achieve this, they wanted to extend their top-of-the-line education to their online audience, by providing thoughtful and useful web content representative of their innovative programs.
Prior to implementing HubSpot, Whitby relied on fragmented marketing tools that made it difficult for high level strategy and planning. This included using MailDesigner for their email marketing, Google Analytics for their web analysis, and yet another tool for building and hosting academic site pages. With so many moving pieces, it was difficult to tie data together between the multiple systems. One major element missing was the ability to understand where and how perspective families and enrolled students first touched point with Whitby.
“Our school is located in an area surrounded by well-known schools with longstanding traditional backgrounds. We have always been seen as an underdog in this community,” said Sarah Mead, the Director and Marketing and Communications at Whitby. “We recognized that many private schools haven’t yet embraced inbound marketing, and we saw this as an opportunity to differentiate ourselves and reach more people than we had ever before.”
Director of Marketing & Communications
The Whitby School
Whitby's eagerness to reevaluate their marketing strategy came at an opportune time, with the team also looking to redesign their website. After attending HubSpot's annual INBOUND event in 2014, Whitby's Director of Innovation Tim Schwartz became inspired by how HubSpot and inbound marketing could be implemented in the education space. In conjunction, Sarah had previously familiarized herself with the inbound marketing movement through the HubSpot Marketing Blog and frequently gained insight from it. Together, Tim and Sarah worked to evangelize HubSpot and get the rest of the team’s buy-in to the benefits of an inbound marketing and admissions strategy.
Finally, when the time came to choose a marketing platform for Whitby, it was an easy choice. Whitby joined forces with one of HubSpot's certified agency partners, Media Junction, and over the course of a year transitioned their website and team to one backed by an inbound approach. Sarah wanted this new site, and the content on it, to help prospective families and website visitors feel connected to their school throughout all the stages of the enrollment journey. So from the get-go, she made sure that building a web presence (not just a website) was her team’s number one priority while adopting HubSpot's marketing suite.
To build a solid foundation for their use with HubSpot’s software, the Marketing team started by identifying their ideal personas because they wanted to be able to target right fit families to their programs. Once they honed their focus on families looking for their children to thrive in their Montessori program (Pre-K to Grade 2) and continue on to their International Baccalaureate program (through Grade 8), Whitby’s team could begin to plan, develop, optimize, and create content that would appeal to this audience.
Sarah’s team uses HubSpot's Blogging app to create content on a regular basis and to drive more traffic to their site. To help Whitby’s blog content meet the needs of their audience and rank in search, Sarah uses HubSpot’s Keywords app to identify which keywords her audience is searching for, and that she should write blog posts around. While writing, HubSpot’s blog optimization feature identifies where she has properly included these keywords in her post, while making suggestions on how to better incorporate the terms.
Whitby’s blogging efforts have paid off, with organic search as their largest area of growth. Within one year of publishing their site and frequently creating content, Whitby’s organic website traffic site-wide increased by a staggering 58%. Their most popular post, 9 Factors that Influence Language Learning, has accumulated over 5,000 views in its 6 month lifetime - the majority of which has come through organic traffic.
Whitby’s team knows that just driving traffic to their site isn’t enough -- they also need to convert this traffic into contacts for future marketing efforts. Within blog posts and other educational information on the website, Sarah and her team have strategically placed call to action (CTA) buttons to encourage visitors to further engage with the school by downloading a valuable piece of content.
Whitby’s site contains a variety of offers, including introductory information via infographics, ebooks, and white pages as well as later stage offers like requesting a tour or inquiring about the school. 10 Things to Look for in an Inspirational Classroom, a gated infographic, is one of their highest performing content offers with a 25.7% view-to-submission rate. Engagement across the Whitby site has experienced noticeable changes - the amount of new leads converting on landing pages across their site from organic traffic has increased by 54%. To top it all off, the team noticed that leads from organic traffic is their highest converting group of visitors.
Whitby is leading the way by offering an innovative online experience using HubSpot's Website platform. Their site automatically adapts to unique visitors to create a better user experience while increasing conversion rates. As Whitby obtains more information about a visitor through forms gating their content, they are then able to personalize that visitor’s online experience through smart content, and nurture the lead through automated processes based on their preferences and behaviors. For example, the copy on a landing page will change to reflect language that resonates more with an enrolled visitor verse a first time visitor, or the page’s form asks slightly different questions based on what Whitby already knows about the contact. Of this feature, Sarah commented, “I think the fact that you can make adjustments to your website, content and emails so it shows different content to various audiences is genius. This has been such a simple way for us to effectively share targeted information with the masses”.
Director of Marketing & Communications
The Whitby School
Shifting to HubSpot has opened Sarah’s eyes to the amount of marketing data she had previously been missing out on. With all of her assets in one unified system, her team can now track the impacts of their campaigns from one location. They are able to see which marketing channel has driven the most prospective families, and can accordingly adjust their efforts to optimize that channel while improving the others. These insights allows Whitby’s small team to prioritize their time and resources to best serve the school.
“I have used programs including Mailchimp, Constant Contact and Hootsuite in the past. All of these tools are valuable in their own right. What is most valuable about HubSpot is the fact that the tool is all-encompassing. We moved our website to HubSpot because we saw tremendous value in having everything hosted in one area,” said Sarah.
To expand their reporting capabilities even farther, Whitby purchased the Reporting Add-On to add to their ever-expanding HubSpot portfolio. With the add-on’s customizable features, they built multiple analytics dashboards and reports to view their performance across the top, middle, and bottom of the Marketing funnel.
With all of their data in one place, it’s easy for marketing to send qualified leads over to the Whitby admissions team. Admissions reps can then followup with them using the information already collected and housed in HubSpot. To make this information easy to access, Admissions uses the bottom of the funnel dashboards which has information about the qualified families, their online and offline behaviors, and the source from which they originally found Whitby online. Admissions then cycles back information about which families applied and enrolled, which the marketing team can use to determine which acquisition channels have been most effective.
By adopting HubSpot, the Whitby staff has been able to create an undeniable online presence that stands out to prospective and current families alike. With the ability to constantly analyze and optimize their marketing efforts with HubSpot’s stack of tools, their marketing strategy is a well-oiled machine that is nimble and flexible, but also very robust. “We have a better understanding of key data points, our school’s performance, and our long term strategy because of HubSpot,” said Sarah.
With organic traffic still increasing, and their contact database growing at a rate of 73% new contacts year over year, the Whitby team is still looking for new ways to further engage with their perspective families during the admissions process. Sarah is particularly excited about exploring the HubSpot Sales enablement tools for Admissions communications. She believes that there is great opportunity to take advantage of the entire HubSpot Growth Stack, and “rethink the relationship between marketing and admissions at a private school, by aligning for both what is most beneficial for the school and for using HubSpot.” She hopes that the Admissions team can eventually manage and reach out to applicants via the HubSpot CRM. They are excited about the idea of utilizing Sales tools while engaging with applicants through tracked emails, making calls, and scheduling meetings which are all connected to contact records within the CRM.
As an advocate for the HubSpot platform and inbound marketing, Sarah and her team have been able to turn heads and gain recognition in the private school space by finding new and easier ways to attract and qualify leads for admissions. They not only have thrived with HubSpot, but they also want to share their knowledge with other schools on how inbound marketing has helped them excel. HubSpot has enabled Whitby to create an unquestionable online presence, and highly tune their marketing content to find the best Whitby School applicants and life-long learners. According to Sarah, “this is a huge step in the right direction for our school.”
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