Case Study

An Inbound Marketing Agency That Specializes in Education Enrollment for Schools & Colleges

Client: JD Academy of Salon + Spa

JD Academy Logo

The Company

JD Academy of Salon + Spa is a top-tier, nationally accredited cosmetology & esthetician school in The San Francisco East Bay.  They offer 2 core programs designed to turn aspiring hair, skin and makeup artists into working professionals – giving their students both the hard and soft skills needed for long, profitable careers in the salon and spa industry.  They directly compete with a number of large-budget, nationally-branded schools, as well as smaller, significantly lower-priced options within The Bay Area market.

We really couldn't have gotten here without you. Thank you for being part of our village.

Janet ParadisoPresident, JD Academy of Salon + Spa

The Challenge

Building a lead pipeline to support aggressive growth

This is our third year working with JD Academy.  They initially reached out to us because the school’s website was generating very little in the way of leads. They had reasonably decent traffic volume, but they simply weren’t converting any of that traffic into qualified leads, nor did they really have any good methods in place to track that.

The college was primarily relying on paid leads from various 3rd-party sources, most of which were of the “tire kicker” variety. Their remaining inquiries were coming from referrals and other word-of-mouth avenues.  While those were stronger leads with much better close rates, there wasn’t nearly enough volume to support their enrollment capacity and growth objectives.

Simply put, the Academy had enrollment spots to fill and their lead pipeline wasn’t large enough, or of high enough quality, to get the job done.  We were brought in to touch their entire digital ecosystem to fix that problem.

Guiding the marketing-arm through an ownership & complete branding change

It’s worth mentioning that when we started working with the school, they were W Academy.  In March 2019, the school went through an ownership and subsequent, major branding change. So while our original goals were primarily growth-related (and many continue to be), this year we had the added responsibility of facilitating that brand change and protecting the substantial organic search progress we had made over the previous 2 years.

Graphic showing brand change from W Academy to JD Academy

That included the actual corporate branding initiative (logos, marketing materials, brand guidelines & more).  It also entailed managing the entire digital rollout:  Website, Hubspot integration, full social media rebuilds, fresh campaign builds and the million other details that come with a complete rebranding of your business.

Completely Reimagined

A fun vanity metric

Year-Over-Year Traffic Growth


Total website traffic increase during our first year


Total website traffic increase during our second year


Total website traffic increase during our third year (YTD through Q3)

The Approach

Laying the Inbound Marketing Foundation

Given the school’s top-tier tuition cost, a lengthy enrollee decision-making process and the complexities of the enrollment process itself, we knew JD Academy was an ideal fit for an Inbound Content Marketing approach.

Like any inbound marketing project, we started by developing a series of detailed ‘buyer personas’ that would be used to help guide all future content initiatives. Every piece of content we’d build from here on out would specifically be targeting one of these personas. We’re building content that helps their target audience at different stages of the buyer’s journey, not just blindly telling people who JD Academy is and what they do.

Buyer persona example for school

Implementing a Student-Centric Content Strategy

The sheer range and amount of content that would need to be created was enormous.  Their library of available assets at the time was minimal and what they had was piecemealed from various departments within the school.    We conducted deep-dive keyword analysis and ran a number of fact-finding interviews with current students to really zero in on what was important. We defined our initial content strategy, including tone & voice guidelines, and then got to work implementing.

School Website Redesign Focused on Traffic Growth & Conversion Rate Optimization

We redesigned and rebuilt the site from the ground up with an emphasis on organic lead generation, giving us the framework we’d need to break into the search rankings and creating a foundation for future content initiatives.

We reworked and rewrote all core content throughout the site so that it would A.) resonate with those buyer personas rather than come off as a dry checklist of what they do and B.) allow us to organically hit the high-level keywords that would be critical to long-term search traffic viability.

We also developed an arsenal of image and video assets to be used throughout the site and in future social media, email and other campaigns

Admissions Team + Hubspot = Aligning Marketing & Sales

Previously, almost all of their reporting and lead tracking was done via individual spreadsheets, with their multiple sales-centric employees implementing their own follow-up methods. This meant it was extremely difficult for management to get any sort of meaningful handle on what their sales/enrollment pipeline looked like, let alone any deeper metrics like conversion rates or accurate revenue forecasts.

We worked hand-in-hand with their entire team to gain adoption of Hubspot as a CRM (client relationship manager) platform – building a number of customized processes within the platform to make it the perfect fit for the school.  We then leveraged Hubspot’s marketing automation tools to move potential students further down the enrollment process/buyer’s journey.  This allowed their admissions team to focus their time on qualified students who were more likely to enroll rather than wasting valuable time weeding out the “tire kickers”.

This allowed their admissions team to spend significantly more time working with qualified students who were more likely to enroll rather than wasting that time on fruitless calls and emails to weed out the “tire kickers”

Demand & Lead Generation Through Earned & Bought Traffic

We put a serious emphasis on improving their SEO strength across the board.  That’s been a well-balanced combination of big-ticket, competitive keyword targeting, long-tail, link building and a significant focus on localized SEO triggers within their market.

We’ve continued to build our arsenal of goal-specific campaigns across multiple channels, covering everything from enrollment pushes to generating salon + spa appointments.

Numbers That Matter

Revenue Growth, Enrollment Increases & ROI


Year-to-date revenue growth vs. same period prior year


YTD increase in number of student enrollments


Total increase in enrollment in a little less than 3 years working with JD Academy


Average Email Open Rate


Average cost per enrollment-centric lead generated through paid social media channels


Forecasted ROI on 4S Design Studio's allocated marketing budget (Our cost + Ad Spend + Hubspot/Supporting Tech)

A Look at Our Work

Eye Candy That’s Gotten Results

Here’s Some More of Our Work

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