Yes, we know school just started and you're in the throes of back-to-school brouhaha and all that goes along with it. But as your offices and hallways settle into a state of normalcy over the coming days, your administrative and school admissions staff will once again hearken to the ever-present knock of school marketing needs on your door. We've said it before: next year's enrollment and admissions marketing activities begin on this year's first day of school. So, what steps are you taking to set your 2018-2019 enrollment numbers up for success?
If you have a solid handle on your parent personas, it's time to understand the various steps they go through in their journey to becoming enrolled families (and, then, consistently re-enrolled families). Here's a visual for you: did you know that everyone who enrolls in your school has cascaded through a series of marketing funnels? As thrilling as that sounds, keeping this visual in mind can help you manage your school marketing efforts.
We have identified three marketing funnels that each family travels through on their way to enrollment. If your school is going to effective at gathering prospects, converting them into applicants, and convincing them to enroll, you absolutely must make sure you are meeting their needs along each step of the way. Otherwise, there will be a leak in your funnel where students will trickle - or gush - out, to your school's detriment.
# 1: School Marketing Funnel
In order to begin the application process, a family needs to know you exist. And that is where the most basic of marketing principles comes into play: you must make the public aware of your school. Fundamental business knowledge tells you that a very small percentage (sometimes less than 1%) of those aware of your organization will purchase from you. That means that if 1,000 people somehow hear about your school, fewer than 10 are likely to apply.
AwarenessSo, if your goal is to have 50 new applicants next year, you need to make sure that at least 5,000 new people hear about your school. How are you going to get the word out? That, my friends, is the top of the marketing funnel. The tools for this stage include:
- Search engine optimization.
- Well-planned and well-placed online and social media advertisements.
- Traditional advertising.
- Relevant and fresh website content, and more.
Those are some of the crucial puzzle pieces toward creating awareness that reach the people at the widest point of your school's marketing funnel. After that, you want to hook them into becoming verified leads. This is the Consideration stage, where you can capture their contact information and develop a relationship with them.
ConsiderationYou must ensure that you are producing meaty content that drives your prospective families to hand over their information to you - or, better yet, request a tour or visit. This content includes:
Through these and other premium content offerings, you can position yourself as the school that understands and supports them in their parenting endeavors.
DecisionIf you've succeeded in establishing a solid relationship with your leads, the next step they move into is the Decision stage...that is, the decision to visit your campus and become an "official" prospective family. Your content and messages in the first two stages have convinced them that your school is likely a good fit to educate and help grow their children. Now, hopefully, you'll meet them face t0 face. To get them to that decision stage, you need:
- Continued premium content
- Email nurturing campaigns
- Compelling calls to action (CTAs) to make scheduling a visit easy and desirable.
#2: School Admissions Funnel
You've got them scheduled for a visit! Marketing's job is over, right?
We know (at least, we hope) that each of you answered with an emphatic WRONG. There is so much yet that your prospective families go through before they decide to enroll. With five levels, the School Admissions Funnel is actually the largest of the three. First, you must clear the visit hurdle.
It may sound simple, but you must make your prospective families' school visit a positive and memorable one. From preparing your teachers to host prospective families in their classrooms, to asking the right questions, to having heads of school and admissions staff who are skilled at personally connecting with parents, this visit is crucial. Additionally, you want to make sure that the messages you have put forth in all of your content (that these parents have likely read) is reinforced in your school's office, hallways, and classrooms. Parents want to see that you are authentic and that you deliver the brand you are promising in your marketing.
You "wowed" them at the visit, and how they go home and apply right away, right? As any admissions director can tell you, it's not always that simple. These parents are probably also visiting other schools. They are considering all they've seen from your school. There is still a big decision to make. Through follow-up phone calls (from the admissions staff, or even from students or current ambassador parents), continued personalized emails, and- once again - engaging online content, your job is to continue to be there for this prospective family every step of the way through this decision process.
You got the application! Moving ahead, you schedule the interview. Is marketing involved at all in this next meeting? You bet.
The teacher(s) who are meeting with your prospective students and parents should be coached in an understanding of their important role in cementing this family's decision to attend your school. Even an accepted and interviewed student isn't a sure-fire enrollee. This is another personal impression, and a chance to continue solidifying your message and promises to these families.
Once the interview goes well and the students are accepted, you still need to get that final commitment. Often, this is where finances will come into play. While you may not have much control over the level of assistance you can give a family, you can continue to prove that your school is WORTH this big investment. Testimonials from current students, articles about the success of your graduates, teacher and classroom stories all help drive this message home and connect on a deeper level with these parents. You may even consider assigning a trusted mentor family at this stage so that your prospective family has another friendly face to connect with (and their children can hopefully make a friend at your school in the process).
Hooray! You've got yourself a newly enrolled, happy family! It's time to show your sincere appreciation for their commitment, trust, and investment in your school. Keep that communication up! Have some solid mentor families lined up to help get this new student acclimated and prepared for school. Invite them to events - including, of course, a stellar new parent orientation. It's time to deliver on the promises you made to reaffirm this family's decision.
#3: School Retention Funnel
Like we mentioned earlier: you need to be thinking about re-enrollment on the very first day of school. Because it is at that point that families will begin to evaluate their decision to attend your school, and those opinions formed now will be taken into account when it comes time to reenroll in the spring.
This is where you need to make sure that the messages you put out throughout the year truly match what your school provides. Again, keep your communication lines open. Engage your parents on social media. Provide events and forums to create a solid community among your families. Solicit honest feedback throughout the year to work at addressing concerns. Continue to be an indispensable resource and support in their parenting endeavors through quality content, personal interaction, and of course, a stellar education experience.
Review Reenrollment Offer
The time has come for this family to make a decision: will they return for another year? Have you been responsive to their needs? Provided what you have promised? Show them in your continued nurturing messages and content. Offer open-door forums where they can talk with leaders and give feedback. Don't just expect re-enrollment. It's a big investment for this family. Show your sincere gratitude for that past investment, and your worthiness for a continued one.
Once a family has re-enrolled, the enrollment marketing funnel cycle begins anew. Celebrate with them, sincerely thank them, and then get back to work affirming their choice. It begins in three...two...one...and, go!