Angela and Amy are Admission Directors at two local Christian schools. Both are ready to hit the panic button since it’s late winter and only a few new student enrollment applications have been submitted for the upcoming school year. Take a look at their profiles and see if you can identify with their problems and discern the missing ingredient from their efforts.
Amy Admissions handed out flyers in the afternoon car line asking parents to invite their friends to an upcoming Open House for prospective families. She also placed announcements in some local church bulletins about the event and distributed flyers to a few preschools in the community.
Amy even got approval from the School Board for some funding to run a few radio ads on the local Christian station promoting the Open House. Despite these efforts, attendance at the event was low, rendering a bleak outlook for new enrollment in this important admissions season.
Meanwhile, Angela Admissions has plenty of traffic at her school’s prospective events; however, very few are taking the next step by submitting applications. She and her team run a well-planned Open House where their head of school gives a 15-minute powerpoint presentation about all the wonderful ways the school is improving its facilities and programs. They also lead visitors on a quick tour through the halls, but don’t like to enter classrooms as it may disturb the teacher’s lessons.
Occasionally, the school visitors will receive a smile or half-wave from students or faculty as visitors travel through the hall, but there’s no real opportunity for them to engage with anyone outside of the admissions staff. Afterwards, parents are sent on their way with a beautiful viewbook and application materials and are cheerily asked to call the school if they have any questions.
Two different scenarios and two different admission directions. Both can make various tweaks to their marketing and Open House formats. But there is one tool that neither Director has used that could address a deeper issue.
A Powerful School Marketing Tool
If you are involved in the admissions process at your school, you need to be aware of an incredibly powerful tool you can utilize to attract the interest of prospective parents to your school. This tool can help you to build a trusting relationship with these parents and assist them in determining if your school is the right fit for their family.
What is this amazing tool?
It’s content. Content is the fuel that can power your marketing strategies and enable you to fill your admissions funnel and ultimately increase your school’s enrollment. Let’s explore how the content your team produces can get results in the admissions process.
Before we dive into your content strategy, let me take a moment to remind you that prior to creating effective content, you must take some time to figure out who your prospective parents are.
In the world of inbound marketing, these are known as buyer personas. Every piece of content you create should be tied back to these parent personas to ensure that it is meaningful to them and addresses their pain points and challenges.
If you haven’t noticed, there is a ton of content out there on the internet. How does an admissions director make sure the content they produce rises above the noise? How can we encourage our prospects to think, “How did XYZ School know that was the exact thing I’m struggling with as I consider schooling options for my kids?”
School Website Content
- First, take a look at the content that makes up your website. You probably see headings, explanatory paragraphs, pictures, testimonials from parents, maybe even some videos or infographics. Does your website effectively tell the story of your school? Does it engage visitors, peak their curiosity to learn more, speak to their struggles?
- Examine the pictures and videos being shown on your school website. One particular school website I looked at recently used a variety of images of the school building. It was a decent building, but told me very little about the type of students in the school and how they engage in learning and development.
- Another school featured a video that some students produced as a class assignment on their homepage. Perhaps the parents of those particular students saw it and appreciated the time and effort, but the video does very little to encourage prospective parents who are just learning about the mission and offerings of the school.
- It’s important to remember that a school’s website is it’s best employee. It works hard 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It promotes and informs people about your school on the weekends and late at night. Which leads to the next important area to consider.
- Does your website offer opportunities for visitors to convert into leads through the use of landing pages and forms?
School Blog Content
One of the most effective ways to build trust and position your school as a thought leader in your community is to consistently publish content through a school blog.
A school blog is not the place to primarily promote your school’s accomplishments and accolades. To put it bluntly, you should not be using your school blog to brag about your school. Why? Because prospective parents don’t really care about the winners of your school’s contests or news about the upcoming fundraiser. A promotional school blog only appeals to current parents of students enrolled at your school.
An effective school blog serves as a marketing channel through which short form content is published for the main purpose of driving more qualified traffic to your school’s website.
In other words, a blog offers a way for you to draw potential families to your website and provides a means for you to establish a connection with them.
Your school blog will draw prospective parents to your school when you are providing solutions to their pain points and challenges.
Social Media Content
Almost all prospective parents are Gen Xers or Millennials. Both of these groups of parents love social media and it’s part of their daily lives. If your school does not have a social media strategy, you are missing opportunities to connect with your prospects.
Facebook is usually a the best place to start as you have the ability to attract new parents and retain current parents simultaneously. You can advertise to new parents through Facebook Ads by promoting premium content, such as webinars and ebooks as well as invitations to Admission events for prospective parents.
A retention strategy can also be in play on your school’s Facebook page. Improve retention among current families by delighting them with pictures and video of students engaging in learning, enjoying relationships with classmates and teachers, and celebrating accomplishments.
You can determine the health of the school Facebook page by tracking posts likes and shares among your prospects and current parents.
While some may argue that email is dead, it is still regarded as a powerful force in the world of marketing. In fact, Gmail alone has 1 billion users worldwide.
Admission Directors who want to get results use email to engage prospects and nurture them through the buyer’s journey.
The content of marketing emails should be appropriate and engaging for the audience. The reader of the email should benefit in some way by taking the time to read it. Consider what the email is offering the prospective parent. Include a link to a helpful blog post or a video that provides a solution to one of their challenges.
- Personalize it: Use their name in the subject line and greeting. Be warm and friendly.
- Use a Call to Action: What do you want them to do next? Read a blog? RSVP for an event? Download a checklist? Make it clear with a CTA button.
- Keep it brief: Since most parents check their email using their smartphones, keep the content concise. Ensure that it’s easy to scan and mobile friendly.
A subscription to an email platform such as Constant Contact or Mail Chimp will allow you to utilize email templates, build lists of recipients, see data to help you analyse results and give your emails a professional appearance.
When Admission Directors use content as a tool to attract and nurture prospective parents, they build trust, act as efficient guides and get results.