At Digistorm, we put a lot of time and effort into creating resources that will help you to attract new enrolments to your school. We've got posts about blogging to drive enrolments, using social media to drive enrolments, even mobilising current students to drive enrolments — but do you know what's even more valuable than gaining a new enrolment?

Retaining an existing one.

That's right. HBR reports that depending on which industry you're in, acquiring a new customer can cost you anywhere between five to 25 times more than simply retaining an existing one. They also report on research performed by Frederick Reichheld (the inventor of the Net Promotor Score) that shows increasing your retention rate by a mere 5% can yield increases in profit from between 25% and 95%! 

It's undeniable — keeping your current families happy affects your bottom line. But what does retention have to do with marketing? After all, the top factors that motivate families to move schools are if their child is struggling at his current school, or if the school doesn't provide adequate support for their child's learning needs. 

In this post, we're going to look at how your marketing team can support your school's overall retention strategy. While it's true that marketing can't solve parent dissatisfaction, marketing can influence your current families' feelings towards your school. Here's how.

Understand your churn rate

Your churn rate (also known as your student mobility rate or student turnover) is the percentage of students who leave your school for another school within a given period. Typically, if the churn rate is going down, your retention strategy is working — if it goes up, something may need addressing. A solid retention strategy starts with interviewing the families of the students who are leaving to find out why they are ending their relationship with the school. 

If your marketing team has the opportunity, try to get access to your school's churn reports to analyse them for commonalities in the reasons they've left. This can help you to start putting in place strategies to 'catch' families before they start feeling dissatisfied with your school and looking for a change. 

Establish a feedback loop

Next, you'll want to establish a culture of continuous feedback flowing between families and your school. One of the easiest feedback loops to implement is the Net Promotor Score, or NPS. This is an automated tool that is sent out to parents that asks them to provide your school with a score of 1-10, followed by a free text box. The aim of the NPS is to find out how parents really feel about your school, and why they chose to assign you with a particular score.

You can send out the NPS email annually, bi-annually or more frequently if you think it's appropriate. The NPS is a great way for your school to gauge the current happiness of your community and, again, find common themes in the responses that you may need to resolve.

Set up automated check-ins

Gathering feedback isn't enough to keep the two-way conversation between parents and schools going. You'll also want to be proactively reaching out to re-engage families who might have dropped contact with your school for a time.

Rather than taking a 'spray and pray' approach, where you send out the exact same communication to your whole community and hope that someone responds, you can leverage email automation to personalise your outreach instead. To do this, start by segmenting your audience based on their personas, year levels or behaviours, and then send out re-engagement messages that are relevant to them.

If you are using an email marketing provider, or a customer relationship manager (CRM), it's likely they provide some form of marketing automation that you can leverage. Using these automations tools, you can set up a task to notify a member of your staff if the system picks up that a lead has performed (or not performed!) a specific behaviour in a set time period — for example, if they don't open or click on a school newsletter for two months. This will signal to you that it may be worth giving that parent a call or sending them an email to check in and make sure everything's okay.

Think of creative ways to surprise and delight

Thanking families for their continued support of your school seems like a small thing, but it's surprising how a little attention to the families' customer experience can go a long way to earning their loyalty long-term. By establishing small touch points where you reach out with a token of your appreciation, you continue to build on the fantastic relationships you already have with parents.

Some popular ones we've seen schools send include:

  • An orientation pack upon enrolment with a welcome letter signed by your principal
  • A handwritten 'thank you' note to families who write a testimonial about your school
  • A 'happy birthday' message to their child from the school each year.

You could also work in random acts of delight throughout the year, such as mailing school merchandise to parents or sending them champagne when they pay their last round of school fees.

Finally, don't neglect your school newsletter

It might surprise you, but the trusty old school newsletter is likely your school's #1 retention strategy! That's why it's important to keep your content fresh, make sure it's being well-received by your readers and (most importantly) make it trackable. This means, if you haven't converted your newsletter to a digital format, you won't have firm data about how your newsletter is distributed or what your engagement rates are.

There are a number of tips and tricks that you can leverage to increase your newsletter open rates, but essentially it all comes down to writing content that attracts, engages and delights your families. Sending informational content via email is a very smart method for showing that your staff members are not only incredibly knowledgeable but also very generous in passing that knowledge on. Win, win!

Published 25 January 2021