Lead nurturing is a term that is commonly associated with traditional sales processes. It involves a combination of marketing and communication activities that help businesses build relationships with customers and move them closer to purchase.
In the past few years, it’s started to gain popularity in the education industry. In the school environment, ‘leads’ are prospective parents who have shown an interest in your school. Lead nurturing is the process of using strategic communications to move parents closer and closer to enrolment.
How the admissions process is different from traditional sales
In traditional businesses, customers may be faceless and the path to purchase can often be very transactional and impersonal. Think about your last big purchase — there is a very good chance you performed all of your research online, and only interacted with a salesperson at the end (the purchase stage). Once you have purchased, your relationship with the company and the salesperson likely ends.
Schools, on the other hand, see relationship building as essential to the admissions process, and continue to maintain and develop the relationship long after the child is enrolled.
Mapping your admissions process
The first step in lead nurturing is having a deep understanding of the steps that a prospective family will take before enrolling their child in your school. This process will vary from school to school, but will broadly follow the traditional sales process of moving from awareness to consideration and finally, decision.
Collecting enrolment data is a great way to ensure that your enrolment steps are accurate, and can also help you identify a stage where parents are stalling, or dropping out of the process. Understanding the stage where parents are not progressing is key to knowing where to focus your lead nurturing efforts.
Do a percentage of prospective parents register for a school tour and then cancel? Set up some targeted lead nurturing activities to increase the chances that they will show up on the day. Do some parents inquire on your website, but then never respond to emails? Lead nurturing can encourage them to reach out to your school again.
Enrolment nurturing methods
There are a number of methods that your school can use to nudge parents closer to enrolment. As each prospective family is different, it’s important that you use discretion and personalize your nurturing activities.
Once a parent has expressed interest in your school, it’s important that your school remains top-of-mind until the families make their decision. Scheduling regular check-ins with prospective parents demonstrates that you care about their child, and will often be the nudge that moves them over the line. It also ensures that the line of communication remains open, in case they have any questions or require further information to help them make their decision.
Contact across multiple channels
Schools can nurture relationships by repeating core messages through more than one channel. If you know that many parents choose your school because of your excellent music program, you can communicate information about your ensembles and instrumental tuition in your email updates, social media and on your website homepage.
Email marketing is an effective way to nurture prospective families, allowing your school to send triggered emails based on the step in your admissions process that the parents have reached. For example, schools can send emails to remind interested parents when open days are approaching, or when enrolment deadlines are near.
The more personalised your communications are, the more nurtured and cared for your prospective families will feel, and the stronger their relationship with your school will be. Capturing important information about the family and the student allows you to tailor your messaging to suit their interests and needs. Is the child currently involved in Little Athletics? Send the parents information about your athletics program, and follow up with a link to a social media post about your junior athletics team competing in a regional tournament.
Personalised messaging is easy to do for one student, but much harder to do for hundreds. That’s where list segmentation comes in. List segmentation is an email marketing technique where you split your list of contacts up into categories or segments. Categorising students by year level, interests, location and more can help you to send more relevant communications to specific families who have expressed interest.
Putting it all together
Lead nurturing can be incredibly daunting, but it’s becoming almost essential for schools to engage in some kind of nurturing strategy to remain competitive and increase enrolments.
Implementing a customer relationship management (CRM) system can be the simplest way to perform lead nurturing activities. CRMs provide you with an at-a-glance overview of your school’s database and the stages each prospective parent is at, allowing you to send them targeted messages and nudge them to the next stage.
Learn more about increasing your school's enrolments with our handy guide.