Are you looking for ways to maximize enrollment opportunities at your school? In this guide, you'll learn everything from attracting prospective parents to closing the deal. There’s no question that the past few decades have been marked by incredible progress.
As much of our lives have moved online, consumer behavior has shifted, and businesses, including schools, have had to adapt their approach in order to meet the needs of their prospective customers. These changes are particularly evident when it comes to school admissions.
Today’s parents expect all the information they need to be readily available at the click of a button. So how can schools manage their messaging and nurture prospective families successfully through the enrollment process?
With all this change, getting your message out has never been easier or cheaper. Schools are making the switch from expensive traditional advertising to cost-effective online options like email marketing, social media, and pay-per-click advertising.
The downside to increased visibility is increased competition. Schools are now fighting for every last enrollment. In order to keep up, schools have been forced to innovate to ensure their message cuts through and resonates with prospective parents.
A major innovation in the way schools are driving prospective parents to their school is by adjusting the focus to the family rather than the school. The population of prospective parents is shifting from Gen X-ers to Millennials, and this younger generation does not just weigh up straightforward criteria like school proximity or academic records. Instead, they’re looking for a school that will provide the best opportunities for their family’s specific needs.
To meet these needs, schools need to offer personalized communication rather than standard school messaging. We’ll talk more about how to better understand your prospective families to provide the best quality connection for them on their enrollment journey.
The other major change in school admissions is that the entire process can now be conducted online. Time-poor parents won’t tolerate clunky, multi-step processes involving printers, scanners, and trips to the school; they expect to be able to do everything required for an enrollment application online from their mobile device.
On the school’s side, there are enormous benefits to switching to digital enrollments, along with meeting parents’ expectations. You can reduce manual data entry, seamlessly transfer student data directly into your student information system, and easily take payments online. With all these benefits, online solutions are quickly becoming the norm when it comes to the school enrollment process.
The key to driving enrollments in this new era is for schools to provide the best possible enrollment experience for parents. Receiving personalized and engaging communication from one school, compared to generic and sparse communication from another can greatly influence prospective parents’ choices.
So, how can schools do this? First, they need a deep understanding of their database. Knowing the needs and wants of prospective parents and their children allows schools to better nurture the family through each stage of their journey through to admission.
The term ‘lead’ is commonly associated with traditional sales processes; it refers to an individual who has expressed an interest in purchasing a product or service. Companies try to track their interactions with a lead to find out which actions are the best at engaging leads and which leads are more likely to purchase.
While the enrollment process is different from traditional sales, tracking prospective parents' interactions with your school is crucial to growing enrollments. It’s useful to understand prospective families as ‘leads’ in order to map out the best methods to nurture them.
Understanding the needs and wants of every prospective parent is a daunting undertaking and you probably don’t have the resources to write personalized emails to every single family in your database! So how do you keep your communications meaningful? Enter, personas.
Personas are a fictional character profile that represents a specific type of person. Personas help you to group your leads into segments and then communicate with them on a more individual level. You can get started with personas by reviewing your school customer relationship manager (CRM) and looking for commonalities between the people who are applying for admission.
Once you know who is considering admission at your school, it’s time to map out the journey that they will take; from awareness through to consideration and finally to decision. Having a thorough knowledge of their customer journey and the potential roadblocks helps you to create strategic activities that will nurture them through each stage.
Understanding this journey also helps you to improve the process based on customer experiences. Reducing the number of steps a prospective parent has to take will result in fewer abandonments.
All of these steps — tracking interactions with your school, creating personas, mapping out the customer journey, and improving the customer experience — fall under the broad umbrella of customer relationship management. The goal here is to develop meaningful relationships with prospective families that result in increased enrollments at your school.
To carry out effective customer relationship management, schools need to have a wealth of information about prospective families in a database. The database needs to be easy to update and shareable so that various members of your school team can access the information. For this reason, many schools are switching from using spreadsheets to track enrollments to specific customer relationship management software, also known as a school CRM.
It’s no secret that the first step in the enrollments process is to attract prospective parents to your school. In the previous decades, schools relied on word of mouth and reputation to collect high-quality leads and continue moving families through their enrollments funnel. But due to increased competition, schools now have to proactively market their message to the community in order to keep drawing in families.
In a world of 24/7 advertising vying for parents’ attention, schools need to be able to summarise the number one reason that parents should choose them over the competition — and do it succinctly. This is known as a unique selling proposition (or USP) and it’s at the heart of all successful school marketing efforts. Once you’ve defined your USP, it’s time to get the word out to prospective families in the best possible ways.
In the online era, a non-negotiable marketing tool is your school website. It’s the digital equivalent of a billboard — showcasing your brand, your USP, and your facilities — but with a much bigger impact.
Having a well-designed website gives you the opportunity to make a quick emotional connection with prospective parents through the images and content that you use on your homepage or landing page, and then draw them in further by communicating your values and giving them the additional information they need to consider your school. For this reason, it’s important that any advertising or marketing activities you undertake all lead back to your school website.
Maintaining a school blog is one of the best ways to provide more detail and increase awareness about your school’s USP, programs, and facilities. As a pillar of the inbound marketing methodology (where you recruit customers through free company-created resources), many schools are implementing a blogging strategy to drive admissions.
Publishing content on your blog is a great way to build up your search engine optimization (SEO) and domain authority — however, the downside is, this takes time. If you want to get your message out to a broader network, it’s a good idea to consider sharing your blog content on third-party sites, including social media, forums, and other blogs. This helps schools to generate new leads from audiences that may not have heard of your school.
While inbound marketing is arguably the best long-term strategy for your school, paid advertising can help you get your message in front of prospective parents much faster. There are so many marketing channels available; from traditional methods like print media to digital avenues like paid social media or Google Ads. As it can be difficult to get a handle on all the options, many schools enlist a marketing agency.
Social media is one of the best ways to increase awareness and drive school enrollments. It provides a platform to promote the goings-on around your school, including student and alumni achievements, events, updates, and more. It can also help foster two-way communication between your school and your community.
Most schools choose several social media platforms according to their marketing goals. Regardless of which platforms you choose, it’s important to keep your information up to date and invest in posting quality content that suits each platform. Read our guide to social networks to get an idea of which channels might be right for your school.
Regardless of which marketing channels you choose, having a solid reputation management strategy in place is crucial for all schools. Your school’s reputation is a deciding factor for prospective parents considering admission. This is why it’s so important to seek out social proof; testimony or reviews from others determine how we think about a particular business (including your school!). You can proactively gather social proof by reaching out to existing parents and asking them to write a review for your school that you can use on your website, social media, print marketing, and more.
The final way to attract prospective families is by throwing open your school doors and letting them see inside for themselves. The success of open days has been up for debate, as some parents tend to favor smaller, more personalized tours of school grounds, however, there’s no denying that open days can be a great way for schools to cast a wide net by allowing anyone to come and engage. They also allow prospective parents to engage with other parents and current students.
The emergence of virtual open days has allowed parents to gain an immersive experience of a school, without having to step on campus. This has been a game-changer during the Covid19 Pandemic but is also a fantastic option for schools looking to engage students based out of state, or overseas.
Once a parent has become a lead (by expressing interest in your school), it’s important that you remain top-of-mind while they consider all of their options for admission. Lead nurturing activities are designed to nudge parents through each stage of the admission journey, while also establishing a relationship with the prospective family through two-way communication.
Have you ever had a company provide you with a quote for a service (say, electrical work at your house) and then just disappear? When this happens, it’s likely you forgot about them and delayed the service or chose another company. How different would your experience be if they had reached out every few weeks to keep the conversation going?
Of course, we’ve all experienced the other side of this coin, when companies follow up so aggressively it actually becomes a deterrent. To avoid annoying your prospective families, make it your aim to keep your interactions educational and helpful. Brainstorm a list of common questions that parents might have about your school, and set up an automated email sequence to share the answers with them. You can also schedule phone calls to check in with families and see if you can provide them with any further information.
An effective omni-channel marketing strategy does one thing: it communicates the same message in different ways to provide a seamless and consistent experience. Prospective parents use multiple channels as they’re progressing through the admissions process, including search engines, forums, social media, and more. The important thing is that no matter where they are looking, they are hearing the same thing.
Emails play a crucial role in nurturing parents through the enrollment funnel by reminding them about upcoming deadlines and providing them with additional opportunities to engage with your school. You can also segment your email list based on their enrollment pipeline stage to move them along to the next stage. For example, if the parents have registered for a tour or open day, you can set up reminder emails to ensure they attend and follow up emails with a school prospectus.
Inviting prospective parents to events is a great way to get them to engage with your school community and nudge them further along the road to admission. Your events might be specifically designed for prospective families, such as tours or open days, or they might be general school events that are open to the wider community. Both can be incredibly effective.
Remarketing is an automated, digital method for showing advertisements to people who have interacted with a specific page on your website (for example, your admissions page). You can retarget people who are browsing on third-party websites through the Google Display Network or on social media by installing a tracking pixel on your website.
After you’ve nurtured parents all the way through to the point where they have applied for admission, it might be tempting to sit back and relax. Unfortunately, an admissions team’s work isn’t done until you’ve sealed the deal and they’ve accepted your offer of admission.
On average, most parents will apply for 2.5 schools, meaning they will receive at least two letters of offer. Because of this, it’s important that your school is regularly reviewing your letter of offer to ensure it is as compelling as possible to sway parents to your school.
Hopefully, the majority of students who receive your letter of offer happily accept and are quickly integrated into your school community. But what about the ones who don’t accept? Some schools will move on quickly to extend another offer to replace the student, but smart schools follow up to see if there was a roadblock that stopped parents from completing the process. By understanding the reasons they didn’t accept, schools have the opportunity to potentially ‘save’ the admission by providing alternative solutions, or collect data to improve their process or communication for future admissions.
Sometimes your school might receive more applications for places in a particular grade level than you actually have available. When this happens, it’s essential to have a clear waitlist management process in place so that your team can easily filter through applications and assign them a position within the queue.
Leveraging a customer relationship manager (CRM) such as Digistorm Funnel can help to streamline waitlist management through lead scoring and data segmentation. It’s likely that your school has an ideal applicant in mind when looking through enrollments. Factors that make a student a great fit for your school can include; whether the student already has a sibling enrolled, the proximity of their home, or whether they’re the child of an alumnus.
You’ll want to be able to identify these quality applications quickly – this is where lead scoring comes in! Lead scoring is a tool within the Digistorm CRM that enables you to assign ‘points’ to a lead based on various attributes that determine their value. In doing so, your enrollments team will be able to view priority waitlisted applications at a glance.
One of the driving forces behind implementing a school CRM is the number of new enrollments that can slip through the cracks due to clunky internal processes. We know just how competitive the education landscape currently is, so it’s essential that your enrollments process runs like a well-oiled machine in order to maximize your school’s enrollment opportunities.
Every school is different, and so are the steps that prospective families take to reach enrollment. This is why it’s important to have a system that’s set up to account for custom enrollment stages that are specific to your school’s process. Getting this set up correctly means you’ll gain a clear view of where every single lead is within your enrollment pipeline. From here, your enrollment team will be able to nurture each lead to the next stage more successfully and be able to more accurately predict expected enrollment numbers.
When it comes to managing your schools' enrollment process, the reality is, spreadsheets no longer cut it. If you’re relying on spreadsheets to manage enrollments, you’re likely spending too long drowning in admin and data entry, instead of connecting with prospective families.
Sound familiar? Then it’s time to make the switch to a school CRM. CRMs allow you to quickly sort your database however you choose by using filters and segments. This functionality provides you with quick and simple methods to organize and understand prospective enrollments.
Imagine if all of your prospective student data could be collected in one place and then effortlessly transferred into a central database. Sounds like a dream right? Well, a CRM can turn this dream into a reality. Schools can add integrated forms to their website that collect data and then automatically input parent and student information directly into the CRM database.
Upon completing a form — for example, an expression of interest, or a tour registration — that student is automatically entered as a lead, indicating to the school that they are a potential enrollment. This process effectively removes manual data entry for your school and speeds up the initiation process of a new potential enrollment.
We know that chasing up application fees can be a pain point for many schools. A school CRM can also help to alleviate this by integrating your online enrollment form with your school’s bank account or payment gateway. For example, Digistorm Funnel enables you to set up your form to collect payment when parents lodge their application or set up an automatic email in your enrollment workflow to send a friendly reminder to parents who are yet to make payment.
Are you thinking about taking the next step? Learn more about what a dedicated CRM can do for your school.
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