Implementing a strong school enrollment program may seem daunting. From ensuring that you are using inbound marketing to tweaking your website, to creating an impactful school tour process – all of these things may seem like they will take a significant investment in time and money.
But there are some simple, quick wins that you can do to improve your school’s enrollment even if you are currently stuck at home during a quarantine situation. And the best thing about them? They are all free to do!
None of these will completely “fix” your enrollment program, but if you implement all of these, it will begin to incrementally improve numbers at your school.
Register your site on Google My Business
Your website is the foundation for people learning about your school. One of the most critical first steps in driving greater awareness of your school is ensuring that when parents are using Google to search for a school, that your website shows up. Even more importantly, is that it shows up on the first page of Google.
Between 71 to 92% of people using Google never go past the first page. You must do everything you can to ensure that when people are searching for a school, you show up on the first page.
One of the easiest ways to increase your chances of showing up first in a search is to register your site with Google My Business. One of the best benefits of registering with Google is that they will now begin to associate your school’s address in searches. This increases the likelihood that when a prospective parent searches using a phrase like “Best School near me” that your school shows up in the map of results that Google returns.
Registering on Google also has additional benefits like being able to create posts, submit images, and list events that can also be shown up in searches.
I put together a video on how to register your school here and I would encourage you to watch it and follow the directions on how to list your school’s information on Google My Business.
Claim your profiles on School Review Websites
If prospective parents are searching for schools and they don’t know your school’s name, they will probably use terms or sentences like “Best STEM school in Dallas” or “top Catholic school in Denver”.
For these “non-branded” searches, chances are that the various school review websites will show up first. This is because these organizations spend a considerable amount of money in Search Engine Optimization which ensures that their sites show up first in searches that do not mention a school’s name. This means that often, the first-time that parents may see any information about your school, may not from your website, but rather from the profile page of your school on one of the school review websites.
Because of this dynamic, it is important that the information these sites display about your school is accurate and represents the story that you want to tell about your school.
If your profile on these sites states that it has not been claimed by your school, click on the link to claim it. You will be asked some questions to verify your relationship with the school and some of these sites will send a postcard to the schools with a specific code to enter, but this is a pretty simple and easy process.
Once you are granted rights to edit your profile, you will be able to make sure all of the information is accurate, provide pictures, and generally be able to utilize these sites as a supplement to your school’s marketing efforts.
If you see that the school has been claimed, but you have no idea who did it (previous staff member, etc.), contact the site to transfer ownership back to you. You want to be able to update this with the correct information every year.
There are two other sites that you need to investigate; Private School Review and Public School Review. In addition to ensuring that you have claimed your site as the proper representative of the school, you will also want to ensure that when parents request information from your school, it is going to the proper email address.
The worst thing that can happen is that a prospective parent sees your profile, requests more information and then the email goes into a dead email box. It will make the parent believe that you just do not care or want them at your school
All of these sites also offer additional promotional activities (for a cost) if you want to utilize them more in your marketing activities. However, you can still get a nice benefit out of just using the free option and making sure all your information is accurate on these sites.
Build your budget for school enrollment marketing
Very few schools budget enough for enrollment marketing activities. The recommended amount that a school should allocate to enrollment activities from the Enrollment Management Association is 1% of your total revenue as a school.
If you are a school of 400 students with a tuition/state aid of $7,000 per student, you should be allocating $28,000 (excluding headcount) to enrollment every year. But the sad reality is that few schools are investing this amount in enrollment.
An interesting correlation that I have seen is that the schools that are investing in enrollment marketing are growing their numbers, and those that are not are shrinking, but that is a topic for another day.
If you can not devote part of your existing budget to enrollment, then you need to grow a new revenue stream.
With all of us locked in our homes because of the Coronavirus – most of our purchases are being made with Amazon.com. Amazon has a program for non-profits that allow you to receive a portion of every purchase made “in your name.” This is called the Amazon Smile Program.
Customers who use Amazon Smile and are linked to your school will earn your school 0.5% of their purchases at no additional cost to them. 0.5% may not seem like a lot, but it can add up to some significant amount of money over time.
Looking at our typical school of 400 students, let us assume that each student’s family purchased around $300 of goods through Amazon last month. 400 X $300 X 0.5% gets you $600 in that month or $7,200 for the year. Now, this is in no way a replacement for allocating a specific budget to your enrollment efforts, but it does allow you to generate additional money that you should earmark specifically for enrollment.
Over time, your investment in enrollment marketing will result in more students and allow you to build up a specific budget. When you are starting out, this may help you with some “seed money”.
To get started with Amazon Smile, just click on this link which will take you to the sign-up page on the Amazon website.
Then, you need to constantly communicate with parents about your program and ask them to type in www.smile.amazon.com when they are going to Amazon to shop. They will need to list your school as the organization that they are supporting, and no further action is required from anyone.
Amazon will automatically track the purchases and send your funds to your bank account quarterly.
These three easy and free action items can be done in less than an hour. None of these will solve your admissions challenges, but they will all incrementally help your efforts to enroll more students and are great first steps to building a more robust and meaningful plan.