There is an old story that has been attributed to Abraham Lincoln in which Lincoln is claimed to have said, “If you give me six hours to chop down a tree, I will spend the first four sharpening my ax.”
As a school leader, are you taking the time to sharpen your enrollment ax? Developing an enrollment program can seem all-consuming, but carving out some time to invest in developing some core enrollment tools, will make your recruiting efforts easier, but most importantly, it allows you to be more effective and targeted in your marketing.
Some of these will cost some money, but if you are able to enroll just one more student, they will pay for themselves.
Here are six key tools that will help you improve your school’s enrollment marketing
A marketing plan
Having a strong written marketing plan allows you to execute rather than constantly think about how to get more prospects in the door. Take some time to look strategically at your market, your school, and your customer to understand how best to achieve your enrollment goals. Spend a bit of time thinking about the different customer personas that make up your current and/or your preferred customer base. (Click here for more information about developing customer personas)
To do this right takes some time, but being able to say “no” to tactics because you know that they don’t fit your marketing plan can be very powerful.
But don’t fall into the trap of just running out and “doing”. Your plan needs to be backed with good, solid data. Which leads us to the next tool . . .
Most schools are data-rich, but their analysis of the information could be improved greatly. Invest the time in building a dashboard in Excel or Google Sheets. Being able to easily track data over time allows you to spot trends and make better business decisions.
Enrollment, retention, and which channel is delivering the most students are all critical metrics to understand what to focus upon in your marketing efforts. Once the dashboards are made, they are easy to update. Good data analysis allows you to make better decisions.
For a longer post on what data points are critical for your enrollment, click here
Your school’s website
Your web site is usually the first-place parents learn about your school. And outside of a written marketing plan, it is perhaps the most critical one of your enrollment tools. When was the last time you examined it to review its effectiveness? The most critical thing in looking at your website is to ensure that it is “mobile-enabled.”
In 2014, mobile devices became the leading platform to access the internet. If your web site isn’t mobile-enabled, you are delivering a poor web experience to potential customers. The cost for a good web site has decreased dramatically over the years and it might be time to think about a new design.
If your web site isn’t updated, it can create a missed opportunity for you. Make it a true asset for your school.
Wany more specific guidance on websites? We covered them in this article.
Good promotional pictures
At the beginning of the year, hire a professional photographer (there’s probably even a parent who is a good photographer willing to donate their talent) to come in and take a multitude of pictures of your campus and students. Don’t reuse old pictures or even worse, use stock photos.
Having a library of good pictures will allow you to be more effective when you are doing social media posts or updating your promotional materials.
A prospect database
Once you have identified a potential student; (recruiting event, online inquiry, parish database, etc.), it is very important to record contact information and try to engage with these parents multiple times. How many times is enough? That is the million-dollar question that every marketer wrestles with!
It is different for each parent and will probably be different for each school. But by tracking your interactions (direct mail, attendance at an open house, other recruiting events, etc.) you will begin to understand what the magic combination is for your school.
Having contact information also allows for different types of marketing. Let me give you an example from one of my clients.
This client firmly believes in marketing to students constantly. They send out an email and a handwritten letter to all parents who engaged with them but didn’t enroll their child.
They usually will do this around the time first-quarter report cards come out. In this, they say that they hope the child is happy at his/her new school, but to know that they always have a spot at my client’s school if that changes. This simple effort usually results in 1-2 additional students enrolling in their school per year.
There are different tools out there that you can use. I have had a lot of my clients use Enquiry Tracker. This is a great tool that is designed to automate a lot of the follow-up activities that are necessary to nurture families from the “prospect” stage to enrolled families. Plus, unlike some of the other systems out there, it is pretty reasonably priced.
Even if you don’t use a system like Enquiry Tracker, use something to track these families. A CRM like HubSpot, the free version of Salesforce or even a Google Sheet. Don’t ever miss out on a family because you lost their contact information!
An email marketing system
Once you have a prospect database, you can move on to the next level and create an automated email marketing campaign. There are tools out there like Mailchimp, Constant Contact, or MyEmma that are free or reasonably priced.
These services all have email templates that you can build that allow you to automatically send out customized emails to your prospects. You can easily build 4 – 5 templates of different content: your athletic program, arts program, stellar academic program, etc., set up your rules on when to contact them, and then put it on auto-pilot.
Your prospects are now getting contacted by you over a few weeks or months with great information about your school with little ongoing effort on your behalf.
Doing enrollment marketing can be a labor-intensive job. By making a small investment of time and money into these tools, you will make yourself a much more effective marketer.
Best of luck!