I want to let you in on a little secret here. Most schools are not truly leveraging their school website. Sure, they have done the hard work to make sure that it is optimized for mobile devices. They have ensured that they have good Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in place, and they have taken the time to put some nice videos on their site. But most are still missing one critical element.
They don’t know who is visiting their website!
One of the most challenging parts of marketing your school is identifying parents that could potentially come to your school – your prospects.
This is where many of the Catholic schools have an advantage over charter schools. They are able to get the lists of parents who are part of the parish, but not attending their school and/or parents in other parishes that don’t have schools. They can pull baptism rolls or students who are involved in CYO but don’t attend their school. These resources make it easier for a Catholic school to recruit parents. If you are a Catholic school who is looking for guidance on using these resources, I covered them before in this post.
But for those charter schools who don’t have this advantage or for Catholic schools who have already exhausted this low hanging fruit, you need to do additional things to identify potential customers. One of the best ways to do this is to leverage your website to begin to collect customer names.
Creating a list of customer names is going to be useless unless you actually do something with it. But, it can be as simple as inviting them to open houses or putting them on your email marketing list. Bottom line: once you have created this asset, you need to use it.
So how do you identify the names of people visiting your website?
Taking a page from digital marketers to modify your website and generate leads is a good first step.
Even if your website is very comprehensive, there will still be parents who want more information and want to engage with you on a more involved basis. This is also a great way to be able to track the effectiveness of your website. Many schools fall into the trap of producing a website and then never touching it again. Obviously, you want to combine your ability to gather names via your website with your other analytics, but it is one more data point to help you become a better enrollment marketer.
1. Offer them the ability to subscribe to a future parent newsletter
This is probably the most unobtrusive option and can be a button in your “future parent or admissions” section of the website. Once parents give you their name and email address, you need to develop an email newsletter that sends them information about your school – recruitment events, accolades, etc., that will entice them to visit and ultimately enroll their child at your school. If your principal or head of school produces a weekly blog (and of course, she should be doing this), you can easily repurpose that content for a prospective parent newsletter.
2. Use Pop-Ups
We have all seen these when we go to different websites. You begin to read through the website and suddenly a box pops up asking you to provide your contact information for more information. This is a very common tactic for e-commerce companies and the more sophisticated schools are beginning to adopt this.
Here is an example from the KIPP Memphis website.
Pop-ups are somewhat controversial within the digital marketing community. They work to a certain extent, but they can interrupt the user experience and have the potential to leave a bad taste in your visitor’s mouth if they are too prominent. For example, the KIPP one will show up within seconds of you going to their website. The great thing about pop-ups is you can customize them. You can have it only show up on a certain page or after a certain time. Or if you are more sophisticated and have good prospect information – a different pop-up depending upon what this customer looks like.
A couple of things that you want to keep in mind if you are going down the pop-up route.
- Ensure that only new visitors are seeing your pop-ups. You are going to frustrate your existing parents if they see a pop up every time they come to check the lunch menu
- Consider restricting the pop up to a portion of the site that only new parents are visiting
- When you are asking more information about the family, remember that less is more. Gather the basic information that you need – name, email address, the grade of the child. You haven’t established a relationship where you can ask for more information. And if you ask for too much at the beginning, you may not get them to fill it out.
3. Produce and Offer Lead Magnets
Lead magnets offer content like an eBook or a list of tips that you provide to visitors in exchange for them giving you their name and email address.
This is where schools have a huge opportunity. As educators, you have tons of good ideas and ways to help parents. You could easily make some eBooks like:
- The ten signs your student is gifted
- How to select a school for your child
- Evaluating different school options
- An introduction to Classical Education, STEM Education (Whatever your specific curriculum is)
- Kindergarten Readiness checklist
- The best books for kids who love science
This list could go on and on. The best thing is that you have all this resident knowledge in your administrative and teaching staff. This is not a heavy promotional piece about why your school is the best. But rather you are being a resource for the prospective parent to help them learn about education and raising their child.
Once you have built your lead magnet, work with your web designer to create a landing page where they can download it in return for providing you their contact information.
Not only have you built an attractive eBook to gather names on your website. but this is now a potential Facebook advertisement that you can use to drive even more traffic to your website! Kind of a two for one deal.
Enhancing your website to create engagement and identify prospects is a great addition to your recruitment toolbox. A website that is passive and only provides information is ok, but if you take the steps outlined here, you can truly make it a more engaging asset and increase your prospective parent list.