With the first of the year, most of us set down our resolutions for the coming year. This might be losing a few pounds, saving more or spending more time connecting with friends and family.
I would also encourage you to set some specific resolutions for improving your school’s enrollment. Ideally, you should have already set some concrete and quantifiable enrollment goals, but if you are new to the role or just trying to make some headway out of improving your school’s enrollment, here are six resolutions that you should make that will definitely help you to improve enrollment for next year.
Commit to getting better at enrollment
You can no longer do what you did last year and expect to see better results. The world is changing. Birth rates are down, competition is up. What parents are looking for in a school is changing and how they research schools is moving more and more into the digital space. You need to try new things and do more because the environment has fundamentally changed.
The first step is to acknowledge that things are different. The second is to start to enhance your efforts to improve enrollment. But without that commitment, it is very easy to fall back into the pattern of just doing the same thing again and again and wondering why it is not working. Make the commitment now that in 2020, you will up your game in school enrollment.
Vow to understand your numbers
You need to know where you are starting from in order to measure your improvement. Spend a little bit of time looking back at your enrollment trends. The data will tell you what you need to do, but you need it in a format that allows you to make better decisions. Look at the past 5 years and make 4 simple charts.
Your 5-year total school enrollment numbers. This is your baseline metric. It tells you what direction your school’s total enrollment health is moving in
Your 5-year NEW student trends by grade. This is the key metric for the effectiveness of your enrollment. If your feeder grade level (kindergarten or grade 9) is going down, then Houston we have a problem.
Your 5-year retention trends by grade level. If your issue that you can attract new families, but can’t keep them? This chart will tell you that. It will also identify if one grade is the issue. If all the families leave after the third grade, you know you need to concentrate your retention efforts there.
Your marketing effectiveness. You want to track the number of families that inquire, go on a tour and ultimately enroll. This will help you understand if your opportunity is marketing (getting more families to engage with you) or recruitment (closing the deal with a great school tour) experience.
Review and update your website
If your website still has blank spots or dated information, you need to fix that. Your website is your key marketing asset and if it looks haphazard, prospective parents are going to assume that your approach to teaching their kids is just as sloppy.
Your website, first and foremost, should be targeted to the prospective parent and give them information on why and how to enroll. It is fine to have information up there for the current parent, but your ratio of information for prospective vs. current parent should really be 80% prospective, 20% current. You have lots of ways to communicate with your current parents. Your website is one of the only ways to get to prospective parents.
Make sure that you have a way to identify who is coming to your website. Having an inquiry form, an online newsletter or other ways for them to give you their contact information is key for you to be able to reach back out to them and invite them to come visit your school. Just having high traffic on your website is not enough if you don’t know who is visiting.
Improve your online reputation
Even if you don’t like the online school review websites, you need to ensure that they are not hurting your school’s online reputation. Parents (especially the millennial generation) use these as a key way to research your school. You ignore them at your peril.
Go to these websites (www.greatschools.org, www.niche.com, www.privateschoolreview.com, www.publicschoolreview.com) and make sure that your school’s profile is accurate and claimed. Then look through the reviews to see what people saying about your school.
Ask your parents, teachers and yes, even students, to leave you good reviews on these sites. You want people who go to these sites to walk away thinking that you have a great school. Testimonials from people who are associated with your school are critical for improving your school enrollment.
Write out a script for your school tour
The school tour should never be considered an afterthought. Most of your efforts (and money) that you spend in school enrollment marketing is to get people to engage with your school on a tour. You need to make sure that the experience when they are touring your school is top-notch.
The most critical thing that you can do is to plan out what you are going to say and write it down on paper. Too often, people just assume that they should just provide the same tour that they have provided dozens of times before. But is that routine any good? Have you ever tested it with another faculty member to see if you are doing a good job of explaining and promoting everything that your school has to offer?
Writing the tour down into a script or at least key talking points will help you to quickly review the subjects that you cover and identify if you are missing something.
Your tour is too important to wing it.
I have written extensively on school tours, but I think this is a great article that covers a lot of the key points. Bright Minds Marketing also conducts secret shopper engagements for schools that help to identify ways to improve your school tour. These are great ways to have an outside professional tell you where your tour is falling short.
Commit to a yearly satisfaction survey
Having a parental satisfaction survey needs to be baked into the DNA of your school. You need to take the pulse of your parents (and staff) at least every year. Surveys will give you a good idea if you are doing a good job and this helps to uncover areas of parental frustration that you can easily fix. Plus, it sends a message that you care about what your parents have to say and shows that you are constantly trying to improve the school. That is a key perception that you want parents to have.
If you are just starting out in the world of surveys, you can read this article. Or, if you would like some help, you can join the dozens of schools that have Bright Minds Marketing conduct yearly satisfaction surveys. From writing all of the questions, providing you with benchmarks of other similar schools and providing you the analysis, this is a great way to uncover insights about your school.
There are obviously many more things you can do to improve your school’s enrollment. But if you commit to these six resolutions (and importantly keep them), you are going to find yourself in a much stronger position this time next year. Remember that improving your school’s enrollment is a journey. And the journey begins with a first step. These are your first steps to improving your school’s enrollment.