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Most schools use emails to communicate with their parents. But using a traditional email like Google or Outlook has its limitations. Segmenting your prospect lists by stage: (interested family/completed a tour) or by source (community event/feeder school/website inquiry) is a much more effective way to reach them and the best way to do that is to use an email service which allows you to create professional looking emails and track critical metrics like open rate and click through rate.
Constant Contact is a great email software program that offers a lot of functionality. With pre-made templates and an easy to use set up, you will be sending emails to your prospective families in no time. Though they do charge a nominal amount ($20/month), they offer a nice discount for non-profits and give you 60 days for free to try it out. One thing that is unique about Constant Contact is their event management software. Though this is only available when you purchase the $45/month plan, this is a really great feature that allows you to accept payments online and track registration for events. And what school can’t benefit from a better event registration software?
This is probably the most well-known commercial email software, and you can’t beat the introductory price: Free. Like CC, Mailchimp offers many premade email templates and has a very easy to use interface if you want to create your own. MailChimp also offers a fair amount of automation meaning that you can link this into your CRM, or other applications that you use. I used MailChimp for about two years and the product is great. Though Mailchimp doesn’t offer a wide amount of support, they have several online tutorials and online forums where you can get your questions answered.
CRM Systems (Customer Relationship Management)
Identifying prospective parents is only half the battle. You need something a little bit more robust than Google Sheets to track where all your prospective parents are within the enrollment process. Investing in, and most importantly, actively using, a CRM is such a huge time saver and allows you to view your prospects holistically and track all your interactions with those parents. Most of these allow you to integrate forms and landing pages onto your website so when a parent provides their contact information, it automatically writes that information into your CRM. It is truly a time saver and key for running your enrollment system.
Hubspot is an awesome CRM system. Simple, robust and scalable. The best part about it is it is FREE. When I started Bright Minds, launching Hubspot was one of the first things I did. You can start with the free version which gets you basic marketing and sales functionality, which is enough to start to improve your operations immediately. Hubspot then grows with you. Recently, I upgraded to the first level of marketing ($40 month) which gave me email, the ability to manage my Facebook ads and website forms. If you are willing to spend a little bit more, you can use Hubspot to manage your blog, landing pages, and many of their other sophisticated marketing tools. It is a tool that is designed to grow with you!
Infusionsoft allows you to try their software for free, but after that it is $100 a month, so you need to feel a little bit confident about how you would utilize a CRM system going into this decision. However, once you get past that, you tend to get a lot of value for that $100 a month. Full automation, a full suite of integrations as well as email capabilities. I admit, even though I use Hubspot, I did find Infusionsoft’s email system more intuitive and easier to work with initially.
Social Media aggregators
While a critical marketing component, it can be challenging to constantly and consistently feed all of your social media channels. Having an aggregator at your fingertips is truly a “force multiplier”. They allow you to schedule posts, cross post and provide analytics to how your social media is really doing. I didn’t really feel like there was a huge difference here, so it comes out to your personal preference.
I have used Hootsuite for about 6 months, and I have enjoyed its functionality and (Free) price. They allow you to manage your social media across all of the major platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube. The basic freemium account includes three social media accounts which is all I really use. The next level up provides a ton more options, but I like that you can start out slow and expand as you get more comfortable. Hootsuite also allows you to insert a search query which is a really nice feature for seeing if people are mentioning your school.
There are times when you just need something done quickly and correctly. Or it requires a proficiency that no matter how many YouTube videos you watch, you are not going to pick up quickly like SEO or graphic design. Sometimes you just need to hire a professional. With the gig economy in full force, there are lots of people who are willing to work on your projects.
Whatever you need, there is a good chance somebody on Fiverr can do it for you. I have used a number of Fiverr consultants over the years to do internet marketing and graphic design and I have always been pleased with the results and the price. Since a lot of these professionals are overseas, you have to be clear on what you want, but the prices are one-third of the cost you would pay an agency in the United States. However, you have to sort through the different freelancers to figure out which one you like and trust the best. But they offer a review service that allows you to see what people who worked with them previously thought.
What really sets up work apart from Fiverr is that Upwork will suggest freelancers to you based upon your project details. While some folks don’t mind the shopping aspect of Fiverr, Upwork tailors the recommendation to you based upon your specific job requirements. Upwork freelancers quote their prices in hours vs. the specific job approach that Fiverr uses, however when you submit your project, you can establish a budget.
Graphic Design Tools
In this day and age, you must have strong visuals to stand out. From social media postings, to graphics on your website, the need for strong imagery seems to have never been greater. If you are like me who can barely draw a straight line, where do you go? There are some really good tools out there that allow you to make strong visuals and posts while possessing little to no graphical skill (again, like me!)
Canva is one of the most well-known of the graphic design tools. It has a nice free version and a number of templates and stock images that you can choose from to create your posts. They also run you through some great tutorials which is helpful if you are new to graphic design.
Stencil is one that I haven’t tried but a number of my clients rave about. They like the easy to use features for social media posting since they said that is really all they need. Stencil has a large library of designs, quotes and images making it very easy to create your posts. They also seem designed almost exclusively for social media with all sizes pre-configured. If your graphic needs are mainly for social media creation, I would take a look at Stencil.