The best case for for school enrollment is a wait list fueled by word of mouth from parents and alumni. Creating that level of positive word of mouth takes time, and while it is a worthwhile goal, it can be hindered because of previous school history, staff changes, and even online reviews. Sometimes schools remain "best kept secrets" even though they are taking all the right steps for growth.
Today's always-on digital parents rely more and more on what they discover online as they research and evaluate a school. If you lack a strong digital presence, it can actually work against any positive word of mouth that you hope to develop. If inertia has set in and you have slow growth or are in decline, then the best way to establish new momentum is to add a digital enrollment boost to your other efforts. A digital boost can help spur new word of mouth and move your enrollment growth above just a slow crawl.
Your reputation online has two primary elements:
Even if you already have positive word of mouth, you still need a strong online presence because people who become interested will check your online listings to see if the impression they get from what they see matches what they heard from a friend. If they are searching for a school, it is important that they find you when they search and aren't diverted to another school's information because it is easier to find or more effectively presented.
The search engines (like Google and Bing) determine which listings to display using a complex algorithm. The factors they rely upon center around which sites are the best fit for what searches are being typed. A number of key factors include location, the ratings, how the information lines up across a large number of locations, and reference sites are all factored to present what the search engine determines are the most valuable listings. You must address both the quality of what searchers find and its accuracy, as well as the technical search engine requirements which are more technical.
Run the free reputation check tool, and look for these things:
The enrollment booster provides a tool that allows you to improve your reputation in both getting found and building positive reviews as a part of the program.
Since the school website is an important stop on the parent journey to enrollment, the experience that parents have on the website can accelerate or hinder their interest. Parents have been conditioned by their online experiences with streaming media, shopping, banking, and just about everything else to expect an easy to use, easy to navigate and effective website. If this is not what happens when a parent visits your website on a desktop, laptop or mobile device, then your website is working against you.
Facebook has become two completely different entities: 1) a social sharing platform that gathers individual data and restricts your reach to just 2%, and 2) a powerful advertising platform that is built from all of that data. Simply using the Boost feature in Facebook or only sharing posts won’t create new momentum; but it’s a great way to foster a healthy internal community. And, it's the most expensive way to use social ads. Local print advertising has lost much of its effectiveness and is very costly, while guerrilla marketing and personal outreach is only effective if done well and frequently. Some schools are still using just a single open house event, which is demonstrating less and less value for growing enrollment.
If you want to break out of the enrollment doldrums, you may have to let go of some legacy marketing approaches.
The alternative to slow growth through word of mouth is a data-driven, highly targeted set of ad campaigns that uses multiple digital ad types to help many more people to become aware of you, while identifying an audience of interested parents. This audience is your key to attracting more parents more quickly and to being able to afford the level of ads that are required.
The alternative to audience building is old school mass marketing. While you can target on most digital ads, you are still focusing on a group of people that haven't told you they are interested. When you advertise to them, it is essentially interruption - you know, like the ads that stop you from watching the free movie streaming channel.
Getting your school ready for increased tours and visits means making multiple visit times available and giving parents clear opportunities to engage. Most schools have moved away from a single open house date, and instead, make multiple opportunities available for parents.
If the parents you want to reach have multiple school options, then making a visit easy to arrange and schedule is a big priority. Parents already have school and work obligations so convenience is important. For many schools this is a weekly or bi-weekly opportunity for small group tours. Some make personal tours available as well.
With an audience developed, the key action that effective ads deliver is parents who are registered for visits, tours, or events. You know that when people visit your campus, experience the school and its community, they are the most likely to move toward enrollment. Accelerated visitor marketing reaches into the pool of interested parents to share the differentiators and opportunities your school provides.
Parents expect communications that are personalized and tailored to their needs and interests. When you answering admissions or enrollment questions, that usually needs to be a personalized email. But during the follow-up process, automation can deliver the same kind of personalization, with much less effort. And, automation can allow you to answer the repeat questions in a way that still feels personal, but doesn't require that you rewrite the same emails about forms, and dates and payments over and over again.
Automation increases the personal touch with more parents
Every interested parent needs to experience a personal touch that engages them in the school community. Since each family has their own unique interests (sports, fine arts, science, character, and more) as well as communication preferences (social media, email, messaging, telephone, print), it can be very difficult to reach them all on their own terms. But this is possible when you use marketing automation software that allows you to multiply the number of effective touches with each prospect.
The enrollment booster includes access to marketing automation that will allow for personal follow-up.