Any strong enrollment marketing plan should have these eight key assets.
Being a school enrollment marketing professional in 2022 is challenging. Juggling requests for tours, proofreading your latest blog post that needs to go out, and making those critical updates on your website can leave very few hours in the day to plan and strategize on how to fill your school.
One of the biggest challenges you face often comes in the form of a well-meaning principal or board member who helpfully(?) suggests that you should incorporate some new tactic into your recruitment mix — creating a TikTok channel, advertising with the local bus system, or (God forbid) running a newspaper ad.
It can be tempting to try something new, especially when it doesn’t seem like your current tactics are working.
However, before you jump down the rabbit hole of learning the latest TikTok trends, step back and analyze the fundamentals of your recruitment strategy.
There are a number of critical elements that you must establish first. If you don’t have a strong foundation, many of these new marketing tactics that you are asked to investigate will inevitably fail.
These tactics are listed in the order in which you should establish them. If you are missing one of these, go back and build it! You might be able to skip a step, but I don’t recommend it.
School Enrollment Assets
1. Your School’s Marketing Plan
I know that this is the most boring thing that I could say first, but it is THE most important part. At the very least, you should have a written marketing plan that clearly outlines the goals and objectives for your upcoming recruitment season.
Having this plan in place will prevent you from becoming a reactive machine and will allow you the luxury of being able to plan in advance, which we all know increases your chances of success.
2. Your School’s Retention Plan
Yes, I said the R word. Retention is the key foundation for any sort of recruitment plan.
Keeping a large enrolled base at your school makes it so much easier to hit your recruitment goals.
If you are having to re-recruit 30% of the school every year because your school is a revolving door, this will inevitably lead to burnout and you slowly (or rapidly) drowning.
If your school is facing this challenge, you need to have a serious conversation with your leadership. And don’t let them put the responsibility of retention on you!
Families leave schools due to dissatisfaction with the culture and/or academic environment, not your recruiting tactics.
Retention should be the responsibility of the school leader. They are the ones who own the culture — not the admissions director.
3. Your School’s Website
The school website is the hub of your school’s marketing efforts. But to be honest, most school websites could use a facelift. This is so frustrating because every parent will go to your website when evaluating your school.
Take a critical look at your website, and answer these two questions:
- Does my website make people want to CHOOSE my school?
- Is it easy for parents who have been convinced that we are a great school to quickly and conveniently take the next step in enrollment?
If you can’t answer yes to both of these questions — stop now and spend more time on your school’s website.
Too many schools lack a compelling value proposition on their website, and I can’t tell you the number of school websites I have seen that ask me to call (and play endless games of phone tag) just to book a school tour.
Tell me “why your school?” and make it easy for me to engage with you.
4. Your Profile in Online Review Sites
Every school has a profile on these sites. But many schools haven’t taken the five minutes it takes to claim their profile and then make sure that when people come to these sites that there is an accurate representation of the school.
Generally, when somebody is Googling “schools in my city,” these sites will show up first. Chances are that their first impression of your school is from the profile page of your school on Niche or GreatSchools.
You need to do your best to make it a good one.
P.S. If you claim your profile and find negative reviews already there, here’s an article from my colleague on how to deal with those less-than-optimal reviews.
5. Your Local Google Registration and SEO
Speaking of Google — where do you appear when somebody does search for you? Are you on the 10th page of Google? If you are, families will never find you.
It can be extremely difficult and challenging to appear on the front page of Google, but that is your ultimate goal.
The best way to do that is to claim your local Google Registration (Google Business Profile) and to improve the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) of your school website. This gets a little tricky and might be worth paying for, but the end result — being found online — is well worth the investment.
Thanks for staying with me to this point. I know what you are thinking: “Nick, you haven’t gotten to newspaper ads yet. When do I do those?”
Keep reading, and I will answer that critical question…
6. Social Media Advertising
Once you have shored up your internet presence with your website, online reviews, and appearance in search, you need to leverage the power of social media advertising.
This is not the same as simply posting to your school’s Facebook or Instagram account. Posting on that will only go to people who have liked your page (and not even all of them!).
To use social media as a true recruitment tool, you must do paid advertising.
Social media advertising is THE best type of advertising because it is so incredibly targeted. You can target your exact type of family to ensure that only the people who could realistically attend your school are seeing these ads. That is why most major companies and universities have shifted most of their advertising to social media.
You can advertise your school on social media yourself, but unless you have a team who can do all of the targeting and development of your advertising, you might want to partner with a company like SchoolMint to help you out.
You can read about the success one client had with our social media advertising services here.
Okay, I promised I would answer this: Don’t do newspaper ads. Invest that money in digital marketing instead.
7. Your School Tour
All of the tactics that we have discussed so far are all about attraction. But what about the family that is interested but might be on the fence about you? Here is where you make the investment in time rather than money.
Invest in making a strong school tour experience.
Think about the best way to position your school in that critical 45 minutes of taking parents through your school so that all of your investment in attraction pays off with a family who is now convinced that your school is the right one for them.
8. Social Media Accounts
Your last tactic is your own school’s social media accounts. And there is not a silver bullet or new fad that you can catch with social media. Success in social media is about constantly telling your story.
Your school should be posting daily on the two main social media pages: Facebook and Instagram.
This is the last tactic listed because, generally, the people who visit your school’s pages are existing parents. You want to keep them up to date for retention, but too often schools think that their enrollment is going to succeed or fail due to their posting schedule on Facebook.
Should your school add channels like Snapchat, TikTok, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.?
Consider this: Instagram and Facebook are the largest. And you have a limited amount of time.
Do those two — and do them well — before you branch out. I would rather you do two well rather than do five poorly.
It can be really hard to juggle all of the tasks of a busy recruitment director. This prioritization list should help you to focus on what is most important to driving student recruitment.
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