The international school market has grown exponentially in the past few years driving up competition and making schools reevaluate their admissions process. In the data we review from hundreds of international school clients we host, Google analytics reminds us over and over that their website is the most important marketing tool above all else. Additionally, with the improvements in technology, we also know that the ability to get the right content in front of the right person at the right time (aka “inbound marketing”), improves a school's ability to increase inquiries and drive up enrollment.
We thought it would be helpful to view it in the eyes of a prospective family:
Meet Mr. and Mrs. Expat and their three children. It’s Saturday lunch time in Atlanta, and they just told their children they are moving to Singapore this summer as dad got transferred to work in the Asian headquarters for three years. First there’s shock and horror, and then they all break into tears. The children love their school, their house, their after school activities, the fact that grandma and grandpa live 10 minutes away - and now they are told they are moving almost 10,000 miles around the world and will be attending an international school.
But, like most children today, they quickly get on their computers and phones and start looking at international schools in Singapore. The children surf, chattering and sharing what they find on various websites and social media: class trips to Bali, sports galore, amazing facilities, college acceptances at top schools - and Singapore itself looks like a tropical paradise. Meanwhile mom and dad are feeling a bit better about whether they’re making the right decision to uproot their family.
Each child picks out several schools that appeal to them - and the parents also have a list from the company. Next step: send an inquiry to get more info. A simple form pops up asking for a few key data points - age of children, email address, and how did you hear about us.
Mrs. Expat fills out inquiries at eight schools - seems like a lot perhaps, but there over 50 secondary international schools in Singapore according to ISC Research, the leading provider of data and intelligence on the world's K-12 international school market. Change the city to Rome, Dubai or Hong Kong and a host of other cities and you’ll find a similar story. This global rise in schools requires leaders to rethink their traditional marketing in order to compete and thrive.
The Quandary: Does the Early Bird Get the Worm or is Patience a Virtue?
While mom is filling out her fifth inquiry, she gets an email from one of the schools she just wrote. It’s personalized, graphically pleasing and includes links to an online curriculum guide, a useful infographic, an amazing school video and information on next steps. She also gets a generic plain text email from one saying that someone will be in touch soon, while several of the websites flash a message upon form submission saying “thank you we will be in touch soon”. She quickly forwards the “fancy” email to her children who proceed to dig deeper into the content: this school is definitely special.
Admissions and Marketing Working Together
In the case of the Expat family, being the first school to send relevant and engaging content certainly makes a powerful impression and helps the school stand out. This proactive, tailored communication shows the family that this school “gets it.” This follow up “touch” keeps that school on the list - and often the top of the list. Behind the scenes, the school will use what are known as “workflows” to send out a few more emails that will automatically be sent in the coming weeks to further engage the Expat family.
This continuous touch and engagement is inbound marketing: it’s where the admissions and marketing team collide, in a good way. Historically the admissions team and marketing/communications have largely worked independently, but online admission and marketing automation is changing that. Together they can create a seamless, pleasant and engaging process to move families from inquiry to enrollment.
Learn how you can start using inbound marketing today to drive your enrollment.
OpenApply, a Finalsite partner, provides an online admission platform that simplifies and streamlines the admissions process. Now paired with Finalsite's Inbound Marketing tools including email workflows, schools can drive quality applicants through the admissions funnel while saving time and money and allowing schools to better connect and engage with prospective families.
At a recent OpenApply Admission conference, MacKenzie Hovermale, OpenApply Director, shared how their 400+ clients are streamlining the admissions process with these key points:
- In moving to OpenApply, schools reduce time spent on daily processes by 60% with the biggest savings being in data entry (70%+ time saved) and applicant review (60%+ time saved). This allows admissions to focus on the most important aspect of their jobs - working directly with families.
- We also know that it can be stressful for families who have multiple children and are applying to multiple schools. Parents are more likely to start and complete an application process if it's easy. If a parent is trying to apply to eight schools and one of the processes seems particularly daunting or ends up being really difficult, they're likely to just not finish it.
An automated, paperless, online process makes the school look professional, current, and provides a positive experience while the family is applying. All of these things will reflect well on a school. If the process is difficult and doesn't seem professional, parents often remember these negative aspects and might consider other schools instead.
“That is why we are really excited to be working with Finalsite as we now can make the admissions process even more seamless. When parents inquire, through our integration with Finalsite, parents can immediately receive relevant, engaging emails. It’s this immediate and personal touch that helps bring families closer to applying and enrolling.” she summarized.
Finalsite is Helping Schools Stay Competitive
“When it comes down to it, schools are businesses and need tools to win in a very competitive and growing market.” shared Jon Moser, CEO Finalsite. “Our product team evaluated different inbound tools on the market and found that there were no products just for schools. Sure, there are tools that are great for business-to-business communications but many are very expensive, complicated and not well suited. Schools are under pressure to recruit students but with tighter budgets - so our goal is to help schools succeed by working smarter and more efficiently We have invested heavily, and early adoption of our tools and the inbound marketing methodology has been extremely positive both in terms of ease of implementation and positive outcomes.”
So the Expat family moved to Singapore, found the right school for their children and lived happily ever after (we hope!), thanks to an optimized online admissions process coupled with inbound marketing tools. To some it might sound complicated and perhaps futuristic, but the data shows that schools embracing this technology will have an important competitive advantage.
Disclaimer: this story is loosely based on my own family journey having moved from Atlanta to Singapore with three children - except all the fancy marketing did not exist back then…..but our family sure wished it had.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 9 years while living in both Asia and Europe. From conference planning and presentations, to association events, and client success stories, she helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. In her free time she enjoys traveling and attending events at her children's international school in Berlin, Germany.