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How to Beat the Enrollment Recession: Marketing
Cassandra Breeding

digital marketing strategy

In Part One of this series, we covered admissions and enrollment analytics and how they can help boost enrollment numbers. Now we’ll talk about inbound and outbound marketing. While many schools already have campaigns in place, it is easy to forget their importance during the hectic enrollment and admissions season. When your time is limited during these seasons, it is best to be prepared. Here’s how:


Step 2: Inbound and Outbound Marketing Campaigns

Are you Ready for Mobile?

Not surprisingly, Google showed in a recent smartphone study that 70% of smartphone users use their device to do product research before making an in-store purchase. What that means to you is that parents (and students) ARE browsing your school’s website on a mobile device. This is the primary information source in their decision-making process.

With that being said, ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my website mobile friendly?
  • What percentage of my visitors are on mobile devices?
  • Is there a click-to-call button on my website?
  • Is my website responsive? (Does it change depending on device screen size)?

If you are considering revamping your website, be sure to ask about a responsive design and making your new website mobile friendly. A mobile friendly website will greatly improve the chances of a mobile visitor converting to an inquiry. While no school stats are readily available, many retailers boost sales by over 100% by going mobile-friendly.

Additionally, If you add a prominent phone number at the top of your mobile page, most smart-phones will make it a touchable link where the visitor can touch it to call your school directly.

This is an example of Warsaw ISD’s page before and after being optimized for mobile devices. Which one would you rather use?

mobile optimized

A Website Designed To Convert

Have you taken the time to optimize your website to increase the likelihood of converting visitors to inquiries? Does your website even have forms to collect inquiry data? Optimizing your website and creating great content to attract new students is the cornerstone of successful inbound marketing. Something as simple as an admissions blog or a contact us form right on your homepage is often the difference between an anonymous visitor and a potential student.

Here are several tried-and-true tips to help convert anonymous visitors to actionable inquiries: 

  1. Embed a contact us form or prominent “contact us” button on the homepage
  2. Have your phone number and email visible in the top of the page
  3. Have an actionable headline in the top-part of your page (this will change depending on what your primary goal for the homepage is)
    • Request a Personal Tour
    • Click Here to Inquire Today
    • Learn Why “Your School Name” is the Best
  4. Be sure to keep in mind the “F” pattern in heat maps (more below)
  5. Make sure your website is not too cluttered and important information is easy to find
  6. Keep the most important information “above the fold” (the visual space before you are forced to scroll down)
  7. Include candid pictures of actual students (avoid stock at all costs!)
  8. Demonstrate your school’s mission in a genuinely emotional way
  9. Check out Who to Target: Is Your Website Hurting or Helping Admissions?” 

The following heat map (courtesy of webdesign.tutsplus) is an example of the “F” phenomenon commonly recorded  in eye-tracking studies. That is, when someone is viewing your web page they tend to scan left-to-right, down, left-to-right again, and finally continue down until the end of the page. Considering you only have a few seconds to get across your most critical points, this is important to remember when designing your website.

heat map

Don’t Forget About Online Outbound Marketing!

To supplement your inbound efforts, it is still vital to concentrate on your outbound efforts including email and phone campaigns.

How are you nurturing and tracking your prospects and inquiries?

  • Make sure you are tracking each touch with prospects and analyzing their responses
  • A/B (or split testing) your email campaigns is also a great way to refine your email headlines and call-to-actions
  • If someone is repeatedly interacting with your email campaigns, follow up with a call

What happens to prospects that don’t respond?

  • Make sure that no one ever sits idle for more than 90 days without contact
  • Remove them from your list if they unsubscribe or you no longer consider them a prospect
  • Call stale prospects to initiate the next step or uncover why they weren’t a good fit

Have you defined a flow chart or workflow for your inquiry communication plan?

  • Creating a communication plan for inquiries and prospects will help you stay organized and make sure that no inquiries and prospects get left behind.
  • Initiating a multi-touch email campaign spanned over several weeks will keep you top of mind, and give you several opportunities to present a range of useful material
  • Define which events trigger a phone call and automate reminders
  • Read “Mass Personalize with Admissions Software and a Communication Plan”

How do you follow up with current families to ensure re-enrollment?

  • Keep currently enrolled families in the loop with monthly newsletters
  • Create a re-enrollment-specific email campaign
  • Interact with enrolled families via social media
  • Follow up with families not actively engaging with campaigns to nurture relationship

Are you using a feedback loop?

  • Be sure to use analytics to constantly craft your headlines, calls-to-action and copy
  • Get hand-written and verbal feedback from parents to supplement analytics
  • Compare enrollment numbers to years’ past to measure overall marketing success

Christine Wemhoff from Archbishop Murphy High School shares the following advice: “We tweak our outbound marketing efforts according to survey results we gather from newly enrolled freshmen and post-event surveys.”

Using surveys, like Christine does, is a great way to get qualified information that analytics or A/B tests may miss. You should never forget the abundant value of emotionally driven, handwritten feedback with a unique voice instead of points on a graph, or numbers in a spreadsheet.

Read Part 3: Define Your Values and Build Relationships, and if you haven’t already be sure to read Part 1: Analytics.

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