- Independent Schools
We’re at that midsummer point where admissions and marketing staff have an eye toward fall and open house season, wondering, “Should we still run those newspaper ads?” “How’s enrollment going to look this year,” “How do I show my head our marketing ROI for admissions?” and “Can I get everything done and maybe get a beach day in before the new school year begins?”
Not to worry. We spoke to Ravenscroft, a member of the Finalsite family since 2010, whose marketing team made some slight changes to their website and marketing that have resulted in a jump in enrollment, easier to manage marketing campaigns, and improved communications with their community. They’ve also been able to show ROI on digital ads, too! Director of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Davis and Digital Marketing Manager Mary Kornegay shared three top tips with us to give your marketing efforts a boost:
#1 Know Your Audience and Organize Your Site Accordingly
“We launched our new website two years ago with the goal of making it more visually appealing to prospective families, making it easier for current families to find what they need, and to streamline how we manage the site on the back end,” Mary said.
Since launch, they’ve further honed their site to best serve as an admissions tool, while still directing current members of their community to the information they’re interested in.
School competition in Raleigh, North Carolina is especially tough, so they’ve also made improvements to ensure their site stands out in search and social. Mary shared, “The public schools in the area are as much of competitors as private schools. Especially when you get to the high school level, families are looking at many options for schools.”
So, Jennifer and Mary took a look at how their site was being used, and by whom, so that they could tailor their messaging. “We know that current parents want certain kinds of information,” Mary said. “Calendar items, events happening on campus and athletics events, for example. We put those items behind portals where everything families need is in one place so that we could reserve key site space for admissions.”
They have succeeded with a bold, inviting homepage that brings families onto a vertical scrolling story of the student experience at Ravenscroft, as well as the “Lead from Here” philosophy that guides the curriculum for students from pre-K through grade 12.
Learn more about digital ads with the Digital Ads 101 Webinar.
“Lead from Here” is part of Ravenscroft’s curriculum, in partnership with a global executive leadership organization, the Center for Creative Leadership.
As visitors scroll further, they’re given the chance to explore one of six key areas of Ravenscroft life, from Academics and Fine Arts to Community Service. Upon clicking, key facts are displayed in infographics.
Finalsite's Senior Client Success Manager Lorrie Jackson visited the Ravenscroft team on campus before their best-in-class redesign began and recalls, "Ravenscroft's challenge for this new site was two-fold: how to stand out in the very competitive Raleigh market and how to continue to highlight their national reputation within NAIS and beyond. Their partnership with the Center for Creative Leadership is one such differentiator, so their project Manager and designer made sure to bring this to the forefront in the home page design.
“We wanted to show information that is of interest to prospective families, not just to the current community,” said Mary.
Instead of bringing clickers to a new site page for each area, expanded facts for each area are displayed, with links to key site pages.
As site visitors reach the bottom of the page, they’re directed to take the next step to inquire, visit, or apply, with a reinforcement of the message of citizen leadership.
#2 : Make Digital Advertising and Custom Landing Pages a Priority
In the past, Ravenscroft relied on print ads to get the word out about the school and to promote events like open house. This year, they’ve shifted their budget to 70% online ads, and 30% print. “In 2018, we were about 50-50 print and digital, and realized what a great return we were getting on digital advertising,” said Mary. “Digital ads give us the ability to target our content, and then send visitors to the place we want them to go., We can review results and see what’s working and what’s not.”
Jennifer and Mary decided that a digital campaign, tied with a custom landing page, would be the best use of their ad budget. One of their digital ads, “Prepare to Soar,” shared quick facts about Ravenscroft graduates prominently, including that 100% of graduates are accepted to college.
Another ad, “Space to Soar”, highlights the many STEM opportunities available to Ravenscroft students.
In May 2019, their ads received more than 20,000 impressions with mothers ages 35-49, with the growing millennial group of mothers ages 25 to 35 receiving more than 16,000 impressions.
After visiting the ad, clickers are brought to a custom landing page that both asks for parent information but also shares more value, with four short student interviews highlighting their experience in foreign study, music, athletics, and theater.
#3 Show Your Value and Make Site Changes Accordingly
We can’t say it enough—independent schools need to show the value of the investment in attending the school to every member of their community.
To grow enrollment in lower school grades, Ravenscroft starts early, with the school’s admissions office forming relationships with daycares and local libraries, where they host story hours and information sessions. Once families show an interest in the school, they are matched with an admissions officer who follows them through the entire admissions process, from their first tour all the way through enrollment. They’ve also customized the campus tour to match the needs of the family’s entry point, with admissions officers specializing in tours for lower, middle and upper schools.
Jennifer and Mary have also relied on site visitor behavior to tell them which site sections resonate with visitors. “We looked at our analytics, and found that a certain page, Senior Success, was one of our most-visited pages by prospective families in the last few months,” said Mary. The page, which shows stories, video and news about graduating seniors, shows that families, whether they’re in kindergarten or eighth grade, are interested in learning if the Ravenscroft education is “worth it.”
Using Composer, they changed their site’s homepage to prominently feature this page Senior Success.
Senior Success is one of Ravenscroft’s most visited pages by prospective families, and shares a variety of photos, stories, college admissions results and more. And, they haven’t forgotten CTAs to take the next step; they’re unobtrusively shown on the bottom of the page.
As a team of three, Jennifer, Mary, and their editor and writer, Karen, have their hands full, but can credit their Finalsite website and Composer CMS with making their lives easier and in growing enrollment at the school. “We’re doing the web content, the design of the website, and telling the stories of all the great things happening in our community,” Mary said. “But we can thank Finalsite for helping make it easier!”
Interested in how Composer, Inbound or digital ads can help your school tell your story and boost enrollment? In addition to innovative software solutions such as email workflows, Finalsite’s digital marketing consultants are available to help!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Hadley is Finalsite's Director of Communications and is a former independent school teacher, fundraiser and marketing director with a passion for cooking, travel, and spending time outdoors with her growing family. She founded the FinalsiteFM podcast network and enjoys meeting Finalsite clients from around the world.