- General Best Practices
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We receive more questions about the admissions process and funnel than nearly any other topic from schools new and old to the Finalsite platform. It’s easy to see why, considering how complicated the admissions funnel can be at first glance. Keeping track of inquiries, applications, and re-enrollment applications can be an absolute nightmare.
But it doesn’t have to be. Finalsite has partnered with Ravenna to streamline and completely reimagine the way independent schools manage the admissions process.
Ravenna provides independent schools nationwide with a modern, highly configurable online enrollment management system. Harnessing Finalsite’s suite of communication modules and software, admissions offices with Ravenna can leverage a powerful marketing and operational toolset.
Finalsite’s partnership with Ravenna ultimately gives you the ability to create more meaningful connections with prospective families and a greater chance of converting prospects into applicants. Let’s dive deeper into how this partnership works for your school.
Examining Admissions Trends
But wait! Before we take a deeper look at the partnership, it’s important to review recent admissions trends and common admissions roadblocks. Let’s start with the former. You can watch a recent webinar we hosted with Ravenna discussing last year’s trends here:
Download our Finalsite and Ravenna admissions webinar!
One of the most noticeable trends we’ve seen is admissions teams working more closely with marketing teams to share data and develop cross-department strategies since both departments are charged with drawing in prospective families to the website.
In our Ravenna webinar, Jess Creach, Customer Success Manager at Ravenna, said schools have also started to work more closely with each other. Not everything has to be competitive, even in a competitive market. Schools that remain stuck to their tried-and-true methods and strategies are missing out on valuable lessons learned from other peer schools that continuously adapt to new technologies, methodologies, and new communication trends.
Creach said Ravenna has seen schools create mentorship programs to share techniques and strategies, align open house and visits dates, and aligning of application process so families are filling out more shared forms to boost the application numbers for all of the involved schools.
Admissions offices have found more success using enrollment software (like Ravenna) to examine data collected from families to track how they move through the funnel, what decisions they make, how they respond to communications, and why certain families left at any step along the process.
This unprecedented access to real-world data means admissions teams are making more informed and more precise changes to the funnel that have a higher chance of converting prospective families to applicants. Without this data, schools had to make changes to the entire funnel without truly knowing the impact of the changes.
Access to real-world data has also changed the way admissions teams view the funnel. With the ability to make smaller changes at each step in the process, the funnel has shifted from a static process to a constantly evolving process that necessitates constant input and change.
Schools have success through creative tuition discounts to fill seats and meet admissions goals. These schools have changed their focus to net tuition revenue and aligned their financial aid strategy with the school’s overall mission. Admissions and marketing teams working together creates a more efficient admissions process.
Lastly, schools have shifted the way they communicate to match the new demands created through millennial parents. Millennials have been more proactive than other generations about reaching out to schools to learn more and ask more questions - with the expectation of an equal return in information.
To successfully market to millennials, your school needs to be just as proactive about getting information out in the public as millennials are about demanding that information.
Common Admissions Barriers
Let’s review the most common roadblocks that may be curtailing your overall admissions efforts.
1. Lack of Applicant Engagement
The most common barrier is a lack of insight into how your applicants are engaging with your communications and your schools. Failing to monitor and track which emails are opened (and which aren’t), failing to follow-up on email invitations and event registrations, and failing to coordinate your communications with applicant actions and statuses are all missed opportunities to gather data and transition potential applications to real constituents.
Independent school admissions offices live or die based on applicant engagement and strategic follow-up communications. Your team needs to be actively engaging with each individual that submits an inquiry or opens an email. That may seem like an impossible task for smaller admissions offices, if done manually.
Fortunately, Finalsite has an entire suite of inbound marketing tools to automate that process. More on that later.
2. Failing to Nurture Leads from First Contact to Admittance
Failing to engage with applicants exacerbates the first half of a larger problem. The second half is failing to nurture those leads once they’ve submitted their application.
Without a centralized location to store data, admissions teams can find it difficult to quickly monitor and react to conversions. Searching multiple locations for each application slows the process to a crawl, resulting in droughts of engagement follow-ups, which may send prospective families looking elsewhere.
Lastly, schools see a significant increase in communication success when they tailor and target their communications to individuals or specific groups. Without these specialized communications, schools can struggle to reach and meet the unique needs of each applicant. Personalized emails are 26 percent more likely to be opened and deliver six times higher transaction rates compared to generic emails without personalization.
3. Prospective Families Leave the Funnel Without Warning
The last obstacle is the hardest to overcome, though not impossible. Prospective families in the admissions funnel will leave for a variety of reasons. That’s not necessarily the problem; the problem arises when they leave the funnel without the chance to gather data or responses from them to understand why.
Prospective families that exit the admissions funnel without explanation or communication leave the school with no usable data to make informed decisions about how best to improve the funnel in the years to come.
Schools that fail to monitor the entire admissions funnel will have limited data indicating interest (or lack thereof) when extending offers to prospective families at any point in the funnel, which makes it significantly harder to estimate net tuition revenue. You can’t accurately gauge how much tuition revenue your school will bring in each year if you can’t accurately gauge if and when families will leave the funnel.
The best solution is to constantly monitor the funnel to see when families leave in order to address the issues at the source so families quickly and efficiently move from beginning to end without trouble, eliminating as many exit points as possible.
How does a school go about creating a simpler, more efficient, and more effective admissions process? We’re glad you asked! Here’s how.
Crafting a Better Admissions Funnel with Finalsite and Ravenna
Finalsite and Ravenna work hand-in-hand to elevate your admissions funnel through inbound marketing tools and strategies to engage and nurture a prospective family from their initial visit to your website to the student’s first day at your school, and beyond.
The admissions funnel begins by attracting new people to your school’s website, blog, social media, or any other form of content marketing they find while searching for schools like yours. That’s why search engine optimization is so important for schools of all sizes.
Once on your website, visitors can then inquire and apply while you track their progress throughout the entire admissions funnel in Ravenna.
Once the online application process begins, Ravenna saves your admissions office valuable time through high-volume scanned document processing, online file review and decisions, and electronic contract and deposit collection. Ravenna’s entirely online process ramps up efficiency by replacing your manual admission tasks with quicker automated processes, freeing your team to better spend their time engaging with new families.
Ravenna provides tools to track and nurture prospective applicants through publishing application decisions and collecting signed enrollment contracts. Shared admission forms and a centralized application process saves time for families with multiple children, and increases your effectiveness at capturing more admission data.
Ravenna’s tools fit each school’s unique needs so schools can create their own questions and forms, events, processes, and more for a highly-personalized and highly-configurable admissions experience, proven to increase applications.
After the application is submitted, a Ravenna admin can import that user’s profile data into Finalsite’s Constituent Manager and Group Manager to engage them with Finalsite’s suite of communication modules and inbound marketing software.
Schools can use the Messages module from Finalsite to build custom, personalized emails with tailored subject lines to capture recipient attention and engage and nurture them along the admissions funnel. But that requires someone from the admissions team to manually build and send an email each time and for every new applicant. Wouldn’t it be nice if that process could be automated to save you time and effort?
It can! Automated Workflows expands upon the Messages module by taking the same custom, personalized emails and allowing admins to build and schedule a series of emails ahead of time that are automatically sent out to a list of recipients created from Constituent Manager or Group Manager.
Coordinating communications with those who submit applications or inquiries can significantly increase the effectiveness of your communications by sending emails at just the right time to maximize their open rate.
The Workflow Stats and Activity tabs allows Workflows admins to view email engagement to determine the effectiveness of each workflow. Use this tab to see when subscribers were added, when messages were opened, or when a workflow subscriber completed all steps in the workflow and reached the workflow goal. This valuable data can be used to build better, more engaging workflows in the future.
Divergent workflows paths can be created based on users who have and have not opened emails or clicked on links within emails. Users who regularly engage with the workflow can be taken down one path to keep receiving emails, while others can be dropped from the workflow on a path that leads to a dead end.
Continue to use inbound marketing tools to nurture and engage those who have joined your school community to maximize re-enrollment. Inbound marketing works just as effectively for engaging with current constituents as it does with reaching out to prospectives families.
You want your new school community members to regularly engage with your emails, blog, website, and social media so they see your school as a valuable resource and community asset they won’t want to lose. Remind parents of all the wonderful events and accomplishments of the past year to remind them that your school is the best fit for their child or children.
Finalsite and Ravenna have partnered to create an entirely online and vastly streamlined admissions process to save your school time, freeing your admissions team to focus on engaging prospective applicants and nurturing them through a more efficient funnel.
Finalsite’s inbound marketing tools, including Workflows and Messages, provide a better way to engage and nurture these applicants to overcome the common enrollment barriers and ultimately increase applications to meet your school’s admissions goals.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite’s Product Marketing Specialist, Andrew writes blogs and creates videos to share information about all the latest and greatest Finalsite products. Andrew has more than 10 years of video production experience and a journalism degree from the University of South Carolina. He has an incredible passion for movies, television, reading, and writing fantasy and science-fiction.
- Best Practices
- Email Marketing
- Inbound Marketing