For many schools, the submission of the "inquiry" form is the first opportunity the admissions team will have to connect with a family. And earning that initial conversion has never been more difficult.
But that isn't just because of COVID-19. Millennial parents — the parents that are bringing in the "next generation" of students — have posed one of the greatest hurdles for the entire education industry as a whole: a declining birth rate. As a generation, millennials are having less children, and having them later in life. They are taking longer to settle down. They have more debt. They are cautious, private, and spend a lot of time researching before they are willing to share their information with anyone.
Couple a decline in applicant pool with skeptical parents who spend more time researching — from asking strangers in Facebook groups to endless Google searches — than filling out inquiry forms, it's no surprise independent schools have been seeking ways to increase awareness, inquiries and enrollment.
One small piece of the puzzle for increasing inquiries is the inquiry landing page itself. While in-person admissions events have come to a halt, the world of virtual admissions is very much alive — and a compelling inquiry page can mean the difference between getting a new prospective family in the funnel or not.
What is the inquiry landing page?
The term "landing page" can be confusing because it has so many different meanings:
- In Google Analytics, the term is used to define any page someone lands on from search.
- In web design, it's the page in-between your homepage and interior pages — AKA your main navigation items: Admissions, Athletics, Giving, etc.
- In inbound marketing, it's a page that is specifically designed to drive conversions (AKA, inquiries, applications, open house replies, content offer downloads, etc).
The inquiry landing page — among other conversion opportunities landing pages — are unique because:
- They always have a short form with one call-to-action
- They often actually remove the main navigation and other "exit" points to increase the opportunity for conversion
- They require a very specific layout and content strategy — one that can virtually be used across any inquiry, event, or content offer page.
And, we'll dive into that specific layout and content strategy now! Here are the five most important elements that go into building an admissions inquiry page that is proven to increase conversion rates.
1) A Value Proposition
Just because someone landed on your inquiry page, doesn't mean they are totally sold on actually inquiring. For individuals who land on this page via a paid ad, a social media post, an email, or even your school's homepage, they likely need some further convincing that they're ready to inquire.
Your school's value proposition should dominate the top of the page. It will be the first thing a site visitor's eyes glance over before determining whether or not they should stay on the page. This is your chance to make a statement about why someone should apply to your school.
In other words, the header on your landing page shouldn't be "Inquire Now," or "Admissions Inquiry." You're throwing a grand opportunity out the window. Use it to say something about the experience at your school.
This example from The Paragon School in Florida is particularly well done.
Your landing page value proposition should consist of three main elements:
- A header: Your main value proposition
- A sub header: A secondary statement that provides additional information
- A re-affirming statement: Located about one-third or one-half of the way down the page, this statement is intended to re-affirm the value proposition after they've scanned the page for additional content
Boston Trinity Academy has these value propositions perfected on their inquiry page:
Free Value Proposition Worksheet and Template
2) A Compelling Photo or Video
Landing pages with video have higher conversion rates than those that don't — up to 80% higher, actually — so incorporating an admissions video is key. You can repurpose a video from anywhere on your site, but keep it on the shorter side.
If you don't have the budget or resources to put together an admissions video, you have a few additional options:
- Create a photo slideshow to share on the page instead
- Collect testimonials from faculty, students, and parents (via zoom or a smartphone!) and compile them into a 60-second video
- Ask a couple of members from your admissions team to create a zoom video to embed on the page. Families will love hearing from admissions faculty directly at this stage in their journey.
In this example from The Woods Academy, the school's Director of Admission shares a quick 30-second welcome to prospective families. Something this simple could work on your inquiry page as well — no production required!
3) A Quick List of Benefits or Facts
Do you have the best STEM program in the state? What's your student-to-faculty ratio? How many extracurricular do you have?
Think about the biggest and most important "wow" factors that set your school apart, and make them easy-to-scan. Use a bulleted list or infographic to accomplish this.
For example, you can set up a simple list of facts at Latin School of Chicago:
Or, incorporate an infographic as Montclair Kimberley Academy does:
Pro Tip: Repurpose content from other areas of your website! You don't need to come up with all new fresh content for your inquiry page. Copy-and-paste the same stats or quotes used on your homepage or "Why" page. Just because they exist elsewhere does not guarantee prospective families have seen them!
4) Social Proof
Bring in the testimonials! Whether you choose to have video or text testimonials, incorporate social proof that your school is worth the investment. Quotes from parents, students, faculty and alumni are key to increasing conversions, as over 70% of Americans say they look at reviews before making a purchase/decision, and 63% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase/devision from a site that has ratings and reviews.
This video in The Summit Country Day School's admissions section is the perfect video to add to an inquiry page! The voices of alumni are compelling and authentic.
5) A Simple Form With a Call to Action
This best practice is often a sticking point for schools. Admissions and IT want the inquiry data to go directly into the SIS or admissions software. However, these platforms often don't offer the best user experience. Just check this one out:
Whoa — that's intimidating!
Let's take a step back and put ourselves in the shoes of a prospective family. When they are ready to inquire, they are simply ready to learn more – that's it! This is a lot of information to ask someone to provide early on in their journey, and you are likely going to miss out on a lot of potential leads by having a form like this for your inquiries.
Rather than directing prospective students off your site to another form from your SIS, incorporate a form on the landing page with about six form fields. Then, have the call-to-action button on the form be the only call-to-action on the page.
Once prospects have submitted the form, you can redirect them to a "Thank You" page. On this page, you can incorporate additional calls to action and content to keep their journey going. Using Forms Manager, you can also send an automated email to the family.
Building Your School's Admissions Landing Page in Composer
Using Composer, Finalsite's CMS, it's easy to drag, drop, and build an awesome admissions landing page in minutes. I got permission from Derby Academy to build a new inquiry page on their website because they use Forms Manager for their inquiries, so let's go!
Their original inquiry page looks like this:
While there is nothing wrong with this page as is — the form is rather short, everything performs well on mobile, and the content is helpful and direct — we could kick it up a notch following the best practices outlined in this blog.
The new page has more than just a form, it has:
- A value proposition
- A video featuring admissions faculty
- Fast facts about the school
I was able to re-build their landing page in just under 15 minutes! Let's take a look at how you can too using Finalsite Composer.
Pro Tip: Before you get started building, think of any elements you love on your site that you want to incorporate on your landing page. Maybe you have testimonials on your homepage you'd like to bring in, or a list of fast facts. Simply select the element you want to use on your landing page, and make it a "Shared Element." This way, you can easily bring it into your landing page. You can also use the new copy and paste feature.
Now let's get started!
Step 1: Under your "Admissions" parent page, create a new page for your inquiry landing page (if you don't have one already).
Step 2: Once you have the page created, enter Compose mode, and then select the layout that looks like this:
This layout will allow you to add all the necessary elements for a successful landing page in an organized layout that also works great on mobile devices.
Step 3: Once the layout is selected, on the page, you'll want to add some content and layout elements, including:
- One content block in a single panel
- A two-column layout
- A bottom panel in a layout of your choosing depending on content (infographic, testimonials, etc.)
The top content block is for your value proposition. It's important that the term "inquiry" is in this block in an H1 tag for SEO. Repurpose a value proposition from elsewhere on your site, or come up with something new! Keep it to two lines.
Your two-column layout is to place your inquiry form and compelling content side-by-side. Before deciding which side to add your form to, take mobile traffic into consideration. The content in the left column will stack above the content in the right column on mobile. So, if you want the form to show first on mobile, be sure it is in the left column!
The column without the form can have:
- Your video or photo content
- Your supplemental value proposition content — such as fast facts, or bullets that answer "why your school"
At the bottom of the page, your final content block may have additional content you have that you would like to share — such as an infographic or additional testimonials.
Step 4: Don't forget your form button!
Wondering how to change the text on a button from "submit" to something of your choosing? In the form itself in Forms Manager click "show" next to form layout, and customize the button!
A well-structured admissions inquiry page can increase the number of families who actually complete the form — and good news, these practices can be applied to other pages on your site as well! Giving pages, virtual open houses, and content offer downloads can all benefit by following the five steps outlined in this post.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Director of Demand Generation, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV and news reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.