- Independent Schools
Congratulations! Registrations for your school’s recent virtual open house were higher than ever and your program went off without a hitch (thank the Zoom gods). Attendance was decent and your inquiry pool was engaged and asked thoughtful questions.
That’s great, but now what?
The next step is creating an effective follow-up strategy for your virtual open house. Now is the time to work on converting those amazing students and parents into amazing families who actually enroll. Cultivating those precious leads this winter and throughout the spring could decide what your enrollment looks like next fall.
Besides, your admissions and marketing/communication offices worked hard to plan for your virtual open house, capture interest, and generate those leads—don’t let those efforts go to waste.
Let’s dive into strategies for your virtual open house follow-up and drive those conversions! But first...what’s the deal with all these virtual open house registrations?
Enrollment Bumps: A Good Problem to Have
Despite the pandemic, many independent schools are experiencing an unexpected enrollment boost; a spike reinforced by increased attendance at virtual open houses, a wave of inquiries flooding our inboxes, and extended waitlists that didn’t exist last year. With COVID-19 restrictions in place, many schools’ virtual open house RSVPs are exceeding their in-person, pre-pandemic open house attendance.
In many ways, today’s open house registration is the new inquiry—while on-campus tours and in-person meetings are on hold for many, an effortless, “low-risk” open house registration for families removes the barrier to entry and has your inquiry pool flooded.
That’s good new and bad news.
A larger inquiry pool doesn't necessarily mean a more interested audience. With a larger, less committed group, it’s critical schools hold families’ interest and keep the conversations going through that all-too-long decision-making process. After all, the commitment is lower for families; they can Zoom from the comfort of their own home.
An effective virtual open house follow-up strategy that is spearheaded by a personalized “thank you,” and accompanied by two to three additional touch points (based on attendance) to drive conversions is a great starting point.
Step 1: Send A Meaningful Thank You
Your future families rock. They took time out of their busy schedules to attend your virtual open house, so it’s so important to send them a thoughtful thank you email and let them know it’s appreciated. But what do you say and when do you say it?
A Video Message with the Recording
When? 24-36 hours after open house
One video message for the group would suffice, but if your attendee list was a manageable size (for smaller offices, that may mean 10, and for larger offices that may be 40), think about sending a brief individualized thank you video email message, which can add a highly personalized touch to your efforts and deeply resonate with your families. You don’t have to break out the lighting equipment and video gear (think Zoom), but greet them by their name, say how nice it was to meet them and their family, and offer to continue the conversation and answer any additional questions they may have. They’ll be blown away by the time you took.
The Open House Event Recording
Don’t forget to include a link to the recording of the open house with your thank you email so your families can review all those details you had to gloss over. Give them the flexibility and convenience (they expect) to consume the content at their leisure.
Pro Tip: Be sure to trim off any of those first and last awkward moments of the recording’s start and end—it will help polish the presentation and dive right into the content.
A Thank You Letter
When? Two weeks after the open house
A personalized message can go a long way, but why not go a step further? Go “old school,” and send a handwritten note. If you’ve collected mailing addresses during your event’s registration, now’s the perfect time to craft a handwritten thank you note and engage your families off-screen. Throw in a bumper sticker (you have thousands of them), your viewbook, a keychain, a notebook, or maybe even some school swag as another way to say thanks.
Did current parents or students join a panel during your virtual open house? Leverage your all-star students and families and have them write the thank you notes and continue to share their experiences.
Providing a thoughtful note to your families is a nice personal touch, but the effort leads to another important strategy...
A Message for the “No Shows”
When? 24-36 hours after open house
It’s great your registration numbers were so high, but what if live attendance was low? Let’s face it, we’re so quick to fill out those RSVP forms, but life happens, right? We can’t always make it live, especially if you held your virtual open house during The Bachelorette (rookie mistake).
Dive into your data, segment your audience by who didn’t attend live, and customize an email specifically for them. Check your email open rates and click through rates, then compare it to your live attendee list to get an idea of who couldn’t make it. Lead with a time-sensitive incentive like the important application deadlines you mentioned, but they may have missed. Think, “In case we missed you, here’s the recording we promised you.”
This is also an opportunity to direct them back to your Admissions website where they’ll be able to find even more resources about your school. Charlotte Country Day School does an amazing job at hosting all their recent open house content for families to browse at their convenience. If families missed their live event—no worries, their Zoom recordings and open house resources are all right there.
The fall virtual events at Suffield Academy may have come to a close, but they’re keeping their page live with open house recordings and a helpful guide to their admission process.
Step 2: Keep the Open House Open
When? ASAP, once the recording is available
Your virtual open house may be over, but don’t slam the door on your families! Keep the party going and keep your registration page live. With a few keystrokes in Forms Manager, transform the open house registration form into a “recording request form” and you’ll still be able to collect those precious leads. Creating this kind of “gated content” will help you acquire the data you need about your families’ demographics and interests, which will only help fuel your enrollment goals.
Hyperlink the URL of the recording in the auto-response sent with the form submission:
“Hi Maria! Thanks so much for requesting a recording of our recent open house! Watch the entire recording here [link] . We’re sorry we missed you live, but please let us know if you have any questions about our school or the application process—talk to you soon!”
After Canford's virtual open house, they revamped their open house page and collected constituent information through a form in exchange for the recording of their open house event. It’s a great opportunity to gather some leads and still make the information available to families.
Pro Tip: When your families submit the form, use Finalsite’s Composer to redirect them to a thank you landing page with the recording embedded on the page, along with some more content like parent and student testimonials or fast facts. Give them more reasons to keep reading and to explore your school's digital campus. Derby Academy’s Thank You page hosts the open house recording, along with a parent testimonial and their viewbook to download.
Bonus Pro Tip: This is a great opportunity to promote your recent virtual open house on your social, too. Thank your attendees across your social channels and encourage others to request their recording today. Pin the tweet with the URL or paste the open house page into your Instagram bio.
Step 3: Enroll Attendees in a Follow-Up Drip Campaign
When? Seven - ten days after the open house
“Oh, we forgot to mention…”
A great time to “conveniently remember” some amazing highlights that weren't mentioned during your open house is shortly after your live event ends. Time slipped away and you just happened to forget a few things during your presentation. If you’ve entered your attendees into an email drip campaign, draft an email with a listicle (i.e. 21 Reasons You’ll Love [School Name] of your recent school’s highlights and differentiators.
Has your Model UN Club recently added another award to their growing list of accomplishments? Did your students just volunteer with a service organization? How did your school adapt one of your signature programs this fall? Circle back with your registrants and remind them that there’s so much more to your school — and your community — than what was presented during that 45 minute Zoom.
Finalsite’s Virtual Admissions Expert Course outlines the framework for an effective drip campaign once your families have registered for your open house. Don’t forget to include engaging subject lines and your all-important calls to action to drive conversions.
The follow-up emails from Woods Academy keep their families interested by continuing to provide insight into their programs and school community, long after the initial inquiry.
Step 4: Save the Date for Your Next Virtual Event
When? Four- six weeks before your next virtual event
Start planning your next admission’s event now and make sure your previous open house registrants know about it. Maybe it's another open house, or maybe it’s a virtual chat with your division heads or athletic director. With this group, exclusivity is key. So, give them early access to registration, a sneak peek at what’s to come and stir up some excitement, or offer them an incentive to register early and be entered to win some of your school’s awesome swag. It’s never too early to start thinking about your next virtual event and how to involve a segment of your prospective families who may find value in what you have to offer.
That’s a lot to consider, so let’s recap with this chart:
Your recent virtual open house created a buzz unlike your school has ever seen (air high-five), but with pandemic restrictions in place, your inquiry and enrollment boosts could be a bubble waiting to pop. Your independent school will need to develop an effective virtual open house follow-up strategy to capitalize on a collective audience that is weighing their options during an unpredictable time. However, your ability to effectively engage and convert your prospective families over the next few months may be a decisive factor in what your enrollment looks like next fall.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mia is a creative and passionate school marketing thought-leader. Since joining the Finalsite team in 2013, Mia has produced hundreds of pieces of content with one goal in mind: helping private, public, and international schools improve their online presence. In her current role as director of demand generation, Mia focuses on full-funnel inbound marketing strategies. She's also a co-host on The School Marketing Show, a frequent blogger, e-book author, Expert Course consultant and webinar host. She loves putting storytelling at the heart of all communications — and before joining the Finalsite team, Mia was a TV and radio broadcaster, wedding cinematographer, and author for various online magazines. She is an army wife, mom, and rookie photographer currently living in southern Georgia.
- Marketing & Inbound Strategy
- Virtual Admissions