Open house season is here! We're all eager to be back in person, so it’s time to think about how you can improve your school's digital marketing and online efforts to get even more qualified prospective families back on campus and into your enrollment funnel.
Take a moment to implement one, two, or all ten of these highly effective ways to promote and fill up your school's open houses so you can increase inquiries and support your admissions and enrollment goals.
Open House Promotion Tips For Schools
- Optimize Your Open House Landing Page
- Use a Page Pop
- Promote the Open House on Other Thank You Pages
- Write a Blog about Your School's Open House
- Use an Internal Website Call-to-Action (CTA)
- Take Your Open House Email Marketing to the Next Level
- Create a Seamless Registration Process for Families
- Harness the Power of Social Media
- Create a Teaser Video
- Invest in Paid Social and Search Ads
Before you begin marketing your open house there is one very important, foundational element to your campaign: the landing page.
The content of that landing page has to convince families to take time out of their weekend and make the trip — no matter the distance. Consider that someone who chooses to visit the open house section of your website will want more information before they sign up. Share your school's differentiators, as well as key information about what to expect at your open house.
It's time to transform it into something like this:
An open house landing page optimized to increase submissions has the following elements:
A video about the school
A short form or link that only asks for the information required for them to attend an open house
Information with dates, times, and what they will learn at each open house
Testimonials (within the video)
In addition to the landing page content, your form should also send them to a “thank you” page after registering. Your “thank you” page should have the following elements:
A way to say “thanks!” for RSVPing
Provide any additional information they need to know about the open house
Offer at least one more call-to-action to further bring them down the funnel, or provide content — such as blogs and news
Page Pops are extremely effective! Make sure your open house invite is seen by prospective families who are browsing your website. However, using the Page Pop strategically — and not plastering it across every page of your website — is key.
Consider adding a Page Pop to promote your open house on the following pages:
The Homepage: While this might seem intrusive to current families, they can easily select the “don’t show again” option to enhance their website experience. Additionally, Finalsite's Page Pops feature allows you to control when your Page Pop appears like after someone has scrolled through 50% of the page or they've been on the page for a custom elapsed time.
All Admissions Pages: If someone is visiting your admissions section on your site, they are clearly interested in learning more about your school — so adding a page pop to any (and all) of these pages is relevant and a good idea.
Key Prospective Family Entry Points: Use Google Analytics for a list of your top website entry points, and use that to determine any other pages outside of your Admission section that might be a draw for prospects — such as academics or campus life.
If you use the Finalsite Platform, you can easily select these pages in bulk, or one-by-one, using the “select pages” option in the Page Pop builder.
Because the editor uses the same WYSIWYG editor as Composer, you can also add photos and call-to-action buttons to make your Page Pop...well, pop! Add images and buttons to make your open house experience engaging from the start.
Just like how you can use the “thank you” page for your open house to promote other pieces of content and events, you can also use other “thank you” pages throughout your site to promote your open house.
If someone has filled out another form on your site where they have expressed interest — such as a contact form, a download viewbook form, or an inquiry form — adding an invite and additional information to the “thank you” page for that form can easily drive qualified prospects to your open house.
Ask a student (or students) who had previously attended an open house to write about their experience at the open house, and why other students should attend. Recruit a faculty or board member to write the post, but consider polling your community to find out the best things about your open house, and how it helped them make their decision. In this case, authentic testimonials and perspectives are key to writing a compelling piece.
A simple blog, such as “5 Reasons to Attend a [School Name] Open House,” is a valuable piece of content you can use on social media, on your website, and in email.
And of course, end the blog with a call-to-action to view open house dates and register!
Dead-end pages (pages that don’t have a suggested next step) are far-too-common on school websites. Use calls-to-action on internal pages — especially in your admissions section — to drive traffic to your open house landing page.
Most commonly, schools have a "visit" section on their website, which provides information on the different campus events. Be sure to make it easy to take that "next step" with a CTA button, as Sacred Heart Greenwich does in its Visit section.
It is also a great idea to link to your open house page directly from your admissions page, as some prospective families will be ready to make that leap immediately. For example, The Hun School of Princeton uses an interactive design element to drive traffic to key admissions pages, including its admission events page.
Other pages that make sense to include a call-to-action that links directly to open house registration include:
Main admissions landing page
"Why" [Our School]
Campus Map or Virtual Tour
Email marketing is still one of the best ways to reach prospective families. However, your email marketing must be done right to break through the noise.
Avoid plain text emails for this reason, and be sure to incorporate video and/or images, as well as bold CTAs to drive engagement. Consider the following email schedule:
6 weeks before the event: This should be your initial invite. Send to anyone you have in your database who has expressed interest in your school. This is your first opportunity to connect with prospective families, so ensure your email is visually engaging and shares important information like when, where, and most importantly — why?
1 month before the event: It’s time to send a reminder and a second invite. Maybe this time you get personal and create a video with a personal invite from your director of admission, or even head of school!
2 weeks before: As you get close to the event, it is important to capitalize on the timeliness and exclusivity of the event. Using terms like “space is almost filled up,” or “this is our last open house of the fall,” or “only at this open house, we’ll be showcasing [enter program here]” you can entice anyone who may be on the fence.
1 week before: This is the last call, and can utilize any of the strategies used in previous emails.
1-2 days before: This is the email that should be sent to registrants with everything they need to know about attending the event. You can also send out any forms they need to fill out prior to the open house to save time on the actual day of the open house.
1-2 days after (thank you): This is most likely the most important email you will send all year, as it is your best opportunity to engage prospective families who have visited campus. Send any additional content you’d like them to have, say “thanks” for attending, and include 1-2 additional calls-to-action to entice them to engage.
While this may seem like a lot of work for your admissions or marketing team, this can be a set-it-and-forget-it process.
Using the Finalsite Workflows module, you can automate this entire set of emails to be sent on certain dates at certain times. All you need to do is upload a list and activate!
Take a note from Mark Day School in CA. When families are ready, they can submit an inquiry, request a brochure, learn more about tuition, and even register for one, two, or all its admission events with one, mobile-friendly, branded form embedded on their school's website.
Using Finalsite’s enrollment management system, SchoolAdmin, families can easily register and even select and schedule their own meeting times, which saves the families AND school’s admission staff valuable time and so many headaches. And with the information collected through the form about the student's interests, goals, and passions, the admissions office can easily create and send families personalized communications straight to their inbox.
Social media is a key component of getting your school’s open house dates in front of prospective families. Bishop O'Connell High School created a Reel for its Instagram account to highlight its open house — Try one or more of the following best practices for promoting your event organically on social media:
Enlist influencers and evangelists: If you don’t have a large ad budget, enlisting influencers and evangelists from your community to share posts and content about your open houses on their personal profiles is a great way to grow awareness about your school. Social media users are much more likely to engage with someone they trust.
Update your social account images: Like your website, your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages also make a first impression — including reviews, comments, and graphics. One graphic we recommend updating throughout the year is your banner image on both your Facebook and Twitter accounts to reflect the time of year, or to promote an upcoming event. On Facebook, in particular, you can even update the call-to-action button beneath the banner image to link them directly to your open house landing page.
Use a Facebook event: Because Facebook events include the location and a complete list of those interested and attending, you have the opportunity to reach a greater audience organically.
Capitalize on fear of missing out (FOMO): Use branded hashtags, live video, and Instagram Reels to engage prospective families who didn’t attend your open house to keep them engaged with your brand. You can always send a follow-up email to non-attendees to show them what they missed, or use that content to promote a future open house.
Create a 30-60 second teaser video that showcases the action and excitement of what an Open House is like and share it across social media, on your website, landing pages, and in your email marketing. Incorporate a mix of action shots, lots of happy faces, and squeeze in 1-2 testimonials if time allows.
Creating social media ads is a bit of a science. Use geo-targeting to promote your open house, but keep the targeting pretty tight in terms of geography (usually about 50 miles from the school) and target parents who have children within the desired age range.
For example, if it's an open house for upper school, target parents with children between 13-17:
Use a Facebook pixel to re-target prospective families who have visited certain pages of your site.
A third option is to create a lookalike audience of your current page fans, too, as those are most likely your student's parents, and Facebook will be able to identify similarities between those parents to target as well.
It's important to note that if you're using social media ads to increase open house attendance, you will get the most ROI out of reaching individuals who are already familiar with your school, rather than trying to reach someone totally new. Attending an open house is a big "ask" and is most applicable for individuals in the "consideration stage" of the admissions/inbound funnel. For this reason, using a Facebook pixel to retarget website visitors, or uploading a list of emails, will provide the biggest ROI — and this is critically important for schools working with smaller ad budgets.
In addition to social media ads, you can also invest in paid search ads. Because more than 90% of all online experiences begin in search, investing ad dollars into paid search ads can drive new, qualified traffic to prospective families looking to invest in private school education.
Getting prospective families to campus requires multiple, strategic touchpoints — especially in a world of noise. Implement the strategies suggested above for your most successful open house season yet!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.