- Independent Schools
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Open house season is just around the corner — and it’s never too early to start thinking about how you can improve your school's digital marketing efforts to get even more qualified prospective students on campus.
Take the time now, before campus gets busy again, to implement one, two, or all ten of these highly effective ways to promote and fill up your school's open houses.
1. Optimize Your Open House Landing Page
Before you begin promoting your open house (using the tips below!), there is one very important, foundational element to your open house campaign: the landing page.
The content of that landing page has to convince them to take time out of their weekend and make the trip — no matter the distance — to spend the day on your campus. Sending them via a Call-to-Action (CTA) to an “Open House Form” hosted by your admissions platform or SIS isn’t enough. You have to take into consideration that someone who chooses to visit the open house section of your website will want more information before they sign up. Take the time to share your school's unique differentiators, as well as key information about what to expect at your open house.
If your open house registration page looks something like this:
It's time to transform it into something like this:
An open house landing page optimized to increase submissions has the following elements:
- Value propositions
- A video about the school
- A short form 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. If you’re using Finalsite Forms Manager for your Open House RSVP, you can automatically set up a thank you page using the notifications and redirects tab in Forms Manager. (You can learn more about how to do that in this blog post.)
Your “thank you” page should have the following elements:
- A way to, essentially, 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
(We have an entire blog on “thank you” pages that you can read here, too!)
On-Demand Webinar: How to Build Landing Pages that Convert Using Finalsite Composer
2. Use a Page Pop
Page Pops are an extremely effective make sure your open house invite is seen by prospective families who are browsing your website. Woodward Academy has been using Finalsite Page Pops since 2015, after the simple implementation of a Page Pop led to a 20% increase in open house attendance.
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 new timed Page Pops feature allows you to control when your Page Pop appears. The Page Pop can appear 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 calls-to-action to make your open house experience engaging from the start.
3. Promote the Open House on Other Thank You Pages
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 inquiry form — adding an invite an additional information to the “thank you” page for that form can easily drive qualified prospects to your open house.
You can also use a Page Pop on these pages to create a notification that prospects can’t miss. We use this at Finalsite, and grew our blog subscription exponentially by doing so!
4. Write a Blog about Your School's 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. If you work at a K-8 school, you’ll have to 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, your website, and in email.
And of course, end the blog with a call-to-action to view open house dates and register!
5. Use an Internal Website Call-to-Action (CTA)
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 of 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, like Sacred Heart Greenwich does in their 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 their open house page.
Other pages that make sense to include a call-to-action that link directly to open house registration include:
- Main admissions landing page
- "Why" [Our School]
- Campus Life
- Specialty Programs
- Campus Map or Virtual Tour
Or, if you dare to be bold like Hebron Academy, skip the call-to-action and invite website visitors to fill out a (short!) RSVP form directly on your admissions events page with a friendly headline.
6. Take Your Open House Email Marketing to the Next Level
Email marketing is still one of the best ways to reach prospective families — including millennials and baby boomers. 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.
Additionally, free tools like Soapbox and Vidyard GoVideo allow you to create personalized custom, trackable videos completely free of charge. We use them here at Finalsite, and our email engagement rates have skyrocketed — so we highly recommend giving them a whirl!
In case you’re wondering “how much is too much?” consider the following email schedule:
- 2 months 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 second invite. Maybe this time you get personal and create a Vidyard 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. Check out this example from Western Reserve Academy, which was created using Finalsite’s eNotify email tool:
- 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. For example, Lawrence School uses Finalsite's email marketing tool, Messages, to create a follow-up email that includes links to videos about their school and affording the school’s tuition.
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!
Want to save time and improve your email marketing for open houses? Learn more about Finalsite Workflows today!
7. Jazz Up Your Email Signature
Your personal email signature is a great way to promote your school’s open house (or any event, for that matter). We recommend using WiseStamp to create a custom email footer that can easily be added to almost any email provider, including Gmail and Outlook. The tool lets you create banners, add links, your headshot, and other custom features to personalize your email signature.
8. Harness the Power of Social Media
Social media is an obvious and key component of getting your school’s open house dates in front of prospective families. Try one or more of the following best practices for promoting your open house 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 than a brand anyways!
- Update your Facebook and Twitter banner images: Like your website, your Facebook 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): Using branded hashtags, live video, and Instagram stories 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.
9. Create a Teaser Video
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.
10. Invest in Paid Social and Search Ads
However, if you choose to run ads on your own, here are a few suggestions:
- Use geo-targeting to promote your open house. We typically 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.
What about print ads? You ask. Well, this is a question we get a lot because it is very hard to prove the ROI of these ads, they are expensive, and you have no idea who is reading them, and when. So, here’s a pro tip: create a new open house landing page and form, made specifically for your print ads. This way, you can directly monitor the traffic and submissions from print ads vs. your digital ads to determine where the smartest place is to allocate your budget!
Getting prospective families to campus requires multiple, strategic touchpoints — especially in a world of noise. Implement the strategies suggested in this blog post for your most successful open house season yet!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than six years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting a webinar, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.