The holidays are the most chaotic time of the year for nearly everyone — but especially for parents. From shopping, traveling, and hosting gatherings to attending various church, school, or community functions, most families spend December striving to squeeze in as many memories as possible. Plus, with kids on break and looking for entertainment at all hours of the day, parents are also typically a bit frazzled.
With all the merrymaking and obligations, it’s not unusual for other things to fall to the wayside during this jam-packed season — which is why, as we approach the year’s end, admissions often slows to a halt. Worse, some prospects go cold for good.
Fortunately, with a bit of strategic lead nurturing and reliable admissions software, you can keep up the momentum throughout the holidays — without creating extra work for yourself or your team.
Here’s what we suggest:
1. Create automated workflows
As an admissions professional, you probably feel just as overwhelmed as the busy parents you engage every day. And much like the families you serve, you’re hoping to squeeze in plenty of relaxation and time with loved ones before the season ends. Unfortunately, admissions pros often feel pressured to continue working through the holidays lest you start the new year with a stagnant pipeline.
This is where email automation comes in handy. Email automation empowers you to create a group of emails, and then “set-it-and-forget-it.” Emails will automatically send based on strategic timing and engagement parameters that you set in advance so that you can kick engagement up a notch while you kick up your feet by the fire.
What should your emails include?
- Recent Highlights: Consider doing a roundup of the most exciting student achievements from the past semester or spotlight award-winning faculty, like your teacher of the year.
- Personalized Content: Personalized content is proven to increase email engagement — so use these emails as a chance to get as personal as possible. For example, if you know which students are interested in your hockey program, you might send their parents the January calendar so they can make plans to catch a game.
No automation platform? No problem. Schedule a handful of strategic and personalized emails in advance to hit key prospects in your pipeline throughout the holiday season.
- Email Automation Best Practices: 8 Tips For Getting Started
- 3 Email Campaign Ideas For Enrollment And Retention
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2. Invite families to attend school holiday events
While many families spend the holiday season racing from one event to another, others may be looking for new ways to enjoy their time together. This is the perfect time to get prospects on your campus and introduce families to your school’s culture and community. Consider inviting parents to plays, choral performances, band and orchestra concerts, holiday markets, or other end-of-year happenings. You might also schedule a special holiday informational session or open house with age-appropriate activities for kids, like cookie decorating, a hot cocoa station, and seasonal games.
Also, keep families abreast of events after the holidays too. Once the new year begins, people’s calendars fill up fast, and the sooner you can get on their radar, the better.
You can use the automated email campaigns you’re already building, create special event invites in lieu of an automated campaign, or add the event information into prospective family communications you’re already sending (since we all know their inboxes are in overdrive this time of year).
3. Spread holiday cheer from your school on social media
We know that it’s unlikely that prospective families are visiting your website during their holiday break — but they’re definitely spending a ton of time on social media. Therefore, one of the best ways to stay top-of-mind this season is to offer value to families through high-quality written, visual, and video content on our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Here are a few examples:
- A blog post of the best local family-friendly activities during the end of the year
- A holiday reading list for adults and children written by someone from your language arts department
- A video roundup of the best educational apps to keep kids engaged over the break shared by your school’s tech expert
- A collection of seasonal crafts and activities developed by your school’s fine arts department
- Showcase some of the amazing holiday gifts your students created in your school’s STEM lab or MakerSpace, like 3D-printed ornaments or models designed using CAD software.
- An infographic with tips for less stressful family holiday travel
- A list of the top educational gifts and links to small businesses where parents can find them
Gilman School recently tweeted about their students creating 3D-printed toys that were sent as holiday gifts to a local charity. It’s a great blend of highlighting the school’s STEM program, community service, and spreading some cheer during the holidays.
Sharing valuable content — especially content created by faculty and staff — is lead nurturing gold. It’s a great way to earn prospects’ trust while also showcasing your experts’ tremendous knowledge.
It could be as simple as sharing some fun moments between students, just like Cor Jesus did. Their sophomore class took a moment during their busy academic schedule to come together for a festive gingerbread house decorating activity. Sharing those moments on social media can help give prospective families a look into the culture and community of your school.
4. Send a gift or holiday greeting
Let prospective families know how much you care by sending a token of your appreciation. Depending on your budget, you might send some school swag, like a winter hat, or a 2022 planner with your school logo. If you’re comfortable spending more, or you want to do something extra-special for prospects closer to the bottom of the funnel, you may want to consider sending a curated holiday gift basket. This could include items like a board game, hot cocoa mix, and school-branded fuzzy socks for the whole family.
If you don’t have the time or budget to be sending out gifts, create a special holiday greeting. A simple holiday card or recorded video message with a festive song performed by your school's chorus can give families “all the feels.” Either option is affordable and gives a personal touch.
5. Follow-up immediately after the New Year
Lastly, don’t wait too long to get back in touch with prospects after winter break. Even if parents go silent during the holidays, it’s crucial you re-engage them as quickly as possible in the New Year.
Consider creating a personalized campaign specifically for those who haven’t engaged over the break. Wish them a wonderful start to their new year, and invite them into campus to see what's in store for 2022. Depending on where they are in the admissions funnel, you might invite them for a campus visit, host a virtual coffee date where you can answer questions face-to-face, or send an automated reminder about upcoming important dates — like admission or financial aid deadlines.
Speed is critical here. The longer a prospect goes without hearing from you, the more likely they will lose interest, research another school, or put the decision on the back-burner indefinitely.
For busy parents, the holiday season can be a gauntlet filled with events and activities consuming their attention. It’s not unusual for prospects to be slightly less engaged than usual. By creating a few well-timed lead nurturing touch points throughout the holidays, you can ensure prospective families stay in the funnel and begin the New Year with a healthy enrollment pipeline.
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, eBooks, and reports, including Finalsite's Inbound Marketing Benchmark Report.