Baylor School & Finalsite Advantage
Connecting the dots between Marketing & Admissions to create a winning approach
Baylor is busy. As a private, coeducational college-preparatory school in Chattanooga, Tennessee, over a thousand students from over twenty countries around the globe are learning how they can make a positive difference in the world. And for boarding students in grades nine-twelve, Baylor is their “home away from home.”
With the tagline “Baylor Leads”, the school has a reputation for being a leader in education and for creating lasting relationships. “We're leading in connecting with families and leaving a good impression,” shared Barbara Kennedy, director of external affairs at Baylor School.
In an ongoing effort to reach new families and support enrollment goals, the school has been implementing best practices with its digital marketing and inbound marketing efforts — creating personas, building landing pages, SEO & PPC ads, social ads, and more. “But what we didn't have,” added Kennedy, “was a way to connect all of what the marketing team was doing with the admissions team.”
“How do we connect the dots?”
At a Glance
Founded in 1893, Baylor School is a private, coeducational college-preparatory school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The school currently sits atop a 690-acre campus and enrolls students in grades 6-12, including boarding students in grades 9-12.
The Challenge — Strategy and Planning
Baylor faced a challenge so many other schools encounter — when admissions offices are meeting with families and marketing offices are busy creating content, there’s little time to make strategy a priority.
The Baylor team sought guidance on how to plan and execute a strategy to support their mid-and end-funnel communications to inquiries and applicants — an effort that needed to focus on improving yield within boarding families. Understandably, they wanted a sustainable strategy that supported their goals, year after year. Whether prospective families and their students chose to enroll this year or next, Baylor needed to give prospective candidates a strong, positive impression of the school.
“Finalsite Advantage definitely brought a skillset to us that we were missing...It's like any business or school where you have the tools, but you're not fully using them to the extent that they can be used.”
DIRECTOR OF EXTERNAL AFFAIRS
The Solution — Finalsite Advantage
“We had a clear mandate to increase our boarding enrollment,” Kennedy shared. “That's been the focus of a lot of our marketing strategy and where we've been putting our efforts.”
That’s when Baylor turned to Finalsite Advantage for its school marketing strategy and support.
To begin the project, Baylor’s admissions and marketing teams met with Finalsite’s Tracy Tigchelaar, a lead school strategy expert from the Advantage team, to understand Baylor’s needs and gain a clear picture of the school and its community.
Tracy explained, “Without a doubt the most successful Advantage clients are the ones where we get the admissions and marketing teams together. When both parties are committed to playing their part, that is when the magic happens!”
“From our very first meeting, Tracy helped set the tone that this has to be a priority,” Kennedy said. “Having that focus, and the time set aside to work with each other and with her each week was key — she really helped us understand each other's worlds a little better.”
Working in close consultation with Baylor’s talented team, Finalsite Advantage is a collaborative process, designed as a partnership to empower the school to achieve its ambitions. After a thorough “discovery process,” plans with short, medium, and long-term goals were developed targeting the school’s boarding inquiries and applicants.
“Finalsite Advantage definitely brought a skillset to us that we were missing,” Kennedy shared. “It's like any business or school where you have the tools, but you're not fully using them to the extent that they can be used.”
The Approach — Working Together
The Advantage service helped Baylor reconsider their overall marketing content strategy and how it was being applied to the admissions journey. “Baylor’s approach had always been that if you’ve got great content you should share it,” Tracy explained. “The challenge was that they were essentially saturating prospective families with content so early in the funnel that by the time a family applied or was offered a place, there was nothing new to share. It’s very hard to retain someone’s interest or get them excited about the content they’ve already seen.”
“Working with Tracy redirected our thinking about withholding some information and distributing it more strategically through our nurture campaigns, and that was a completely new way of thinking for us,” Kennedy said.
While the marketing team tackled the practical aspects of the work, the Baylor admissions team played an essential role in sharing their insight and what they felt their families needed at each stage of the funnel. Director of Enrollment Ryan Armstrong attended meetings and provided regular input, which helped shape the overall strategy.
Using Finalsite’s email marketing tool, Messages, and its inbound counterpart Workflows, to develop automated email nurture campaigns, the team first worked to engage and nurture families who had previously inquired but not yet applied.
They developed a series of custom emails, sent out over a three-week period, that focused on answering frequently asked questions about boarding life. But the campaign involved more than just email — each message featured targeted calls-to-action (CTAs) leading to multiple custom landing pages with newly created testimonial-style content.
“We were doing okay with the Finalsite tools, but we're not experts,” Kennedy said. “Through Advantage, Tracy brought us to a whole new level by providing not just strategic intelligence, but also high-level technical expertise on the back-end of the workflows,” Kennedy said.
Following the ‘top/mid-funnel” campaign, the team turned their attention to supporting the Admission office’s aim of increasing their yield. Tracy explained, “Getting students to apply is one thing, but with such a competitive marketplace we knew we needed to focus on being top of mind and sharing engaging content during that decision-making window once offers went out.”
Baylor’s ‘Accepted Students Campaign’ featured a series of five to six custom emails sent over a predefined period on specific dates which directly aligned with admission deadlines. With content like video interviews about dorm life, activities around campus on weekends, Baylor’s dining services, and “top-10” lists about student life, each email worked to create a sense of excitement around boarding life at Baylor. They featured specific calls-to-action to encourage families to complete the enrollment process or contact admissions for more information.
The Results — Strategy and Confidence
Now, Baylor is measuring success through email metrics like open and click-through rates, comparing acceptance rates, and then following up with families with surveys, regardless of their decision to enroll this year.
“We're definitely seeing an increase in the admission numbers and our efforts are a part of that,” Kennedy said. Paired with Finalsite’s admissions and enrollment software, SchoolAdmin, Baylor will be able to see even more results from their efforts, gaining important analytics on conversion, admissions pipelines, and year-over-year yield.
“Even if they didn't choose Baylor this year, I feel like families had a really favorable impression of the content that we’re putting out,” Kennedy added. “In addition to helping support the admissions office reach its goals, these campaigns have been excellent PR for Baylor.”
Because of Baylor’s rolling admissions, they still have families who are in the admission process, which doesn’t mean the work is over. Families are still “enrolled” in the automatic workflow, and Baylor has plans for creating a “nice to know” campaign for families who have just enrolled, offering more information about their deans, summer reading lists, and important information for the start of the school year.
“We are coming up with some really fun, light, touch-points for them to get them excited about coming,” Kennedy said. “It’s a long few months between March and August and if this keeps one or two families from getting cold feet and changing their minds, it's worth it. It's going to reinforce that we care and get them looking forward to coming.”
Supported by the Advantage team, Baylor succeeded in creating a new strategy featuring a range of clear initiatives in a short amount of time, while also becoming more familiar with the Finalsite tools available to them.
“We knew that if we were going to get the return on our investment of working with the Advantage service, we had to be committed,” Kennedy said. “It’s evergreen content and an evergreen strategy so the work that we're doing now will pay dividends in the coming years.”
“It's given our team even more confidence.”
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