It’s no secret that private school admission teams are entering an era of increased competition. From shrinking applicant pools to the growth of charter schools, new challenges dictate that independent schools be more focused on cultivating a robust student body and that communications and admission offices work together to align their goals and efforts. This is especially true when it comes to digital marketing. Here are some concrete tips to create your own digital marketing strategy for admission:
Talk with the Admission Office
As a marketer, you need to know your client—and that client is the admission office. What are the goals of the admission office? Are any of the goals tied to specific calendar months?
At Cheshire Academy, our admission office has four goals:
- Gather new leads.
- Convert leads into inquiries.
- Convert inquiries into applicants.
- Convert “accepted” applicants into “enrolled” students.
Each and every marketing tool we create has to serve one (or more) of these goals in order to successfully support our admission office.
Assess and Optimize Current Marketing Strategies
Before creating new marketing campaigns, it is essential to clean up the marketing tools already in place. Performing an assessment of your current tools frees up budget and time to focus on more effective marketing strategies.
At Cheshire Academy, we used Google Analytics to find out which private school directories were referring the most web traffic to our website. We focused our attention on the most effective directories, maximizing lead generation for each directory.
We also took a look at our print advertising. We cut down on printed ads that didn’t seem to have a measurable impact on lead generation and reallocated that money to a measurable Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign with landing pages designed to gather contact information from new leads.
Listen to Prospective Families
Cheshire Academy is known as “The Student-Centered School,” so it makes sense that listening to our current and future students is a key component of our strategy. As part of our website redesign (set to launch in mid-August 2014), we came up with four homepage designs and asked prospective families to vote on these designs during our annual Revisit Days.
We used what we learned to create a final homepage design that took into account the qualitative and quantitative feedback from prospective families. In addition, we decided to optimize internal pages of the website to focus on the student experiences and programs that families are most interested in.
Work (and Trust) Together
The most important key to making a successful digital marketing campaign for admission is to work together across departments and roles. For example, we send an email marketing campaign twice a month to leads interested in boarding schools. While the communications office writes and builds each email, admission sends the email list and approves or edits the email. This exchange—writing the content, sending the test email, receiving approval, receiving a list, and scheduling the email—has to happen quickly—in a matter of days— in order to be successful.
However, it’s also important to be efficient by dividing the work logically by expertise. Content writers should write; communications should not rely on admission for written content. Likewise, communications should not follow up with leads; that expertise lies in the admission department. Divide responsibilities according to strengths, and you’ll find that lag time between launching and finalizing campaigns will drop.
This year, Cheshire Academy saw one of its strongest admission seasons to date. Right now, we’re gearing up for another amazing year for admission with new tools (like the website redesign and SEM campaign) to support admission goals. It’s never too early to start your admission planning, so use these tips to work together with your admission department to create an effective, strategic digital marketing campaign!