A Checklist for Maximizing Student Enrollment Online

Lou
Kotsinis

If your school follows a fall/winter recruiting cycle, now is the time to put resources and effort into maximizing student enrollment online. Students and their families are already exploring schools, but given the pandemic, they’re spending more time online than ever before. It’s crucial to use digital marketing tactics now to get in front of this audience-in-waiting, build awareness of your school and attract inquiries to your admissions team.

Here, I’ve provided a checklist of digital marketing tactics for maximizing student enrollment online, which I’ve divided into two categories:

Immediate-Return Tactics: tactics that you can put in place right away that if properly implemented, will result in traffic and inquiries over the short-term. Nurtured over time, these tactics can potentially drive a steady flow of in-bound leads.

Structural Tactics: tactics that you should always have in place and that will form the foundation of your online awareness efforts. These will require more time to take root, but will eventually bring in higher-quality prospects that are matched well to your school, and that are further along in their decision-making process.

Today I’m going to focus on the Immediate-Return tactics; this will allow you to work with those processes that have the highest chance of bringing in prospective students right now. I’ll share Structural Tactics in a future post, after you’ve had time to work on what we’re discussing today.

Please note that you don’t necessarily need to do all of these, but you should try to experiment with as many as you can, measure results and see what mix produces the best outcome.

Green checkmark in a green circleA Checklist for Maximizing Student Enrollment Online (Immediate-Return Tactics):

  • 1. Social Media Advertising
  • I’m surprised by how many schools underutilize this effective means of student acquisition. The level of detail at which social media platforms are able to target a specific demographic, location and set of interests is incredible. And through these platforms, you can monitor ad performance in near-real time, allowing you to optimize your campaigns and improve results.
  • As you deliver ads and receive performance data, you can then retarget your ads to individuals that have thus far shown interest, bringing them further into your school’s marketing funnel.
  • How to Get Started: All of the major social media channels offer their own ad platforms. If you’re just starting out, choose the one you feel most comfortable with and where your intended audience is most likely to reside. Tutorials there can help get you started; the platforms allow you to create your own ads, but it’s here that most people get stuck, so you may want to reach out to a designer or creative agency.
  • 2. Lead-Generated Email
  • The first step in using email to generate prospective student leads is to build a student recruitment landing page to gather the emails of students arriving through your various marketing efforts. Once there, students who don’t go ahead and apply immediately (and this will be the majority) will provide their email address for further correspondence.
  • These emails are, as we say in the marketing world, “gold” in that the student is indicating a high level of interest in your school and is giving permission to begin one-on-one interactions with them. With the right content, tone, and frequency of response, you can move them along the path towards a conversation with the appropriate individuals on your team.
  • How to Get Started: Visit our tutorial on building a student recruitment landing page to ensure that your own page(s) are up-to-speed. Once your landing pages are in place, think about the messaging in your email responses. It’s common to send a series of well-crafted emails to a prospect over a period of weeks. Remember, you’re guiding a student down a path towards admissions; be sure to address their needs, and establish a level of comfort to continue these conversations.
  • Once you have these various scripts in place, use your email marketing tool to create a nicely-designed template that matches the tone and design of your landing page. Time the frequency of your emails so as to leave adequate space in between each, paying close attention to the resulting open and click rates you’ll find in your email program’s analytics.

Students and their families are already exploring schools, but given the pandemic, they’re spending more time online than ever before.

  • 3. Pay-Per-Click (PPC) Search Advertising
  • PPC is an effective means of both driving leads to your school and generating awareness, depending upon your approach. Classic, PPC search ads (the text ads that you see at the top and bottom of a Google search) will help to drive interested students to your landing page(s), especially if you’ve focused your ads and respective keywords on specific search criteria, e.g., “best high school for environmental science.”
  • How to Get Started: It should be no surprise here that Google has cornered the PPC market; as such, visit the Google Ads Platform to get started on building a PPC search campaign.
  • 4. Website-Specific Listings
  • This next tactic qualifies as both an “immediate return” and a “structured” tactic: ensuring that your school is listed on the appropriate school-ranking websites. As part of their research into potential schools, both parents and children will inevitably look at websites that rank – or at least mention – schools in a particular category. Niche.com is the player in the private/independent school sector, whereas there are multiple school listing sites for special needs, technical schools, and so forth. Your goal with these sites is to first ensure that your school’s website is listed there (with a positive review), and then to work with the site contact to see if there are ways to enhance your listing via paid or other means.
  • How to Get Started: There are many sites dedicated to aggregating, listing or ranking schools, some of which are independent, blog-type sites, others–such as niche.com–are well-known, for-profit players. Your quickest means to decipher what ranking sites are best for your school is to simply do a Google search for “best [insert your niche] schools.”

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I hope these tactics have you thinking about all of the ways that you can be working right now to draw more prospective students into the fold. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but rather the core tactics that you should be considering to start to drive inquiries consistently throughout the year.

Have fun testing and experimenting with different campaigns and creative directions–and always be sure to monitor and improve upon results. And, if we can be of help along the way, never hesitate to drop us a line.

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