A lot of academics and administrators cringe at the thought of marketing. The pursuit of “customers” can feel like a swerve from your primary mission as educators. But when it comes to promoting your school, marketing is just another term for creating and sustaining a learning community.
So what are the best strategies to increase school enrollment? How can you build that community most efficiently?
These five tips will help you make the most of your digital marketing and your time, bringing your organization together with the right students.
Stay connected to students, families, and staff with expert marketing advice and all the tools you need, all in one place.
1. Make your website mobile-responsive and user-friendly.
In 2015, mobile searches overtook desktop searches for the first time, and the gap has only widened since then. More and more people primarily access the internet on mobile devices.
Your target demographic is part of the mobile-first generation. Make sure that any design tools you use create sites that are mobile-responsive and adjust to the size of any screen. Take a moment to check out your website on your own phone. Are your potential students experiencing the site as intended?
Make information easy to find
Be intelligent with your school’s website design. It should load quickly and address all likely questions. You need at least the following six pages:
- Faculty and Staff
These pages should provide a newcomer with necessary information and a sense of your school’s culture and values.
Include sign-up forms, which allow you to collect email addresses so you can nurture relationships with leads. People are more likely to subscribe if you offer something in return for their contact information. Try offering helpful content for new subscriptions, such as a guide or pamphlet with useful information.
Consider other distinguishing features of your school that might deserve their own page. Are you proud of your extracurricular activities or campus facilities? Do you participate in a particular faith or have a strong community service program?
2. Create an automated series of emails to welcome people to your email list.
Once you’ve captured your visitors’ email addresses, use them. Email marketing still works, even in this social-media-saturated age. In fact, it’s often the most effective form of engagement. Everyone checks their email. Almost 99% of email users check their inbox at least once a day, and many people check even more frequently.
Use list segmentation
You shouldn’t have a single email list — you should have several, each targeting a different audience. Prospective students, parents of prospective students, current parents and students, and alumni all want to hear different information. Ideally, you should develop a comprehensive email marketing strategy that includes regular contact with each of these groups.
Set up automated drip campaigns
Set up a simple sequence of emails to engage new prospects. The first email should go out immediately when someone signs up. It should welcome them to your community, tell them what to expect from your email list, and deliver anything promised on the sign-up page.
Your second email should arrive several days later and invite the recipient to connect with you on your social channels. This is your opportunity to engage not only the prospect, but also their network — which may be full of other potential leads.
Consider personalizing your emails, such as automatically inserting the recipient’s name and any other relevant information.
3. Create a social media plan on the right platform.
Start with Facebook and Instagram, sites that your community already engages regularly. Posting on these sites fosters connection and can help with retention. In addition, you may gain exposure to your followers’ networks, which can be a valuable marketing resource.
Your social media posts should provide:
- Awareness: Let people know about programs, events, and recent successes.
- Engagement: Provide resources and respond to your audience.
- Action: Inspire people to participate in your community in specific ways.
Unfortunately, your posts are unlikely to have much direct effect on your enrollment. Because Facebook (which owns Instagram) makes no money on your posts, its algorithm has progressively downgraded the reach of organic posts. This means that you can expect your post to be seen by about 5.5% of your page’s followers.
If you want to incorporate social media into your strategies to increase student enrollment, you have to reach new eyes. Consider investing in paid advertising. Social media advertisements cost less than traditional advertising and reach more targeted audiences, making them a sound investment even if your advertising budget is small.
Do a little research and find out where your community is most active. For example, business school applicants are best reached through Instagram. For other types of learners, a different platform may be more effective. Talk to current members of your community to find out where they invest their time and focus your attention there first.
4. Claim your listings and verify your information on review sites.
Your online information needs to be accurate and consistent or you risk losing students to competitors who are easier to locate. Incorrect NAP (Name, Address, Phone number) on your online listings makes people lose trust. Mistakes suggest carelessness or incompetence — exactly the wrong impression for a school to make.
Two of the most important platforms likely to include listings for your organization are Facebook and Google My Business. In order to manage your Google My Business and Facebook pages, you’ll need to claim them or create them if none yet exist.
Google My Business
When someone searches for your school, your Google My Business profile allows you to show up in prime placement. Claiming this profile lets you ensure your contact information and business hours are accurate when it appears in search results.
Having control of your Google My Business profile also enables you to respond to reviews. Reviews on Google My Business not only affect your search ranking, they can influence people researching your school.
Your Facebook page provides necessary contact information and helps you stay connected to your current community. It also allows Facebook users to tag your organization in their posts, driving organic traffic to your profile page. Don’t leave it unmanaged.
Other School Review Sites
Ensure that your school is also listed with correct information on appropriate review sites, such as:
In addition to helping students and parents find you, many of these sites also allow you to track analytics or get automatic reports about the performance of your listing.
Taking an active role on these sites also lets you manage and respond to reviews, which play a large role in a parent’s decision on where to send their child.
5. Add a blog to your website.
Blogs aren’t just for your followers. The more posts your blog has, the more opportunities Google has to notice you, index your blog, and recognize your site as an authority on a particular topic. Adding regular and relevant content to your site is one of the best things you can do to increase visibility and drive traffic — and a blog is a great way to do that.
If maintaining a blog seems like a daunting task, there are several things you can do to make the process easier:
- Write several posts at once but post them at regularly scheduled intervals.
- Source content from your community and use material written by parents, students, teachers, and staff in your blog.
- Make a list of frequently asked questions and generate a series of blog posts to answer them.
Your choice of topics should be consistent with your brand. In fact, a sustained blog is one way to build that brand and show prospects exactly where your priorities lie.
Don’t stop there.
For more digital strategies to increase student enrollment in schools, see our free guide, The Download. It expands on each of the tips given here and provides even more information on how you can establish a comprehensive plan for digital marketing success.
Use online marketing to build your community and establish your brand. You have a lot to offer new students and their parents — show them.