As you look at a new school year starting, your enrollment management team is finally able to take a breath and “relax”. Unless you are a school with locked-in enrollment numbers by the spring, you have hard at work all summer long, emailing, calling, and following up with those last-minute families who might enroll in the fall. While some of you with open enrollment may continue to see a few late-comers, for the most part, your admissions team finally gets to experience “summer”.
As you evaluate your enrollment status, here are few things to consider. First, let’s take a look back.
- Assess your Advertising: did that magazine ad drive anyone to your school? Did your radio…direct mail…social media campaign impact your numbers? While there are some difficulties in assessing some of the effectiveness of each one, you should at least acknowledge if something is worth doing for next year. Now is the time to evaluate, especially if you can provide any hard data to support your decision. Inevitably, a board member will approach you next spring wondering “why aren’t we doing that radio campaign again like we did last year? I thought that was brilliant!” If it didn’t work, then you’ll want data to show said board member.
- Self-Evaluation: take some time to evaluate yourself and your team. Where did you work from a place of strength? Where could you reallocate resources? Where do you need to spend more time? Less time? Hopefully your team can have an honest assessment so you don’t just start the treadmill over again in a few months without looking for ways to improve.
- Survey Says: consider reaching out to your new families and surveying them about their enrollment experience. Ask them about how they heard about you. Ask them to evaluate your admissions process. Ask them to give you candid feedback about your campus: appearance, communication, processes, etc. You can certainly do the same to your returning families, but these new families have the freshest eyes to see things most clearly.
- Retreat: if possible, get away from the office for at least one day for an off-site retreat (two days or more would allow you time to go even deeper). If you haven’t done any self-evaluation, this is the place to do it. But this is also a time to spend some moments reflecting with gratitude for your new families. Before you get too critical about processes, and before the onslaught of next fall’s admissions season begins, take time to be thankful for who came your way this year. You might even take a few minutes to write a few hand-written cards to some of your new families. Have some fun together and do some team development work.
- Plan Quarterly: look at the new 3 months. If you are reading this in August, pretty much examine your school calendar, the national calendar (holidays, cultural rhythms, etc.), and your community/city calendar and see what is ahead. This will likely take you to Thanksgiving, so if you need to go ahead and plan through Christmas break, do so. Included in this timeframe is likely the start of next year’s enrollment season. It may begin with re-enrollment efforts in December or early in the new year (hint: don’t wait to start re-marketing to your families….that begins now!) Look at your social media planning calendar and know what’s ahead in the next few months and get a jump on scheduling some posts on Facebook or using a tool like Grum for scheduling Instagram posts. Here’s a free social media/marketing content planning calendar that has helped many.
- Mind the Gap: you should be able to have a hard count for each grade as you start the new year and see where the enrollment gaps are. This should give you real clear direction for next year. Is this year’s Kindergarten class small? While you certainly want to work hard at getting better Kinder numbers next year, you might also look at ways to grow next year’s 1st grade class so that you can set yourself up for a strong future. If you project Middle School to be down, then start concentrating your efforts now on developing a strategy for filling those seats.
Don’t get too busy now too look back and to look ahead.
I love to help schools with their marketing, especially at this time of in the school calendar. I have been helping one school this past year that saw a 16% increase and another school who told me yesterday that they are almost 25 students more than they thought they would have when the board set the budget last spring. I would love to help your school as well!
Contact me for a free phone consultation – I am eager to help!
Randy Vaughn, Christian School Marketing Consultant
Over the years of working with Christian schools around the country, we have worked with schools from early childhood only to PK12 schools. In doing so, I have worked with schools in a variety of ways. Sometimes it has been a few short months of social media coaching, graphic design or website projects, or our longer year-long consulting projects.
One of the things I really enjoy doing is spending a day with a school during a School Marketing Workshop. As a matter of fact, one of the first ways we ever helped schools was with a one-day workshop back over a decade ago which resulted in the school’s first enrollment growth in a long time.
Recently, I had the opportunity to work with Cornerstone Christian in Sweetwater, Texas. We did a one-day workshop on a Saturday and it was so much fun! Stephanie Baker, Director, said this:
“We loved your presentation…. It was very informative and helpful. It was just the booster shot that we needed to get started and it was presented in such a way that gave us a clear starting place.”
You might wonder what all can really be accomplished in a single day workshop? Here are the key components we covered at the School Marketing Workshop in Sweetwater:
- Came to an agreed definition of school marketing so that the entire team could rally around one idea of what marketing is, allowing this definition to act as a filter for future projects, spending and focus.
- Discovered the 3 most important areas when developing a relationship with a future family. These are 3 key components to the above definition and help focus a school on marketing the right way.
- We examined the full scope of school marketing, looking at the very early stages of new awareness all the way to cultivating family referrals. There are many steps in this process, and while complex, it is not complicated. We examined the 3 Rs of school marketing: recruitment, retention and referrals.
- We also explored the differences and essential elements of having a system, a strategy and a tactical marketing plan. We looked at the differences in those terms and how each one builds upon another.
- We went through a pretty extensive exercise in determining what an “ideal family” looks like in terms of marketing. If you do not have a clear focus of who you are marketing to, it’s easy for your communication to be for the masses, and thus, likely resonate with no one. We explored the components of a targeted ideal family category to help focus our communication, brand, and marketing messages.
- We looked at the 6 most common lead generation tactics. Lead generation is necessary as your school enlarges the pool of potential families. Most of the time, the challenge in marketing a school is that too few people even know you exist. Expanding this pool to more possibilities is a strong key to enrollment growth.
We spend several hours brainstorming as a large group, then in table groups to determine specific action steps. While a good part of the morning of a School Marketing Workshop is understanding strategy, we do spend hours working together on at least a workable tactical action plan.
So that’s an overview of how a School Marketing Workshop could help your school.
Use the contact form here to ask about details. Typically the workshop is around $2000-2500 along with some travel expenses.
Let’s talk! Sign up at our contact form here to get started.
Randy Vaughn, Christian School Marketing Consultant
One of the ways that schools are increasingly finding creative ways to showcase their school is using Facebook Live.
I love this tool, even though I certainly don’t like being on video myself. However, that should not deter you from experimenting. Below you will find a variety of ways that schools might want to use Facebook Live:
- In the classroom – train teachers (and make them an admin of your page) so they can create spontaneous snapshots of something they are doing in the classroom. Perhaps they are about to engage in a project that traditional only been for the students’ eyes, but Facebook Live allows you to bring in their families and even future families, too. Even some of your older elementary kids are savvy enough to point the phone in the direction of the 5th grade teacher doing a fun science experiment.
- in chapel or assembly – Christian schools have regular worship times and this is a neat way for schools to let parents in on the experience. Again, even your future families want to know what chapel is like. Perhaps you assemble the school for announcements, awards or other accolades – give your at-home or working moms and dads an opportunity to be a part of the special day by turning on Facebook Live.
- from the top – Facebook Live can be a fantastic way for heads of school to be more visible. They can articulate a vision, interview students or just do a student or teacher feature of the week.
- longer shows – you may wish to turn on Facebook Live for Grandparents Day, Homecoming pep rally, the out-of-town playoff game, or even the spring choir concert. For the latter (including any fine art performances, just ensure you are not violating any copyright by broadcasting your show.
- parent perspective – have a parent run Facebook Live periodically, allowing them to interview faculty, some older students or even other moms and dads during the pick up line. Coach them on representing the school appropriately. If done right, this could give you a great tool for interested future moms and dads because they might presume the parent is more authentic than the admissions teach might be.
Facebook Live is also one of the areas that Facebook is suggesting you use more and more in order to be seen in the news feed. So this is definitely worth exploring. Click the link below to receive full access to a FREE webinar on this topic.
CLICK TO REGISTER FOR THE FREE WEBINAR, “2018 Facebook Changes”