Enrollment season is winding down. At this point many schools have filled their seats and are in the process of evaluating what worked well and what to change for next year. However, there is still one last tactic that you should be employing to enroll more students. The simple trick? Creating an effective follow up campaign.
Most schools spend most of their time and effort to attract prospective parents. They will make sure that their website accurately reflects their customer personas. They will pour over the number of visitors to their website and craft ads to drive to drive more quality traffic. They will ensure that their tour process is strong with a well scripted message.
However, many schools allow their prospective parents walk out the door after the tour and/or open house, and for some reason, the marketing stops.
If your school employs an effective post-engagement strategy as outlined here, I guarantee you will move ahead of the competition and secure more students.
In the past year, I have attended over 15 school open houses and participated in over 20 school tours and it still shocks me how little follow up occurs once the parent leaves. In fact, I can count on one hand the number of schools who did an effective follow-up approach after a tour or an open house.
So how do you create an effective follow up strategy to enroll more students?
Ensure that you CAN follow up
The most critical thing that you need to get from a prospective parent is their correct contact information. Make sure that every person who is attending a school tour or an open house provides you with their contact information. And don’t just have them handwrite it. Procure an iPad or a Chrome Book with a Google Form and have them provide accurate contact info. I estimate that you probably lose about 5 to 10% of parental names just because you can’t read handwriting! If you don’t know who they are, you can’t follow up.
Understand their personal interests and goals for their children
The best tour that I experienced started with the school representative sitting me down in his office and asking a simple question, “Nick, before I take you on a tour of the school and tell you about us, I would love to hear about your boys, what they like and what you want them to achieve while at our school.” This simple approach was great, and unfortunately, a total outlier compared to other schools I have visited.
Parents LOVE to talk about their kids and by asking this simple question, you gain a lot of clues as to how to tailor your message so that it resonates against their needs. If the child is interested in sports, you know you need to spend more time talking about your school’s athletics. If the child is a straight A student with aspirations of Harvard (or my alma mater, the Harvard of the West, The University of Utah), talk about your stellar academics and college acceptance rates. Either way, by asking this question you gain valuable information that allows the conversation and the tour to be about what you can offer their child versus you giving the same generic speech that you have delivered multiple times.
Utilize a prospect database
Readers of my blog and newsletter know that I am a big proponent of using a customer database to track prospects. A simple Excel spreadsheet will work, but really, check out Hubspot for a FREE CRM that you can use to track prospects. In this, you are going to capture all their contact information, but more importantly, you are going to assign them to certain groups for a customized follow up. Knowing what they were interested in allows you to personalize this to a degree that will truly set you apart. One note on CRMs – there are many like Salesforce that offer non-profits a free account but be warned that some of these are rather difficult to use and might be a bit of overkill for what you are trying to accomplish. The rule of thumb is to get a tool that you know how to use and can implement rather than the one that has the bells and whistles that you will never use.
Use a multi-channel approach to follow up with a customized message
Our first three steps set you up to be able to conduct a follow up. Now it is the time to do it. You can structure this in different ways depending upon your school and your resources. Let me give you a couple of examples from my clients to give you some inspiration.
For one of my Catholic school customers, we designed an easy phone cadence for every prospective parent who visited the school. Two days after a visit, they received a phone call from the teacher of the grade level their child was entering. The teacher offered to answer any questions and just provided a warm touch. Two days later, they received a call from a parent volunteer who offers to give them the perspective of a parent at the school and why they should enroll. And, two days after that, they get a call from the principal offering to answer any questions and attempting to close the deal.
For one of my private school clients, we utilized email and the features of Hubspot. (Really, I get no kick-backs from them; I just think it is a good tool). Once the parent leaves the campus, the admissions person uses a pre-made email to thank them for coming and shares a link to the application form. Then, they have built a couple of different workstreams depending upon what the parent is most interested in. For the parent interested in athletics, they have a stream of three emails over the next two weeks that talk about the school’s features with an emphasis on athletics. They built one for students interested in service learning, academics, and then a general student. The great thing about this? It is automated once they select the persona of the student.
One of my charter schools writes a simple handwritten thank you note to the parents for coming and telling them that they would love to have their child at the school. Simple, but sincere. Easy, but effective.
Figure out what approach works best for your school, but make sure you are doing something after that parent walks off your campus. Hoping that they will call you is fine but calling them is even better. Sometimes just the little things will help you to enroll more students.