Guidance for New Enrollment Marketers
Congratulations on the new job! You may be an experienced marketer who has transitioned into education or perhaps you are an former educator who has decided to take on a new role at your school. But no matter your background, I am sure that you are going to find that admissions is an incredibly fun, but also an incredibly challenging role.
I recently sat down with one of my clients, I am fortunate to work with a ton of great clients, Charli Renckly-DeWhitt, Admissions
Director for Purdue Polytechnic High Schools, to talk about what her guidance would be for a new admissions director. I think that this is
some great advice, and under Charli's leadership, it is no wonder that Purdue Polytechnic is exceeding its enrollment goals.
When I first saw the job posting for a Recruiting/Marketing Manager at Purdue Polytechnic High School (PPHS), I wasn’t actively looking for a new position. I was on maternity leave and trying to find a balance between being a new mom and gearing up for a return to a technical recruiting career that, while enjoyable, wasn’t my passion.
When I happened to come across the Recruiting/Marketing role at PPHS it seemed like it was a perfect fit. I was a previous high school teacher with a background in recruiting - I could not have written a more perfect job description if I tried. If that wasn’t enough, the interview and tour cinched it. I saw students using power tools and 3D printers to make their own go-karts, the barriers between teachers and students were broken down to form a more personal relationship and most importantly, I walked the entire school and didn’t see a single teacher standing in front of a powerpoint lecturing.
I was excited to join a team that was truly revolutionizing the field of education in a way that in my traditional schooling experience hadn’t been able to. After two years with PPHS, I have learned a lot of valuable lessons when it comes to student recruitment - and I’m hopeful they’ll help you start your recruitment season off on the right foot.
Get to Know the School
Naturally, my excitement for the school and students inspired me to hit the ground running. I immediately began searching for events where I could set up a booth and ways we could engage with families and future students.
In hind-sight, there were a few things I wish I would have done differently. While the most important part of recruitment is genuine excitement for your school - it’s important to channel it productively. While I spent time reviewing and reading articles, websites and marketing bullet points about the school, I didn’t spend nearly as much time shadowing within the school. What this led to was me having a very surface understanding of the ins and outs of our school operations.
Once families began asking me questions about the day-to-day of the school, I quickly realized I was out of my depth. While I could recite the student to teacher ratio, our most recent test results and enrollment policies, I didn’t know the answers to questions about a typical student’s day, the clubs we offer, or the school culture.
What I did next is what I should have done on my first day. I shadowed a few students, teachers and set up interviews with school administrators. Once I had seen the day-to-day first hand, it enabled me to answer questions and create marketing content that was more authentic and relatable to our target audience.
Targeting your Efforts
Marketing materials, money and, perhaps most importantly, your time are all finite resources. You simply won’t have time to do everything, attend every booth event, lead incredible tours, create engaging digital content and answer the growing number of emails in your inbox. It just isn’t feasible. This is where my second lesson comes in, targeting your efforts. If you’re lucky enough to have historical data, this becomes a lot easier. If you, like me when I started, don’t have access to this information - you’ll need to get creative.
Before I was brought on-board, the role of student recruitment fell into a few different people’s purview, from community outreach coordinators to teachers to front office staff. This meant that student recruitment data wasn’t housed in one spot and even though everyone was doing a great job, not everyone was doing it the same way, which meant it was hard to pinpoint what was working and what wasn’t.
When we finally started keeping track of student data, it was really helpful to see not only what was working, but what wasn’t. In an educational setting, there are two resources that are always in short supply, time and money. We need to make sure that we are maximizing both of those resources as best we can.
For an example, we took a chance on a radio ad campaign that was expensive, but it brought in over 10 students, so the cost/benefit ratio was clearly worthwhile. On the other hand I sat at a booth at a festival all Saturday which was free, but I didn’t meet a single prospective family and wasted a valuable resource - my time and energy. Recruitment and education are both fields that are infamous for burn-out, so make sure you set your targets wisely and prioritize events where your target audience will be and make sure the money you spend on advertising is worthwhile. It will take a few failed attempts to figure out what works and what doesn’t so don’t be afraid to take risks - just make sure to keep good data so you know if it was a success or a learning opportunity!
Focus on High Impact First
I was lucky that Bright Minds Marketing had come in and audited our tour and enrollment process right before I started, so I had some improvement suggestions to make right from the start, including our school tour. The tour was the easiest, and most impactful change I made within the first year. When I first started, PPHS was set up for recurring tours on Tuesdays at 10am. Unfortunately, there wasn’t a reliable way to sign up online which meant that we weren’t able to track or contact families once they toured. While having a consistent touring schedule was ideal for all involved, the lack of a registration process meant that we never knew if a tour was actually happening and, as such, there was often a lot of chaos when families arrived.
I quickly implemented a stop-gap system using Calendly, which worked well until we found a more permanent solution, but more on that later! This meant I could know ahead of time who was coming in for tours and be prepared as well as proactive when reaching out to confirm and provide day-of details.
In order to improve the tour content, I created a slideshow presentation, walking tour and a tour packet including a letter from our head of school, a “Techie Translation” guide for some of the PPHS lingo, an example course sequence and, of course, an enrollment guide for next steps. Having something to send families home with was incredibly important to me, as it is a physical reminder and realistically, a last chance to convince these families to start the enrollment process.
Tracking this information also allowed me to see what families toured and then registered for the school. I believed that improving this
metric would be the easiest way to increase our enrollment numbers- and it was! We quickly saw these numbers improve, and this enabled me to
shift my focus from improving the tour to reaching new families with the end goal of signing them up for a tour, knowing that our tour
would convince them to attend!
Nick Comment: Fixing your tour process can be the easiest and quickest "win" when you are trying to improve your enrollment. Even though it is at the end of the enrollment process, for some schools, I would recommend you start here. Bright Mind Marketing's Secret Shopper Engagement is designed to help you through this.
Anyone who works with me can tell you I’m always looking for ways to make things easier with technology. I’m a huge fan of anything that enables me to not have to think about routine tasks, because let’s face it, there aren’t enough post-it notes in the world to remind me to send every single follow-up email without delay or distraction!
I completed demos with several platforms looking for a way to track students up until the application process, and none of them were the perfect fit. They all had bits and pieces of what I needed but were not feasible for one reason or another so I was thrilled when we found EnquiryTracker, a company out of Australia that created a software specifically for school recruitment.
We were able to create a dynamic tour sign-up on our website with automated emails. I created an email cadence that kicks off when someone registers for a tour - and I don’t have to click a single button! From reminder emails, to follow up emails - it’s all automated and personalized through EnquiryTracker. The software also keeps track of historical data like lead sources, zip codes, feeder schools and more. This enabled our team to focus our energy on marketing strategies that were proven to bring in new students, and prioritize our relationships with local feeder schools.
The final and most important tip I have to offer anyone in the field of recruitment is to be genuine. While recruiting is a field where you get really used to hearing “no” make sure you take time to celebrate and enjoy the “yes”. Share a family’s excitement when they finally find a school that their student can look forward to getting up in the morning to attend. The success stories are what keeps me energized - waiting to meet that one family who is looking for a school where they belong. I truly believe that if you care about finding students the right opportunity and you work for a school system that you genuinely believe in, the rest will come.
Remember to enjoy it and celebrate every single win. Good luck out there!