So you’ve got your school. You’ve got a plan, the facility, and even lined out the staff. You are a business person. The first student was tricky to find, then you added a second and a third, and soon your business is firing on all cylinders. You’re functioning, moving forward, and making money. That’s the hard part, and you’ve passed the test!
Now it’s time to take the next step to go to a higher level: expansion and growth.
To go to that next level, you have to increase student enrollment. Bringing in those new students will expand your revenue and the possibilities for your business. Profitability will increase, your reputation will grow, and, before too long, it may be time to grow your staff and open another facility. The possibilities are endless!
For many school operators and administrators, this might seem like an impossible task. You are a pro at education and caring for students, but marketing might feel like a foreign language. However, as we’ll show in this article, developing a marketing plan to increase student enrollment is a simple process that any professional can achieve.
1. Set Your Goals.
The first step to getting more students to enroll is determining your goals. Without knowing the desired outcome, your plan will become muddled and unfocused. By picking the destination, the path to success becomes more obvious and the decisions that are made along the way more clear.
For example, your goal might be as specific as the demographics of the customers or as broad as how many new enrollees are desired. These goals will guide decisions made throughout the rest of the process, like where you focus your advertising, who your target audience is, and what your budget will be.
Once the goals are chosen, it’s time to decide what approaches you will use to increase enrollment. It’s important to realize that no approach is wrong, but rather certain approaches may be more effective for your specific goals, school type, audience, and market.
For a novice marketer, it’s easy to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of possibilities. But by taking a more positive approach and seeing those possibilities as different routes to success, you can take some of the stress off the decision-making process. These are tools in a toolbox, and each has a purpose and application. Is this one the right one for the job?
2. Grow Your Social Media.
Most people use social media on a regular basis. That means there’s an audience for any business out there. Social media is an easy way to connect with a wide variety of potential customers, but the key is using the right platform and approach to find them.
Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the big-name players in the social media realm and are the easiest to grasp for beginners. They have large memberships and are a great way to connect with your target audience.
Here are some basic tips to get started on any of these.
- Find the desired market - Every social media platform has tools to connect to similar users. Using hashtags, keywords, and tags will help prospective customers connect with a business. Facebook has the added benefit of groups, which can be used to make connections with targeted demographics even easier.
- Find a voice - Every savvy business has a social media “voice.” The voice reflects the persona of the company. A school could take the approach of being playful, cheerful, and nurturing. But there are endless voices that might fit each school. The key is choosing one and being consistent. This is especially true if multiple people are operating a social media account.
- Be Consistent - Just as a new student makes friends one by one, gaining followers, increasing impact, and growing outreach takes time. The most important approach is consistency. A social media calendar is a great way to keep any school on track.
- Use the Native Tools - At this point, all social media platforms offer advertising assistance. For very little investment, a school can target outreach to parents of prospective students. Social media companies have made this easier and easier, allowing users to pick users by age, location, gender, etc. A customer can choose the audience, and the platform will do the rest.
3. Get on YouTube.
YouTube is used by millions of people every day and most of the content is created by amateurs, not professionals. Creating video content doesn’t have to mean spending thousands of dollars on high-quality production. Instead, schools that focus on witty, interesting, and informative content can expand their reach, drive traffic to their site, and grow student enrollment.
Most educators and child care providers are creative and entertaining people because they have to be able to capture the attention of students. Applying those same approaches to creating content can advertise (for free) to an entirely new segment of potential customers. You can even share videos of students working on projects or performances or host virtual tours from the platform.
By knowing your audience and creating content that aligns with their interests, you can increase student enrollment.
4. Consider More Traditional Advertising Methods.
While there are so many modern avenues to connect to potential families, the tried and true methods of media advertising still exist and can be viable options. Print media outlets are desperate for advertisers and often offer a great value option. Radio, television, and billboards are all long-tested ways of getting your name into the public consciousness as well.
With all of these options, advertisements still need to be catchy, creative, and appealing to the target audience. But forgetting to consider these traditional routes can limit opportunities.
5. Update Your Facility.
The old adage will always be true: you never get a second chance to make a first impression. When working to get more students to enroll, administrators should consider the appeal of their physical business itself. Investing in a coat of paint, a refurbished sign, or a logo redesign can yield great results.
No matter how busy or slow the street is, customers passing by will judge the look of a business. By polishing up the front of a building, schools are telling customers that they are serious about serving students.
6. Improve Your Website.
It’s also important to not forget that the look and feel of a website is also an important aspect of any business. When potential customers consider a business, they are prone to access that business’s website to get a feel for the company and how it operates, especially during a pandemic. Having a well-constructed website that informs and communicates is vital to making a great first impression with interested customers.
- Make it interactive - Having a website that allows for feedback and input makes the viewer feel included and a part of what’s going on. Building pages that encourage commentary and community are great ways to create interest.
- Make it unique - Include the aspects of your business that are unique. Taking a day to photograph staff, the building, student artwork, and even students (make sure to have parents sign a photo waiver) will give you the tools to spruce up your website and make it uniquely you!
- Make it informative - A website is a communication tool. Include the information people are looking for and you make it an effective tool. Hours of operation, address, stories, and reviews are all aspects of communicating with your potential customers.
- Make it effective - Remember that your website is a portal to collect information about your market. Including a link for customers to click for more information can be a great way to gather emails, physical addresses, and other demographic information that can help shape your plan for future contact.
7. Focus on Communication.
There are few things better than getting a piece of mail through the post. It’s a piece of physical communication that can bring customers flocking. If you’ve crafted your website effectively, you should have a list of potential parents who will be interested in the information you’ll be sending them.
If you lack a list to start, consider partnering with a third party to research and develop a potential client mailing list.
Some key points to consider when making a mailer.
- The artist approach - The mailer needs to look good and be appealing to the eye of your customer. Bright colors and smart content choices will make the letter more appealing and generate more interest. Make your investment worthwhile.
- The marketer approach - Remember that the mailer is built to sell your business. Consider the best aspects of your company and maximize those things. Also, be sure to include the information that answers the first three or four questions a reader might have. And finally, make sure to include contact and social media information.
Don’t forget that email is also a great way to connect with your audience as well. While cheaper than a physical piece of mail, it’s also easy to ignore. To counteract that, consider subject lines carefully, you’ve got to get them to open it!
8. Use Promotions to Generate Excitement.
People love promotions. Customers that feel that they are getting a reward (especially an exclusive one) will be more inclined to sign up. Promotions can be a percentage off the cost of a month, some sort of gift (a t-shirt, a pen, a bag of coffee – the options are limitless), or some other idea. The key is for the customer to feel they are getting something of worth.
Any school leader should feel empowered to create a marketing plan to increase student enrollment. By setting goals and then establishing a path to achieve those goals, any sense of self-doubt or fear should be lessened. You have great tools at your disposal, and it’s easy to get started. And the benefits of strategically growing your enrollment far outweigh the risks of just waiting for parents to wander into the front door.