Increasing enrollment numbers in education is no easy task. It’s best approached with a robust school marketing campaign that reaches students, parents, and educators from every angle. There are the tried and true traditional tactics like canvassing neighborhoods and passing out flyers, but they have their obvious physical limitations.
(Such as running out of doors to knock on, inconveniencing people because they don’t have kids, or are not interested in higher education for themselves)
That is why it's essential for charter schools and higher education alike to embrace inbound methodologies.
Tip Number 1: Embrace The Inbound Methodology
Inbound marketing is centered around the customer. In the higher education sector’s case, your marketing should be speaking to the prospective student. For grade schools, you want to speak directly to the prospective parents or guardians.
It all starts with understanding who is a good fit for your school, and why are they a good fit for your school, then you can begin to sculpt your buyer personas.
Once you’ve identified your buyer personas, you can make content that speaks directly to their pain points. By producing content that addresses their needs, you’re making it easy for your target market to find you.
But how exactly are you making it easier for your target audience to find you?
By creating content that is tailored specifically for your target personas, and placing it on your website, you are practicing one aspect of search engine optimization (SEO). Search engines like Google crawl web pages and index content to help people find relevant search results at lightning speed.
For example: when someone searches, “what are the best charter schools in Colorado,” Google references all the webpages that it has indexed and shows the most relevant websites higher on their results pages. Although one school might be the perfect fit for a prospective student, that prospect will likely never even see the name of the institution if they are not not properly optimizing their website to make it to page one of the search engine results page (SERP).
People do a lot of their own research online and are looking for what you offer, and they likely have some frequently asked questions. Whether they’re looking for a high-performing charter school for their children, or they want to further their own careers through higher education, you should be creating content that speaks to those personas.
Once they find you, you can focus on lead capture by requesting they fill out a form for a piece of content that would be valuable to them, such as a newsletter, checklist, or ebook. Or you can ask them to fill out your form just so that a member of your team can reach out and talk with the prospect about specific questions they might have.
Either way, you will have their contact information to email them with follow-up information and unique offers.
There are A TON of other tactics that fall under the umbrella of inbound marketing, including organic social media posting, chatbots for your website, and blogging. The list is lengthy, and each tactic has its own purpose that accomplishes one goal or another.
The inbound approach to school marketing has proven to be an effective method for increasing enrollment numbers. However, sometimes you need to invest in advertising to reach the people that are not doing the active research to find you, and to increase your school’s brand recognition. That is why schools should invest in digital advertising. Before you purchase any sort of digital advertising though, make sure you do the research to see where your target personas congregate online. Otherwise, you’ll waste your precious ad budget showing irrelevant ads to the wrong people. This brings us to the second tip.
Tip Number 2: Identify Which Digital Platforms Will Reach Your Target Audience
Part of the Persona creation process should include the answer to this question, " Where do they spend their time online?" This will help inform the WHERE for your efforts.
There are so many directories and social media platforms today, that you have to strategically choose which platforms you want to advertise on, especially when you’re working with a small budget. Here are some of our favorite for school marketing:
Snapchat has a youthful user base and offers two methods of advertising, which each have their own benefits and should be chosen based on your school's specific goals.
Snap ads show your ad between viewing content that the users are interested in, similar to television commercials. They are great for:
- driving traffic to your website
- goals focused on lead generation
Snapchat “filters” and “lenses” allow you to provide Snapchat users with the option to use the filter or lense that you upload, but they are only available for a limited time and in a specific location, both of which you select. These work best for brand awareness because, there is no opportunity for redirecting people to your website. This tactic is best for:
- building brand awareness and recognition
Facebook and Instagram both have very large user bases which can be segmented by user's individual interests, making them ideal for advertising. There are two popular methods for advertising on these platforms as well.
Conversion Ad: Here, you would upload a promotional photo or video with a short amount of text that explains what you are advertising. When they click the ad, they will be redirected to the web page that you select.
Lead Ad: With lead ads, the person that clicks on your ad is not redirected to your website. Instead, they are prompted with a form in the platform they happen to be on. The form is completely customizable, so you can ask industry specific questions like, “which academic year are you interested in enrolling in?” This can help you collect more specific information from a targeted audience while increasing brand awareness.
Google Search Ads
Google is the most used search engine in the world, making it prime real estate for digital advertising. Google offers more refined targeting than any other digital advertising platform, ensuring that your ads only receive quality impressions. When someone clicks on your Google search ads they are taken to the webpage that you specify, minimizing the chances of someone leaving your page because they can't find the information they're looking for.
A competitor campaigns is a search ad strategy that is meant to show your ad when someone searches for a competing school. Its purpose is to get your ads in front of people who are looking for a competitor and give you the opportunity to say, 'consider us instead!' This technique can be very effective, seeing as how you and your competitors likely share similar buyer personas, and maybe the people searching for your competitors just haven’t heard of your school. Your school might even be a better fit for them!
Display ads show your ads to people who have recently visited your website, meaning that this tactic is dependent on your website having a lot of traffic. However, if you do have good traffic, then display ads keep your school at the top of your prospect’s mind. In display advertising, your ads must :
- have an image to show ( it will appear on the side bar of other websites when the person who recently visited your website goes somewhere else online)
- have a webpage or landing page to direct them to.
We have seen a lot of success with each tactic on each of these platforms when it comes to school marketing, but if you don’t have the budget for digital advertising, there is another (more affordable) inbound tactic that is sure to yield higher student enrollment numbers.
Tip Number 3: Invest in a Review Marketing Campaign
Competition can be fierce in education and with a growing number of options, it helps a great deal to have social proof on your side. The purpose of a review marketing campaign is to generate more online reviews. By tastefully soliciting reviews to your contact list through email, people are much more likely to choose your school over another. Not only do review marketing campaigns increase the number of 4 and 5 star reviews your school has, it also allows you to prevent unwanted negative 1 and 2 star reviews that can damage your reputation.
The way it works is you send an email asking for a review, and in the email there would be links to leave a review on the platforms that you would prefer to have more reviews. For school marketing, the preferred platforms are usually education-focused like Greatschools, Niche, and sometimes Facebook. If they select 3 stars or less, they are then taken to a landing page that asks them to elaborate on why they feel that way. The review is not posted to any platform, and you now have an opportunity to reach out and make things right. If they select 4 or 5 stars, then the review gets posted to the link they selected.
Each of these school marketing tips stands alone in their own right and will help to increase enrollment at your school. The culmination of all 3 is what makes a campaign robust. If you have any questions about these tips, would like to dive deeper into how these tips can be utilized, or if you simply don’t have time to execute on these initiatives and are looking for a professional to help increase your enrollment numbers, contact HIVE Digital Strategy.