How To Build Your Private School's Enrollment Funnel

How To Build Your Private School's Enrollment Funnel

April 29, 2021
(Reading time: 7 - 13 minutes)

The journey that starts from accessing your target market to invoking your target market to procure your service or product is quite frankly long and arduous. In the case of private schools, you have a very specific niche. Your market is wide and profitable but tapping into the market is easier said than done.

However, that should not discourage you from fully optimizing the resources at your disposal. The journey is long, but the results are outstanding. Your first and quite ready resource at your disposal is your enrollment funnel. Just like any industry funnel, it is made to improve your process and possibly maximize on profits.

The only difference is that different industries have different issues they want to solve through their funnel. In terms of the private school industry, here is your specialized enrollment funnel. Its main aim is to actualize admissions and increase your student body.

But first, lets start with the basics—the introductory part of the marketing textbook.

The Genesis of the Enrollment Funnel

Times have drastically changed, and previously admired traditional methods are rendered useless in this day and age. Private schools have to utilize the new tools and methodologies in order to reach out to their market of prospective students. 

One such methodology is the enrollment funnel. This was created to give schools, especially private schools, a strategic way to tap into their target audience. 

So, What is the Enrollment Funnel?

The enrollment funnel is a specialized funnel methodology. The majority of funnels are made from e-commerce sites, hence the familiarity. However, it has proven to be functional in other settings such as the private school industry.

An enrollment funnel is essentially a model that helps to analyze, understand and generate solutions that allow for the enrollment of students. Typically, it's a model made up of steps or phases that move possible students to real and actualized admissions.

Of course, this can be done in a variety of ways; however, the funnels offer their share of benefits that can be used repeatedly and, in a cost, efficient manner.

Furthermore, it is known as a funnel because the more stages you continue to cross with your audience, the smaller it becomes. 

Benefits of the Enrollment Funnel

The main problem most private schools face is ensuring that they maintain the number of active admissions in the school. Just like trends, schools also suffer the same problem of maintaining relevance. They have to remain consistent and relevant in the eyes of the parents or, rather, their target audience.

The funnel solves this problem by allowing private schools to maintain their enrollment numbers, year after year. These numbers are not simply maintained by a higher power of sorts but rather efficient strategies corresponded by good decision making. Of course, the funnel is tweaked a bit to help solve any arising problems.

Furthermore, it is not just following the enrollment funnel model that allows schools to remain relevant. Rather, integrating marketing strategies within the enrollment funnel will yield the true fruits of this labor.

A Structural Take on the Enrollment Funnel

Like every model used to tackle problems, the enrollment funnel has its own phases or stages. It's a divide and conquer method, where the different problems are broken down and simplified to collectively solve the main issue at hand.

First and foremost, the funnel works in a specialized manner. Here's a breakdown of how it works:

  1. Awareness: Prospective students are made aware of your school
  2. Interest and Desire: A state of interest is invoked as well as a feeling of desire to join your establishment.
  3. Action: Invoke the prospect to commit to the school.

1. The Awareness Phase

Traditionally, awareness was conducted through commercials or advertisements on radio, television, or billboards. 

Another way this was achieved was by having a team of recruiters travel to specific schools to attend recruitment events. This is still a suitable method and is still conducted to date. 

Currently, with the rise of the internet dominating the world, this is done through the use of Google Ads and pay-per-click ads. This is a form of digital marketing. It could be done as either short or long-term marketing campaigns. 

As a form of social media marketing, there is the use of social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or quite possibly, Tik Tok. 

Moreover, this can also be conducted through inbound and content marketing. Having a consistently updated school blog or a school website with new content published consistently is a great way to allow prospective students to learn more about your school. 

One of the most current modern methods schools are using to appeal and showcase themselves with prospective students is through the use of Virtual Tours. It is one of the most interactive methods and allows students to feel as though they are in the school at that moment. 

Finally, by having public videos on YouTube that allow students to look at the school's facilities and overall student life. It could be similar to virtual tours; however, it is less interactive than having virtual tours. Nevertheless, it strives to achieve the same effect.

The main reason for this stage is to create brand awareness. Most parents within the school's target audience are able to match a school to its specific brand if this is achieved correctly. The school's brand may be well known for producing top-tier students or having more athletically gifted students.

It also allows you to gather information on what the overall opinion is on the school. Creating brand awareness allows for prospects, alumni, or strangers to leave comments. This form of data can form better and more informed decisions to improve other marketing awareness campaigns.

One of the shortcomings of this method is attracting the wrong audience, which might lead to receiving negative feedback. The best way to reduce the risk of this happening is by curtailing your ads, whether Google Ads or pay-per-click ads, to specific keywords such as private school marketing or by using IP targeting to keep it within the area your target audience inhabits.

2. The Consideration Phase

This phase is whereby interested prospective students are now urged to invoke a feeling of desire to further look into your institution and possibly join.

One way this can be done is by sending emails with informative content or links to content such as newsletters, blog posts, etc. This method is primarily student-focused. 

An additional bonus method, to involve the prospective even further would be to involve their parents. It is not only the prospective student's choice but also one that involves their parents. Having a forum that is purposefully for parents is a great and engaging way to get all the required parties on-board. Furthermore, this can be done in-person or online, making it convenient and effective. 

In this day and age, the phrase DM (direct message) to inquire' is quite common, and prospective students may opt to send queries through social media. It is crucial to respond to these queries in real-time. This is an added incentive. For example, should the student require further clarification, you can send them a link to your website to get even more information. 

The invention of email made everything easier to send and receive. A viewbook is a recruiting staple. It allows students to either physically (should they decide to print it out afterward) or in a software format look through images of your school, the courses you offer, and other important information that may heighten the feeling of desire. By giving students access to this information, they can learn more about your institution at their convenience and comfort.

This phase also has some disadvantages to it. In certain cases, the prospects may no longer be interested in joining your school so that response rates will differ significantly at this stage. This may be due to any number of reasons such as:

Poor responses from the side of the institutions

Relationships between the institution and the prospective students are not maintained during this phase.

These are but a few of the reasons why response rates may drop during this phase. Moreover, it is still the marketing department's role to continue their work during this stage. The consideration phase is a form of marketing in itself.

You are essentially marketing to them to continue their interest in the institution by maintaining relationships and making the prospects feel important.

A sure-fire way of solving these issues is by having a form of insurance. In the case of inadequate responses from the institution, it is advised to have chatbots. They should only be used to invoke a feeling of having a conversation with a human being and not necessarily become a liability when it was meant to be an asset.

Institutions can also encourage prospective students to continue with their enrollment process by having a reward-based system. This can be done by giving prospective students that have shown added interest and adding them to a VIP portal. This is a customized experience and urges the prospects to continue with their journey in joining your institution. 

Furthermore, another method of solving issues behind disinterest would be to have automated emails based on the behavior the prospective student shows. These personalized emails are also a great incentive and makes the prospect feel more important during the consideration phase. 

In the case where some institutions have a hybrid team of administration and admission teams, it can be considered convenient. It saves time and reduces the risk of clashing teams and uncared for prospective students. 

At this point, the enrollment funnel is narrowing down. At the final stage, the funnel's results are truly realized, and the prospective student possibly turns to an actualized student in your institution.

3. The Application Phase

This is the part of the enrollment funnel and to ultimately maximize your private school marketing campaign is a call to action. This is whereby the prospective student is advised to commit. Commitments are done by completing the application and paying the deposit before the deadline. The deadline tends to be before the start date of the semester. 

At this phase, it is up to the institution to enable the prospective students. This can be done by:

  • Allowing the recruiter to personally visit the students and aiding them with whatever issue that may be stopping them from committing to the institution. 
  • Having campus visits so that students can visualize their time in the school and see the facilities for themselves and experience a somewhat student experience. 
  • Reaching out to students through emails. This lets the student feel important, and it may help you address any issue they may have and help continue the process. 
  • Finally, one of the most prominent issues is financial aid. Some students may need a scholarship, and having a portal where students can access scholarship opportunities and inquire about financial aid is an added bonus to help them in their educational journey.

At this stage, one of the disadvantages may be applicants that are also applying to other institutions. These applicants may have reduced communication or reluctance to commit through their application because your institution may not be their first choice but rather a fallback.

Another cause for concern is if the applicant notices that the institution has ceased communication. The applicant may forget their application altogether and turn to other opportunities or other competitors. This makes the prospective student a risk applicant. 

These two concerns can be avoided by increasing personal communication with the prospective student. This could be done by having them join a Facebook or Whatsapp group with other applicants. 

Moreover, you can also host webinars. These webinars may also be exclusive content to prompt prospective students to commit through their applicants. They, therefore, move from being applicants, if accepted, to students. 

Nevertheless, the main aim of these steps is to showcase that independent school marketing or private school marketing is all about consistent marketing through all phases. It does not end past the Awareness Phase nor past the point where students are admitted. 

It is a continuous process until the students have graduated from the institution and are elevated to an alumnus. 

Either way, once students have acted and committed by paying their deposit, it is safe to add them to internal communications. Moreover, their application can now be fully processed. This can also be another incentive as a call to action. For the prospective student to have their application processed, they should pay the deposit.

An Endgame Analysis of the Enrollment Funnel

The enrollment funnel is a top-down model that slowly downsizes the target audience with time and throughout the phases mentioned above. There are different ways to engage with prospective students and answer the question of how to increase enrollment in private schools. 

The phases have their shortcomings. Nevertheless, there are solutions to these very problems and enough legroom to allow for flexible solutions in the phases. The phases are also not rigid, or rather, set in their ways and can be customized to fit a variety of schools in order to differentiate themselves from their competitors. 

Institutions must have an online presence and not just a presence that is updated every couple of months. Ensuring that you have a social media presence and a website answers the question of how to advertise your school. Google Ads or pay-per-click ads will use your website as the landing page. This way, prospective students can access more information on services offered by your institution. 

Moreover, prospective students have a high probability of becoming at-risk- applicants'. It is up to the institution to figure out effective ways through which they can engage with the prospects and reduce the likelihood of this occurring. This is also how private school marketing/school marketing can be used as an optimizable resource. 

Whether marketing for schools or marketing for independent schools, the goal is to create a progressive, bigger, and better school brand. 

With each and every enrollment, it is necessary to gather data and learn from previous mistakes. This data can be used to make better and well-informed decisions that help to make the institution's brand even better and improve marketing ideas private schools may need in the future. It is all about preparing for the future of the education system.

If you find yourself needing help building out your private school’s marketing funnel or just want some help on increasing enrollment then reach out to us for a free consultation.

Adam Bennett

Written by:  |  April 29, 2021

Adam is the president and founder of Cube Creative Design. Since starting the business in 2005, he has created individual relationships with clients in Western North Carolina. He places great value on the needs, expectations, and goals of the client.

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