How to Increase Your Private School Enrollment Funnel

How to Increase Your Private School Enrollment Funnel

February 23, 2022
(Reading time: 5 - 9 minutes)

In an ideal world, every student who would be a good fit for your Lutheran private school would apply.

However, with stiff competition and a plethora of information on Christian private school education, it's even harder now to make parents and students aware of your school in the first place.

Furthermore, just a small percentage of parents who have heard of your school will decide to apply. So, what can you do to raise initial awareness of your institution while also improving private school enrollment?

Creating a private school marketing strategy centered on your enrollment funnel could be the solution.

Understanding the private school enrollment funnel is the first step in properly optimizing your marketing.

Here's an explanation of how the enrollment funnel works, how to create marketing materials for each stage, and how to differentiate your marketing strategy within each stage to appeal to your two most key marketing personas (students and parents).

What Is an Enrollment Funnel?

You've probably heard the term “sales funnel” in reference to B2B services, retailers, or e-commerce sites.

A sales funnel, in general, traces the buyer's journey from brand awareness through an interest in the brand, desire for the company's product or service, and action (usually a purchase).

The enrolment funnel for schools follows a similar pattern, with three primary buckets: 

  • brand reputation (awareness)
  • marketing strategy (interest and desire)
  • enrollment (action)

Let's take a closer look at each of these funnel components.

What Is a Private School Enrollment Funnel

Brand Reputation

During the awareness stage of the funnel, your brand reputation helps you establish credibility with potential students and their parents.

Is your target audience familiar with your school?

If so, what is their point of view, or what assumptions do they have?

Your brand positioning should be the initial focus of your marketing strategy. You want your target audience to identify your institution with the characteristics you want it to be recognized for. A distinct pedagogical heritage, your school's mission, or sustaining a diverse culture are examples of these attributes.

It is also possible that members of your target audience had no prior knowledge of your LCMS school and only learned about it during their initial research.

Marketing resources (such as your website) should communicate with people of diverse levels of knowledge.

Marketing Strategy

The majority of your private school marketing plan should be directed toward the interest stage of the funnel. Create demand for your school by presenting it as attractive to your target audience in terms of academic offerings, extracurricular activities, and student achievements.

This is where distinguishing your message through digital marketing and some traditional marketing methods for private schools comes into play.

Enrollment

The enrollment funnel's ultimate purpose is, of course, to promote registrations. However, the enrollment stage can also be seen of as a mini-funnel in and of itself. When enough people are interested in your institution, a considerable number of them become "prospects."

Prospects narrow down to a smaller number of inquiries and an even fewer number of applications. After examining applications, your institution selects a percentage of applied students to become admitted students, and a portion of admitted students decide to enroll.

Strategic messaging at each stage of this mini-funnel can boost the likelihood of a family selecting your school as their top pick.

Analysis

Examining current and newly admitted students is one of the best ways to narrow down your target audience. The information received from registered students and their families can be used to improve the brand, marketing, and personas.

So the cycle starts all over again for the next registration period.

Understanding Your Audiences and Their Journeys

Buyer Persona Mapping: What It Is and Why Does It Matter

When it comes to selecting a private school, there are two key decision-makers: the student and the parents.

These two segments of your audience are also known as marketing personas. They will have distinct reasons for investigating Christian private schools and will have different experiences connecting with your school's brand.

Having different strategies to speak to both audiences throughout the enrollment funnel is essential to increasing applications and student retention.

The Parent Journey

Parents are typically the ones who pay the tuition, so they will conduct extensive research to ensure they are making the best investment for their family.

Parents are likely to begin their search on Google, wondering if public or private school is the best option. Parents will then go into specifics by studying a range of private schools factors such as:

  • Is this school a good fit for their child
  • Visiting the school website
  • Signing up for email lists to learn more

Many parents will frequently compare multiple schools at the same time, based on characteristics such as:

  • Cost
  • Academic quality
  • Reputation
  • Student outcomes 

Once a parent has narrowed down their preferred option, they may enroll the child in that school themselves or if the child is older, encourage the student to apply.

The Student Journey

Secondary school students are more likely to be affected by the student journey since they have more exposure to the school's brand or a say in the ultimate choice.

Unlike parents, teenagers prioritize school's social and enrichment features.

For example, a student might ask acquaintances which private school they go to. Students are more inclined to interact with a school's brand by checking social media profiles to learn more about student life and culture.

Extracurricular activities and sports should be emphasized in marketing materials during the interest and decision stages of the funnel.

Using Content Marketing to Increase Enrollment

Using Content Marketing to Increase Enrollment

Create relevant material for each level of the enrollment funnel, including video, social media, email, and blogs.

Diversifying content and channels like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), and Social Media Marketing (SMM) can help you reach both parents and students.

Awareness Stage

As part of the awareness stage, students and parents may be looking at other educational options. Back-to-school videos on Instagram, blog posts detailing the benefits and drawbacks of private schools, or an SEO-optimized website page with homework help tips can all help increase initial interest in your school.

Interest Stage

At this stage, the audience is familiar with your school's brand and wants to learn more.

Therefore you will want to generate content that differentiates your school from competitors and why it may be a good fit for the student and parent. If you are unsure what sets your school apart, consider doing a competition analysis. This will help you find holes gaps in your current strategy and the strategies of your biggest competitors.

When targeting the student personas, consider content that focuses on blog posts, “a day in the life,” student Instagram takeovers, or videos on YouTube.

Use your website to showcase affordability and opportunities for parents to get engaged and consider adding information about faculty and student outcomes. You will also want to capture emails from interested families so you can send them a program brochure or an outline of the application/enrollment process.

Decision Stage

Finally, during the decision stage, encourage the student and parent to visit the school for a tour or attend an event. You can also use email or video to explain to students and parents what happens next once they apply.

Lead Generation: Inbound and Outbound Strategies

The earlier in the enrollment funnel you can encourage a potential student or parent to take action, the better.

That is one of the reasons why lead creation is so crucial.

To generate new leads through inbound marketing methods, try landing pages with contact information forms and testing different content offers as an incentive to capture emails (such as a program brochure or a "Back to School" checklist).

Digital advertising for schools, such as paid SEM or paid social media ads, may direct prospective parents to the landing page where you can capture their information.

Following the capture of their email address, you might launch an email nurturing campaign with even more comprehensive information.

You may also want to consider more traditional outbound type campaigns utilizing industry data to build banner advertising or tailored email lists purchased from a list broker.

Measuring and Optimization

As with all school marketing, make sure you track your efforts to identify which ones are the most effective.

Using built-in analytics tools on social media sites like Facebook, UTM links with Google Analytics, and other metrics collected by third-party media can provide insight into what is and isn't working.

Using the Best Marketing Technology to Get the Job Done

If you haven't already, I recommend that you start using a marketing automation system and CRM, which will allow you to better track prospective parents’ and students' interactions with your marketing and your school.

  • When did they join your email list?
  • Is the student currently working on an application?

A CRM will help you better understand where these prospective students are in the enrollment process, allowing you to adapt your message to them.

Similarly, analytics tools for all elements of your marketing (website, social media, SEM, and so on) are critical for ensuring that you are achieving the results you require.

Lastly, onsite conversion tools such as pop-ups and forms can boost the likelihood of receiving more leads into your funnel, converting a casual researcher into a highly engaged prospective family.

Working with a digital marketing agency, in addition to leveraging technology, may help you optimize your marketing spending and pivot strategy as needed.

Key Takeaways to Building Your Private School Enrollment Funnel

When it comes to creating awareness for programs and recruiting new students and their families, today's private school enrollment marketers encounter several hurdles. Understanding how to attract, convert, and retain the proper students on a consistent basis is a monumental task in a rewarding yet competitive industry.

Building an enrollment funnel that grows applicants year after year isn't impossible without the correct information of your target audience, carefully selected technologies, and seasoned partners. 

Keep these in mind:

  • The enrollment funnel follows a similar pattern to a traditional sales funnel: awareness, interest, and choice (enrollment).
  • You should develop a specific plan based on the two primary private school marketing personas.
  • Create marketing content depending on the stage of the enrollment funnel and the persona you are attempting to attract. This will help you in the development of trust and rapport with potential families. To efficiently reach everyone in your target demographic, use a variety of paid and organic channels such as blogs, SEM, social media, and video marketing.
  • Use analytic and tracking tools so you can measure and optimize your campaigns.
  • Don't feel obligated to accomplish everything yourself. There is no shame in hiring an experienced agency to help.
Adam Bennett

Written by:  |  February 23, 2022

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.

See Adam Bennett's' bio: cubecreative.design/about/adam-bennett