The traditional way that schools approach enrollment is to respond to parents after they indicate interest. If that summarizes your approach to enrollment, it can result in a passive posture that hinders growth. It is similar to the “waiting by the phone” method of finding a date.
There are a variety of ways to break out of that mold through marketing, advertising or community engagement. Efforts to reach parents earlier in their process of consideration help the school journey with parents to make better educational decisions.
A passive admissions approach, in which the school only responds when parents indicate interest, keeps the school out of much of the
Instead, a growth posture for
A proactive admissions posture introduces parents to the Christian educational philosophy early in their parenting journey, long before final decisions are made about education.
In marketing, this kind of promotion of the Christian school philosophy is called “demand creation,” educating parents about something they don’t know enough about. But it also develops community leadership – offering helpful advice that positions the school as an authority.
How early do you need to engage parents? For preschool, parents start their research during pregnancy – that’s when they should meet your school. For all the other key enrollment grades, a two year outreach period is the best approach.
Make the shift to a growth posture – cloister or parish?
The real question is, when should Christian schools begin engaging with parents? Should they approach helping as if the school is a cloister – only helping when the parent becomes an insider through enrollment? Or should they view the entire community around the school as their parish, providing parents with the benefit of the Christian schools’ unique and holistic view of how we can raise healthy, spiritually mature children?
Story Collaborative believes that Christian schools should find their voice, helping parents focus on the importance of holistic development.
Are parents looking for help?
The fact is, parents are avid help seekers. They search online for advice, tutorials, assistance and insights from all types of different sources. Parents begin avid online research as soon as they become pregnant and continue looking online for answers for the balance of their parenting experience.
Christian schools, their faculty, administration and parent community are in a unique position to speak about the challenges and solutions for developing leadership, character, social skills and careers for children and youth. Parents want and need that advice.
Why should you hold back when no one else in our culture is waiting to offer advice and guidance to parents. Youtube and online blogs are full of advice and suggestions from a thousand different sources, and parents are listening. You can find some amazing (and crazy) ideas with even the most casual online search.
Perhaps your admissions team is already working to break out of a passive stance. Here are some steps to help with that process.
Step 1- Helpful Thought Leadership
The decision to help parents more broadly is a first step in moving toward a growth posture. This help naturally takes the form of online content that helps parents answer the hundreds of questions they have about their children’s development, character, social media use, social skills, career preparation and all of the other things parents want to know about.
Don’t view this kind of help as only a once-per-year event in which you bring in a great speaker to help parents. That’s a good thing to do, but it’s important to make helping a cornerstone of your website and social presence, with sound ideas offered frequently.
A blog. A blog is a good step toward taking up this role. If done properly it can substantially help parents get important insights and boost your search engine optimization (SEO) so that more parents find you. Get some help with the right blog approach with a free consultation. You can add all kinds of helpful content to a blog including articles, interviews, video or graphic illustrations.
Partner with other parent helping organizations. Local professionals who offer practical help to parents can become great partners for content, events and shared marketing. These can include health professionals, nutrition experts, sports trainers, police and safety officials, psychologists, college prep experts, etc.
Collect and publicly answer real questions from parents. These can go in your blog, social video or in the local press. Show parents that you really understand the pathway to holistic child development and that you are a trustworthy partner for them.
Step 2- Promote Your Helpful Content
Once you’ve got content to share, then it should be promoted. This helps establish your thought leadership role and puts your brand in front of parents. But it does something much bigger – it changes the nature of your marketing from an attempt to get people to “sign up now,” to intentionally engaging parents by serving them where they are in their parenting journey.
Helpful parent content attracts parents whose values align with the school.
Parents who consume your insights into the many facets of raising the whole child build the kind of trust connection that draws them to the school for the right reasons. When you have been helping them over time, they are much more likely to be a good mission fit, and they are also going to trust the depth of your team’s experience and commitment to children.
Step 2 – Unlock Your Admissions Team with the Gift of Sales Enablement
Once you’ve begun positioning your school as an easy to find online source for parent insights, it’s time to equip your admissions team with the right tools. The best admissions team members are more than process managers, they are winsome relationship builders.
Growth-oriented admissions work can’t be effectively carried out only using forms and checklists, or by using the school learning management system (LMS) that is designed to organize internal school management. These tools were not designed for the work of nurturing people toward a decision.
A growth posture requires many more personal contacts than a passive admissions approach. These contacts include more telephone calls, emails, multiple communication channel connections, or personal videos along with a follow-up sequence that keeps the admissions team on track to reach out with follow-up. The tools for this process of personalized follow-up come from modern sales software and processes. Don’t let the sales term scare you off, modern sales tools are designed to equip your team to reach people proactively and to make those tasks positive and easy to manage.
Sales Enablement for Admissions
Customer Relationship Manager (CRM). Adopting a growth posture means using a customer relationship manager (CRM) instead of a series of excel spreadsheets. The CRM sits underneath your website and communication tools to allow you to organize, list, track and prioritize parents based upon their interest and readiness. It allows you to see all the parents that are interested in fine-arts who may want to attend a camp, or those who might like to know about a new arts program at the school. It keeps track of how people interact with all of your digital assets so you can see just how interested they are.
Integrated Email. People know the difference between mass email and personalized message written by a person. Your CRM needs to be connected to your normal email service (say G-Suite or Office 365). The right kind of sales tools will allow you to do lots of CRM management and communication right from your inbox.
Follow-up Video. If you want people to pay attention to your messages, add personalized video to your communications. It makes a world of difference and helps your team stand out.
Multiple Communication Channels. An effective growth posture for admissions means being able to communicate with people in their communication channel of preference. You’ll need to be able to easily switch between phone, email, text (SMS), and Facebook Messenger without missing a beat, and field those messages when they come in.
Intelligent Bots. Get the online conversations started with smart bots that can answer questions and get people to the right person. Whether you are answering parent questions about child development or booking a tour, bots save time, make parent interaction smoother and position your school as techier than the rest.