Here at Enroll Media Group, we were given the incredible opportunity to present earlier this month at The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) 2019 Annual Conference in the heart of Washington, D.C. On the final day of the conference, several schools, companies, and individuals demonstrated their research and knowledge using graphically-based representations on poster displays.
In our case, it only took us a few sketches to arrive at our final concept: The Backpacker's Guide to Enrollment Marketing (actual poster is pictured above), a sequence of challenges and accompanying solutions faced by independent schools on a daily basis. Not unlike embarking on a new backpacking adventure, everything comes down to preparation.
The Backpacker's Guide, in digital format, will help frame all of your strategic decisions coming ahead in the New Year. If you struggle with any or all of these obstacles, take a peek below for a short-list of solutions to prepare and push you well ahead of your goals in 2019:
#1: MARKETING CHALLENGE: WHERE DO YOU START?
- Mine Google Analytics for a baseline: In the absence of a clear "first step" to market your school, organization, or business, start analyzing the data that you have available at your fingertips. If you don't have Google Analytics (GA) access already, reach out to colleagues with keys to your GA account, which can provide an excellent baseline understanding of opportunities unique to your school. Addressing your school’s specific struggles is going to be the most effective short-term strategy, but that’s only a small glimpse into the bigger picture.
- Tap into enrollment data for ad placement: Many digital advertising platforms (like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google) can leverage your data via lists of current students and inquiries to help target audiences more effectively. In addition to targeting current prospects, you’ll be able to reach similar families where they spend their time online. How? By building lookalike networks off those lists to make your advertising resonate with relevant audiences. This includes adding in demographics as well as “persona” data, like parental status, typical jobs, affluence, etc.
[RESOURCE] Don't know what to look for in Google Analytics? Reference the Google Analytics Academy for help with training and creating/maintaining goals to measure against.
#2: MARKETING CHALLENGE: LOW INQUIRIES
- Try Facebook & Instagram Lead Ads: The power behind Lead Ads? Filling out forms can be difficult and time-intensive, so many people don't complete them as a result. Lead Ads are pre-populated with the user's contact information native in Facebook, and filling them out couldn't be easier. As a result, Lead Ads are typically one of the highest sources of new conversions per platform.
- Invest in Paid Search: Paid search capitalizes on the power of search engines (and the increasing use of voice searches) to find users with intent. If someone is searching for what your school offers – or an event hosted by your school – there is no better method of capturing their interest on that first Search Engine Results Page. Google Ads is a great place to start with Paid Search.
- Undergo Search Engine Optimization (SEO): The other half of search engine marketing, is organic SEO. Find a trusted partner and complete an assessment of your website's SEO to address critical issues. You need to know whether you’re missing out on website traffic, and why. Your digital properties are critically important to your core audiences, so SEO is a must-have component to ensure your site is optimized to help your online presence, and ensure you continue to pace against your goals.
[RESOURCE] In the absence of a historical SEO strategy, the SEO experts at Moz have a fantastic suite of free SEO tools that you can use and reference to learn more.
#3: MARKETING CHALLENGE: LOW EVENT ATTENDANCE
- Revamp Directories: Chances are, you're already well-aware that families use directory websites (like Niche and Boarding School Review) to find independent schools. To optimize event-centric information on those sites and Google (via Google My Business), edit your profiles with rich content, posts, and accurate information to help you reach and engage with your desired audiences.
- Utilize Landing Pages: Design a custom landing page for your event with one singular call-to-action. Don't wait until your next major website project to prioritize lead generation in the meantime. Check out our recent blog on the hidden power behind this particular strategy!
[RESOURCE] Use Google My Business to create an "Event" post for your upcoming admissions or fundraising events. The placement of these organic posts – particularly on mobile devices – is prominent within the SERP (...and, even better: it's free!).
#4: MARKETING CHALLENGE: NOT ATTRACTING THE RIGHT FAMILIES
- Retarget your website visitors effectively: Familiar with being followed by the products that you previously researched on your phone, desktop, or tablet? Day and boarding schools can use the same technology and implement retargeting on various platforms like Google Ads and Facebook to re-engage with users who’ve been to your website – but haven't converted yet. Forging a connection at this juncture could mean the difference between the visitor’s return or not.
- Create Lookalike networks: As mentioned in the first challenge above, leveraging a list of currently enrolled families and running lookalike campaigns on Google & Facebook are two great strategies that will offer your existing community the capability of reaching similar families. Lookalike campaigns can be split apart from other efforts focused on other targeting attributes, so as to provide a better sense of effectiveness and engagement.
- Execute Geofencing: In many cases, feeder businesses and schools still represent a large portion of the "word of mouth" lead source that schools struggle to quantify every year. Nowadays, advertising technology makes it feasible to target these businesses with a high level of accuracy through mobile location targeting and geofencing. This is different than just simply geo-targeting -- gone are the days of targeting entire zip codes based on enrollment data or mile radius! Another benefit, aside from the precision accuracy, is that you can still communicate with users through ads on their mobile device, even after they’ve left the geofenced parameter.
[RESOURCE] Reference Google Customer Match and Facebook Custom Audiences resources to better understand how these platforms make it possible to match your data to your digital advertising.
#5: MARKETING CHALLENGE: HIGH ATTRITION / LOW YIELD
- Nurture leads: Once a lead has been submitted through any source, the need for personalized and relevant communication should be front and center. Your inquiries are likely to hear from your competitors about their unique selling points over a variety of channels, so this is a perfect opportunity to let yours shine!
- Segment Your Retargeting: For families or individuals late in the consideration phase, who may be getting ready to make their final decisions, engaging video and blog content is paramount to bolstering yield efforts and reducing summer melt. Chances are, families considering your institution have visited your website by this stage. Segment your cool prospects from your warmer ones, and use emotion-driven content via retargeting.
- Complement direct mail with digital marketing: Ahead of your next open house or yield event postcard, consider targeting homes with online banners in concert with direct mail drops. Frequency is a major contributor to conversion rate success, and the same design elements and content can often be shared across mediums to save on time. This means reusing the same aesthetic and design from your postcards for your digital advertising can actually make your campaigns more successful!
[RESOURCE] For a fantastic overview of lead nurturing, check out this blog post from our partners at HubSpot regarding nurturing strategies that work.
#6: MARKETING CHALLENGE: LIMITED RESOURCES AND A SHOE-STRING BUDGET
- Partner with an education-focused marketing consultant: We understand what it's like to struggle for the budget, despite the goals ahead, and find solutions that work for little (or no) budget. In fact, we built our mission at EMG around helping schools, organizations, and businesses create data-driven processes to manage and track the efficacy of marketing dollars spent. We also know what it's like to wear many hats, and that it's unreasonable to expect that everyone has the resources to pull together the solutions that we've presented here. In the absence of being able to implement some (or all) of the tips provided above – some of which are free – we strongly recommend finding a group or a trusted partner that specializes in the independent school space to help.
As we turn our calendars over to 2019, we are truly excited to continue helping more schools and businesses achieve their loftiest goals. If you would like to discuss your institutional objectives or challenges in the New Year, we would love to hear about them – reach out to EMG today!