Category Archives for "Featured Posts"

Increase Student Enrollment- Reduce Barriers to Entry

8 HACKS TO INCREASE STUDENT ENROLLMENT & RETENTION

Hack #6

Reduce Barriers to Entry

With robust marketing activities in place, we are positioned to address the aspects of the enrollment operation that can deter prospective families and applicants.  Hack #6 involves reducing the barriers to entry.

With robust marketing activities in place, we are positioned to address the aspects of the enrollment operation that can deter prospective families and applicants.  Hack #6 involves reducing the barriers to entry.

With the explosion of charter schools, many private schools have experienced a decrease in applications and enrollment.  For some parents, the mission, philosophy, and reputation of your private school is sufficient reason for sending their children to your school, but for many other parents, reservations can include: the cost of a private school education, qualifications of teachers, lack of resources, outside impressions, unflattering online presence, cumbersome application processes and outdated facilities or programs. So the question is how do private schools compete with this new rising “public charter school” alternative?


As we outlined in identifying your strengths and weaknesses, it was noted that one of the most important things private schools need to do is highlight strengths to demonstrate to prospective families that your school is right for them.  Having a structure in place to directly discuss the needs of families is optimal but, what if families do not visit as a result of one of the reservations stated above? In this edition, we’ll provide some tangible ways to reduce some of the more common barriers to entry.  


Professional Online Presence

In Hack #2:Know your Audience Part 1 - External Promotion we discussed the importance of knowing your audience and determining if your audience is able to find you.  Expanding on this concept, once your audience is able to locate you, it is important that you present them with a mindful professional experience.  Social media pages should strictly consist of postings relevant school activities and should reflect the spirit of your school community well. Most importantly, your website should communicate a professional presence.  Beyond simple grammar and clarity, the online experience you guide visitors through should clearly and comfortably showcase items of interest including admissions procedures, tuition information, event calendars and staff/leadership listings.  As people reach pages of interest, it is important to provided digital touchpoints to submit information or reach out for assistance. Too often, school websites go many years without significant updates or redesign and without modern tools, visitors are forced to receive information in fragments and often have to take extra, manual steps to receive responses or answers to questions.  When evaluating your web site, imagine what an appealing journey would look like and work to apply those features to ensure an optimal visitor experience that promotes high value inquiries.


Perception of Exclusivity

A common perception of non-public schools is that they can often be elitist and unsympathetic to the needs of students/families that lack a high level of expendable income.  While private schools correctly desire to be viewed as high quality and exceptional, the idea of being overly exclusive can overshadow the exceptionalism. As we laid out in Hack #3: Know your Audience Part 2 - Internal Promotion, to combat this misconception, it is important to communicate clearly through your marketing efforts that yours is an open, welcoming environment where all families are encouraged to participate.


Responsiveness

Building on the concept of professionalism and welcoming, as families inquire about your school either through digital means or via in-person events, it is essential to respond and follow up on their questions and needs in a timely manner.  As parents evaluate the best schools for their children, they require a great deal of trust in the leadership and operation of the school. If school leaders are not timely in their responses, it is very easy for that poor impression to lead to disinterest in your school.


Streamlined, Secure Application Process.

The application process can be daunting for new families. .  How is your application process from the parents’ perspective? Is your school asking parents to “jump through hoops” or complete manual paper work?  This is an immediate red flag to parents. Hack #2, Understanding Your Audience characterized your “customer”. Old processes and forms for new generations of parents are regarded as archaic and unacceptable.  Consider turnkey systems like K-12 online, infosnap and registration gateway to name a few, that not only do your applications and re-registrations online, but will also be able to handle all your forms, recommendations, tuition and other payments during the process.  While there are costs to consider, streamlined processes, including the recommendation process, not only presents a professional online presence and conveys to the parent that your technology is state-of-the-art, but that you value your parents’ time and want to ensure that interaction with your school is managed as efficiently as possible.  Studies have shown that parents prefer the convenience of online payment for fees, items and tuition and also prefer automated tuition processes. For a live example of how this can be achieved at your school, see K-12 Online’s sandbox site and test drive their “new student” application process.




Living your Mission Statement

Another common pain point that parents raise is the complexity of the tuition payment process.  We often hear frustrations that it is difficult to know what parents are paying for, tuition charges are not transparent, or that the management company is insensitive to parents’ current circumstances when it comes to late payments.  Contracting your tuition management out to a third party has its pros and cons. The benefit is it relieves the school of the collection process, being the “bad guy” and it is “free” to the school. By removing direct contact with the school office, some of the human element about your schools relationships with families can be negatively impacted.  By prioritizing a more personal and compassionate approach, both families and schools benefit. Issues can be worked out quickly and efficiently, fulfilling the school’s mission of providing a caring environment.


By critically examining and employing remedies to potential barriers to entry, school leaders can greatly mitigate the risk resulting from poor process and presentation and ensure marketing and enrollment operations are producing the optimal return on effort.






    Increase Student Enrollment and Retention – Advertising

    8 HACKS TO INCREASE STUDENT ENROLLMENT & RETENTION

    Hack #5

    Get Noticed Part 2 - Advertising


    Our 5th Hack explores the landscape of paid advertising.  While this is a continuation from our prior post on getting noticed, it is a complex but effective tactic worthy of a full overview.


    Implementing a paid advertising strategy can be a great way to generate awareness and grow interest in your school.  It can also be a quick way to burn through money with little results.

    Before implementing an advertising strategy, you will want to ensure that you have utilized all the available free resources at your disposal.  We’ve previously touched on these types of resources in past postings on people finding your school and social media tactics.  It’s important to consider that if you have been unable to realize results in your free efforts, you are less likely to see return for the money you invest in paid efforts.

    There are two primary methods for utilizing paid ads online; Paid Search and Social Advertising:

    Paid Search – As previously mentioned in our posting on people finding your school, the primary method for anyone looking to learn about your school or even better, any schools in your area is to utilize a search engine, Google being the most widely used.  There are a number of things you can do to your primary website so that it appears as relevant as possible in respective search results however, there are limits to how easily people will come across your school.  Not everyone searches for things in the same way or uses the same words therefore, a person might search “schools in New York City” where another might search “private schools in New York City” and another may search “catholic schools in New York City”.  

    Depending on how people enter their search criteria, your school could appear or “rank” a number of different ways.  There are things you can do to your site to combat this challenge but most require an experienced web developer to ensure the site is indexed as well as possible for search engines.  A practical way to combat this is by utilizing paid search which effectively allows you to build and show ads based on select keywords that people use to search for schools like yours .  The Google AdWords platform allows you to set up campaigns based on a series of key words you determine. In addition, you can set up different descriptions or ads so that your school can appear with the most optimal message respective of what someone is searching for.  If someone searched for “catholic schools in my area” you could ensure a result appears that includes a description of your school and it’s catholic qualities. If someone searches for “ Pre-K in my area” you could create a different listing that focuses more on the Pre-K qualities.

    As you can see, with your primary website, it’s difficult to be all things to all people at the right moment.  Paid search using Google Adwords allows you to strategically position the benefits of your school in plain view of your target audience at the most critical times.

    If you have not used Google Adwords, please note that there is a difference between Google Adwords and Adwords Express.  Adwords gives you more control, but requires more manual input. Adwords Express uses Google’s search engine expertise to automate and decide where your listing will appear.  This may not be as optimal if you are on a tight budget as it may result in unnecessary clicks on your Adword listing that will eat into your marketing budget.

    Social Advertising – Paid efforts essentially allow you target people in specific geographies, demographics or interest and serve up a specialized post or ad with a message that is relevant to that audience.  Like paid search, it gives you great ability to reach a specific group of people. Unlike paid search, you have no idea what words they are searching for or what needs are front of mind. You are simply trying to identify an audience that is similar to your current customers and deliver a compelling message which they will hopefully find relevance in and click through to your offering.

    There are many tutorial videos and step by step guides offered that can specifically walk you through how to build and launch your ads.  The Facebook business guide is an extremely helpful resource and as you create ads on the platform, it has a lot of great hints along the way to clarify best practices.

    As a practical overview, there are some general areas of focus you’ll want to be mindful of as you identify targets and build ads.

    • Clear call to Action – What do you want people to do? – When they see your ad, what is the action that you want them to take?  Are you asking them to do to much? Does your image and messaging make it easy for them to understand what the next step is or what you want them to do?
      • High quality image or video – You’ll want to ensure that whatever images or videos you use in your ads that they are of a good quality to show your organization in the best light possible.  An image with poor quality (blurry, pixilated) will demonstrate a lack of attention in your effort and could not only reflect poorly on your organization but could cause people to ignore or dismiss your ad entirely.
      • Targets – This is where you will refine who will see your message.  As you will see when you are working in the tool, virtually the entire world is at your disposal and while it might initially seem practical to target everyone in your city, town or county, it’s important to keep in mind that by setting your target too broad, you may invite clicks (which you are paying for) that may not be the right types of prospects, causing you to waste money.  One tactic would be to identify specific groups in your area in which the group members closely match the profiles of existing families and students in your school. This makes it more likely that they will click to your offering and more likely they will proceed towards submitting an application.
      • Budget – Once your are in the setup area, you will eventually reach the area that allows you to set your budget and limits.  There are 2 ways of running ads, on a Cost per Click basis (CPC) or a Cost per Impression basis (CPM based on 1000 impressions).  To clarify further, CPC charges you whenever someone clicks, CPM charges you based on how many people see your ad. The setup tool will provide you with recommended bid estimates.  If you bid on the higher end, your ads will be displayed first, if you bid lower, your ads will appear if/when your competitors budgets are depleted or if they turn their ads off. It can become quite a complex arrangement depending on how competitive your targets are.  When executed well, one can gain a lot of previously unrealized attention.
      • Timing – In keeping with the budget theme, from a set up standpoint, you can set the times you wish for your ads to run in an effort to be the most effective.  You’ll want to be mindful if you are promoting specific events that you don’t allow ads to run beyond the event date as it would be very wasteful. Additionally, you can set a daily budget that prevents you from overspending and allows you evenly allocate your funds over time

      There are certainly many paths you can go down in the world of social media however if you can clarify and simplify your goals, you have great potential to reach a wide audience and demonstrate the value of your organization.

      Both of these tactics are extremely accessible and relatively easy to execute.  Like most things, the devil is in the details of providing clear, relevant messaging and ensuring you target the appropriate audience to achieve the highest conversion possible.  Another great feature is that these platforms provide excellent analytics so that you can quickly determine which efforts are having the desired impact. From these analytics you can take quick action to eliminate or adjust the ads that aren’t working as well as increase your budget on ads that are generating relevant interest in your school. If you have specific challenges that you would like advice on, we may be able to assist. Complete this form with your issue.

      Feel free to ask any general questions in the Comment Section at the bottom of the page.


      Private-School-Increase-Enrollment

      Increase Student Enrollment – Understand the Value of Your School

      8 Hacks to Increase Student Enrollment & RETENTION

      Hack #1

      Getting Started - Understanding the Value of Your School.


      Introduction


      Welcome to the first installment of our new blog series, 8 Hacks to Increase Enrollment.

      There is no question that a thriving community of students and families is necessary to creating and maintaining a dynamic learning environment.  Healthy, growing enrollment has a direct, compounding effect on the level of services schools are able to provide their community.  As enrollment declines or remains stagnant, revenue constraints can quickly lead to difficult decisions into which areas might receive continued funding and which areas might require a reduction or elimination of programs.  This can make it very difficult for schools to confidently highlight their programs and remain competitive amongst other education options.


      In this series, we will highlight key areas of focus for school leaders who are frequently tasked with multiple responsibilities and little remaining bandwidth to navigate the nuances of competitive, necessary marketing programs.  With this level of focus we aim to make optimal use of our readers limited, valuable time and provide practical, actionable resources to enhance your enrollment efforts.


      In part 1 of this 8 part series, we will outline the foundational aspects of successful planning and execution, specifically two items: Gaining clarity into the aspects of your school that resonate the most with your community and thus deliver the most value.  And how to build a high powered marketing team that contributes to highlighting these strengths and demonstrating the value to prospective and current families.



      Understanding the Value of Your School:

      Hack #1 Building Your Foundation


      Identify Strengths and Weaknesses

      Possibly, the most important part of marketing planning is brainstorming the strengths and weaknesses of your school.  It provides great opportunity so slow down from operational responsibilities and reflect on exactly what makes your school so wonderful and why people should be excited to dive deeper into all it has to offer as well as identify areas of improvement that may hinder prospective parents from applying or retention of current families.  With that said, visitors to your school are likely evaluating other schools and programs and are rightfully focused on the similarities to ensure the core needs of their children are effectively met.  It is both in your interest and to their benefit that you can communicate a clear understanding of what separates your school from others.  Success in this area establishes a high degree of confidence in the services of your school and a strong sense of excitement that your school will offer a unique, premium experience.


      Showcase Your Top Features

      Now that your list is well developed, prioritize the strengths and weaknesses and dedicate time to examine them from the perspective of both a prospective and a current family.  Identify the top features that you feel would resonate most with the people who come through your doors.  Along those same lines, determine which features would be best to highlight in promotional efforts as well as how you might create an environment or event that would allow people to experience these special features first hand. Perhaps you might host an open house where prospective students can bring their own instruments and perform with the music instructor.  You might position your longest tenured teachers to engage with visitors and share their unique perspective from years of service.  You may choose to showcase your unique use of technology that demonstrates credibility and maturity of your operation compared to other schools that might rely on paper processes and clunky communications efforts.  As you can see, there are opportunities to get creative.  Identifying the features that bring value and that you are excited to share will greatly assist you building momentum to execute your marketing efforts.  


      While discovering which items will resonate most with visitors is key, don’t neglect the importance of the remaining items on your original list. The full list will serve you well as you engage in deeper relevant discussions with prospective families looking for features that set your school apart.


      As you reflect on your identified weaknesses, be sure to critically analyze any weaknesses that might be immediately noticeable to families.  In your marketing efforts, you will establish a number of processes and pathways to both inform people and collect information on their interests, including student registration and application data.  Shortcomings in these key processes are highly visible.  As such, employing credible, professional level data capture and mobilization processes will immediately inform visitors on the professionalism of your operation and your attention to critical details.



      Build Your Team

      We’ve touched on the notion that the competing responsibilities of school leaders face can easily restrict school marketing and enrollment growth efforts.  For that reason, leaders must embrace the notion that it cannot be done by one person.  Key duties must be delegated to competent, energetic staff and/or volunteers to really form a team effort.


      There are 4 areas of focus to consider when matching the skills of your staff to the most appropriate role.

      • Event Planning
      • Communications
      • Data/Registrations
      • Relationship Building


      We will review each of these areas in more depth throughout this series however, in the team building stage, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the basic functions of each role.


      Event Planning

      Hosting events that draw visitors is the lifeblood of an effective marketing effort.  On it’s own, this is a very large responsibility which often requires its own team, under the direction of your event planner to execute.  Responsibilities of this role cover all aspects of showcasing your school including, room reservation, decor, catering, organizing entertainment or areas of focus, equipment needs, and coordinating speakers among a variety of other duties.  Event planners are positioned to proactively handle issues and troubleshoot problems that might arise on event days.


      Communications

      In order to succeed in drawing foot traffic and getting the most out of your events, a well developed communications in necessary to ensure people are aware and informed.  Your communications manager will identify and manage the available channels as well as channels you might want to add.  Common channels include flyers, website, email, social, media, paid advertising, community groups, and more.


      Data/Registrations

      As you begin to communicate your events and encourage participation, you will want to decide on the most appropriate way to collect information about people visiting your school.  Having a record of who intends to visit is critical to meaningful follow ups.


      It is highly recommended that technology be incorporated into your data collection efforts.  Using online registration or data captures systems prior to an event or even ipads or tablets that are connected to a reputable system on-site at events gives people a first hand impression of the sophistication level of your school.  Using technology in data collection provides great opportunity to showcase the professionalism and credibility of your school as well as collect meaningful information on your visitors.


      Your data manager is someone who is comfortable working with data and data platforms and will work very closely with the communications manager to ensure potential visitors have a clear path the registration and identifying interests.



      Relationship Building

      Your relationship manager benefits from the successful execution of communications, events, and data collection by analyzing visitors and the interests they’ve expressed.  The valuable information gained from your teams efforts can now be leveraged to warmly reach out after events have concluded.  Your relationship manager is positioned to engage in relevant discussions that address the expressed interests of visitors including:

      • Music Performances
      • Art Shows
      • Athletic Events
      • Science Open Houses
      • School Visits showcasing a specific class/method/teacher

      Conclusion


      With your best assets identified, a plan to mitigate known weaknesses, and your team positioned to their appropriate skill set, you are now prepared to develop the details of your marketing efforts with excitement, confidence and momentum.  As we proceed in this series, next we will review the key elements of understanding your target audience and designing an effective promotion plan to reach that audience.


      Stay tuned!


      Our next edition in the series is entitled, "Know your Audience Part 1 - External Promotion". We would love to hear from you as to what aspects of promotion you find most challenging or interesting. Please complete the brief survey. Your input will be incorporated in our next series installment! If you've liked our content, please share this post with your fellow colleagues!



      Student Online Registration: “Nothing Short of Absolutely Amazing!”

      Now families can do student online registration for school the same way they buy movie tickets and order pizza, and school districts are freed from an ocean of paperwork.

      This hosted solution comes from K-12 Online. The student online registration system was tested at a California school district in 2011 with astounding results. An ordeal that previously took three or more hours, bringing comparisons to airline travel and Christmas at the post office, was reduced to an average of 40 minutes.

      One administrator called the pilot project, “Nothing short of absolutely amazing.” Another stressed how it freed teachers and staff from shuffling papers and allowed them to talk with students and parents and take advantage of the day that shapes first impressions of a new school. Continue reading

      Online Registration Systems Save Schools Time and Money

      online registration saves money for schools

      Some California Districts have made it their goal to figure out ways to save their schools time and money and service their “customers” better.

      For one school in California, its goal was to reduce the time students and parents spent waiting in line during the registration process. The administration understood that students’ and parents’ time is important and wanted to find an effortless way to achieve their goal during registration, a time when students and parents come to school prior to the beginning of school to register their students.

      According to Aaron Peralta, Principal of Costa Mesa Middle School in California, implementation of K-12 Online‘s online registration reduced the time spent by students and parents in line to about 45 minutes. The previous year, parents and students waited close to 3 hours. Not only did the online registration system save time for the students and parents, but the easy usage and ability to prepay for school items was a great feature.  Unlike some built-in SIS registration systems, K-12 Online is more robust with many features that ultimately save schools time and money.

      Continue reading

      Five Easy Ways Schools Can Save Money

      how-technological-investment-can-help-schools-save-money

      During the difficult challenge of finding ways to save money, administrators are looking in all areas to make positive changes without sacrificing the quality of education and services to their students. Rather than sacrificing the quality of the educational experience for students, administrators can look at their administrative processes and procedures to determine where and how they are spending time and money.

      1. As many educational technologies advance, schools are now able to take advantage of more solutions to eliminate unnecessary costs. These advances include automating the system of communication between administration and parents, student information system that hold important student information (grades, progress reports, attendance), and online registration systems which, if taken advantage of, can be a benefit to all involved.

      Continue reading

      Five Main Advantages of Online School Registration

      line-2Who’s setting up the tables? Did I remember to give the supply cabinet key to Mr. Smith to get materials for the signs? Whew, these lines are taking forever. Oh no, is that irate mother headed my way with more complaints? How many days left until summer?

      Excessive use of time and materials can make registration a nightmare for public and private schools alike. Even smaller charter and private schools struggle to make registration an efficient process for administrators, teachers, parents, and students. Online registration is a wonderful opportunity for a school district or a charter school to redirect its energy towards the parents and students who need it, while leaving the paperwork aspect of the job in one secure and convenient location.

      Five Main Advantages of Online Registration:

      Continue reading

      Choosing an Online Registration Software System for Schools?

      One-click management

      According to Capterra, choosing an online school registration software that considers the needs of students and teachers – not just district administration – is important. All software companies may claim that their product will save you time and money, but it is not as simple as you may think. Your choice should seamlessly convey your schools’ business logic and processes.

      First and foremost, online registration would be right for you if you currently process student enrollment and registration manually or with an outdated computer system. Perhaps you would like to expand your institution and enroll more students, or you find that your school administration system is pushed to the limit by relying on manual forms of data management, like printed copies of forms or Excel spreadsheets.

      When looking for a school online registration system, make sure you are inclusive with representatives of the student body, parents, and administration. Does the registration process make sense for the parents and is it easy to understand? If there is a registration week for students to bring in required documents, how will the system track that? Are parents able to purchase items through an online Webstore while completing the enrollment forms? Can students enroll or make purchases year-round? Does the online registration system integrate with your current school management software? These are among the many questions that can be asked to determine which online registration system is right for you!

      Continue reading

      Alabama School District Addresses Parent Woes With K-12 Online



      Logo-Crest

      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- IRVINE, CA AUGUST 9, 2016

      Jefferson County Schools in Birmingham, Alabama will be implementing K-12 Online’s Online Registration System with its Integrated Webstore and Reconciliation System this fall.

      Jefferson County Board of Education, Alabama’s 2nd largest school district, has taken action to streamline registration for both parents and school staff.  This year, 36,000 students will be using K-12 Online’s Registration System to seamlessly integrate with Chalkable (formerly STI’S INOW), update demographic information, acknowledge permissions, pay for school items, and make donations….online!

      Continue reading

      10 Questions to Help you Select an Online School Registration System

      Do you currently process student enrollment and registration forms manually or with an outdated software system? Are you (and your employees) working overtime during peak enrollment weeks? Do you want to expand your institution and enroll more students and find that your student information system (SIS) is relying on manual forms for student information updates?

      If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then an online registration system may be right for you. However, finding the perfect system can be a daunting and exhaustive task. Choosing an online school registration system that is inclusive and considers the needs of parents, students, teachers and administration is important. Consider the below in your process as you review online school registration systems to ensure the service provider you select will perform how and when you need it. Continue reading
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