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How to choose the BEST school management solution for your school. Part 2

6.       Parent appeal.  Are parents appreciative that registration every year is simple and stress-free?  Provide a system that streamlines the registration, webstore and tuition payment within the system.  During our parent survey, the biggest gripes were: the number of paper forms, the number of systems parents have to access for the various functions, easy to read tuition payment statements.


7.       Prospective parents. Are prospective parents receiving a good first impression of your school?  Are parents still filling out paper forms? With today’s technology, parents should not have to jump through hoops to apply to your school.  Some schools fail to remember that those prospective parents are your future clients. I don’t think more needs to be said on that.


8.       Save resources. Does your system reduce the workload for admins such as bookkeepers and registrars .  How much time is your staff spending on reconciling checks, chasing incomplete paperwork. As an exercise, let me challenge you to ask your staff how much time is spent babysitting the student application process, recommendation process, returning student registration process, manual data entry of parent information, running to make bank deposits etc. and multiply that by the average hourly wage.  Add this to the cost of your SIS.


9.       Cost. Compare apples to apples.  Systems claim an integrated system but each integration is an added cost. What was an $8 per student system ends up being a $40 per student system.  I’ve mentioned several associated costs above that should be factored into the price which should also include such things as the annual registration fee paid by parents for use of third party applications such as tuition. See Cost Calculator

10.   Most important, Try before you buy.  Many systems promise you the world but none deliver!  Would you purchase a vehicle which claims everything without a test drive?  What if there was a system out there that allowed your teachers, parents and admins to try the system so they could see how intuitive and how easy it was to navigate.   Would you be willing to give it a try?  Most companies allow you to make your decision based on a free one hour demo.  Perhaps that is good enough for your school.  Otherwise, do your due diligence and find a solution that does offer an all-inclusive, try before you buy system.

Choosing the BEST school management solution for your school. Part 1

The right SIS is vital to the success of your school.  For teachers, if your current system is just a data management system that does nothing except store data then your SIS is not taking advantage of technology that provides sophisticated learning analytics that interpret this data.  For parents, if they are inconvenienced with paper and multiple apps, then your SIS’s ease-of-use to access student information, forms, online purchases, tuition is not sending a positive signal to your “clients.” For admins, if simple functions are taking a lot of time then your SIS is chewing up tons of resources and costing you more money than you think.  So in this 2 part series, we will provide 10 tips when considering shopping for a new SIS.

1.       SIS buying decisions should be based on who is going to be using it the most.  Surveys show the amount of time spent on a SIS in this order: Teachers, parents, admins.  Who is making your buying decision? Admins spend the least amount of time with a SIS; yet, the majority of the buying decisions are made by just the admins.  Teachers should be able to test how easy it is to take attendance, grade, set up curriculum testing that autogrades and more importantly give teachers feedback on students’ progress.


2.       Learning curve and user interface. Should teachers, admins need to go to user conferences to learn about the software or should it be intuitive enough to use?  There is something wrong with a system if the users organize multi-day conferences to teach each other workarounds and how-tos and schools have to pay extra for training.  Are you factoring this into your cost of the product….including the travel, hotel fare and comp time to teachers?  What if there was a system out there that was SO intuitive that they allowed you to TRY BEFORE YOU BUY?  That would immediately send a message that the setup and ease of use must be so intuitive that it doesn't require a user's conference.


3.       Teacher collaboration. Collaborative teaching improves quality instruction.  Does your system allow for this? Many systems are not flexible enough to allow the exchange of learning curriculum amongst teachers.  We know that schools perform better when teachers collaborate on teaching material, idea exchanges and brainstorming. Best ideas are garnered and work-load is reduced when the system can collaborate instructional information.


4.       The power of data.  Technology should be used to improve education.  Learning analytics should be an integrated part and not an add-on.  Does your system interpret data to give you a picture of what is working and what is not?  Data has the power to inform teachers on the effectiveness of their instruction. Integrated testing with a LMS should reveal where students are struggling, what concepts require more explanation and more importantly, quickly reveal which students need more attention.  Schools should not have to pay thousands of additional dollars for the basic requirement to properly assess student achievement.

5.       User experience.  Is the system appealing and easy to use or clunky to navigate?  Many systems were developed as desktop versions and are retrofitted to be web-based versions, making the user interface not intuitive nor user friendly.  How quickly can teachers, parents and admins access their pages?  The analogy can be a user experience when using an “OLD” GPS built-in car system vs. your mobile phone.  Which one do you end up using?


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15 ideas for every good principal

15 ideas for every good principal...


When Principals reflect on their past year, metrics are concrete ways to determine whether your year was successful or not. Data does not lie. According to 2012 MetLife.com  Teacher Survey,  Principals are most likely to say it is very important for principals to be able to use data about student performance to improve instruction (85%) and to lead development of strong teaching capacity across the school (84%) to be an effective school leader. 


STATS


Is enrollment up?

Need to increase school enrollment? Many factors may be contributing to the decline in your school enrollment.  If you would like to read our 8-part series on “How to grow school enrollment.” Click Here.


Is your student return ratio up?

Student return ratio is an indicator whether your school is doing well or not.  If the number of students leaving for no valid reason is increasing over time, it is a red-flag that something is wrong.  Are you tracking those families who are departing your school and are you asking why? Easy mechanisms such as an exit survey or registration surveys can monitor the health of your school environment.


What is the % attending college?

Parents want to know that their students will succeed.  Does your school keep these statistics for prospective families to know.

What percentage of your students are achieving your school’s curriculum standards? If you don’t know this statistic or if it’s not 100%, then your SIS is not working for you.  SIS’s should be able to handle learning analytics to give you feedback on how well your students are doing in the classroom.  This should not cost extra for this functionality.  If it is, you should consider switching SISs to one which provides this functionality.



TEACHERS

Are teachers happy?

Teacher’s lives should be made easy.  Collaborate teaching, sharing creates teamwork, a sense of belonging and reduces work redundancies. This should be available to them.  Is your SIS able to assist in this?


Are teachers getting the support from admin?

Teachers are vital to the success of the school.  Are they part of your decision making process? For example, the student information system (SIS) is used primarily by teachers.  Yet many teachers have no say in what SIS is purchased for the school.


Are teachers happy with grading and paperwork?

Grading is a pain.  Can this process be automated and eliminate the need for paperwork?  Is your SIS capable of doing this?


STUDENTS 

Are students happy coming to school?

Happy students and happy parents are your biggest marketing tool.  Are programs available to accommodate all students, especially during recess and lunch times?

​​Do you provide a non-threatening environment for students with anti-bullying awareness? 
“One rotten apple can spoil the entire cart”.  Are you aware of bullying or need a anti-bullying hotline? 


Are you developing the “whole child”?  Are programs in place to develop the mind, body and spirit of the child.  What makes your school stand out? 

PARENTS
Are parents happy with the school? 
Do you keep a pulse on your parents?  Are they actively engaged and contribute to your school.  See https://k12online.us/retaining-more-families/

Is your admissions process streamlined and easy for both parents and admission staff?
If you are still on paper, you are sending a negative signal to your prospective clients.  
See https://k12online.us/increase-student-enrollment-reduce-barriers-to-entry/

ADMIN

Is your support staff happy?
Your support staff is the face of the school.  If a prospective family walks in and the first interaction is with a cranky front office staff, that sends a negative signal. 

Is your school running efficiently?  
Do you feel that you are spinning your wheels trying to get procedures in place.  Can you take time to think and realize many of the issues discussed can be solved with technology that will save you time and money and increase your enrollment!

Is your staff optimizing time & resources in their everyday tasks?  
Is your SIS really working for you or are you working for your SIS?  If your SIS is not working for you, or you think it’s too expensive, 

See 10 things to ask about your SIS.

15 questions every good principal asks.

15 questions every good principal asks.

Summertime is a good time to evaluate your school.  What worked, what didn’t, what new changes to implement for the next school year? Here are 15 questions to think about...


School Reflections

STATS

Is enrollment up?

Is your student return ratio up?

What is the % of students attending college?

What percentage of your students are achieving your school’s curriculum standards?


TEACHERS

Are teachers happy?

Are teachers getting the support from admin?

Are teachers happy with grading and paperwork?

Are your admissions process streamlined and easy for both parents and admission staff?

STUDENTS / PARENTS

Are students happy coming to school?

Do you provide a non-threatening environment for students with anti-bullying awareness?

Are you developing the “whole child”?

Are parents happy with the school?

ADMIN

Is your support staff happy?

Is your school running efficiently?

Is your staff optimizing time & resources in their everyday tasks?


If you answered “NO” or “I DON’T KNOW” to any of these questions, here are some ideas to consider.


Increase Student Enrollment and Retention- Building Trusting Relationships

8 HACKS TO INCREASE STUDENT ENROLLMENT & RETENTION

Hack #7

Building Trusting Relationships

After reaching the HUGE milestone of actively generating foot traffic to your school, it’s important to keep up the momentum.  It is key to continue communicating to prospective families as they progress in their decision making process. It goes without saying that this is an important and very sensitive exchange.  For both practical and polite reasons, no one wants to be harassed as to where they stand on a decision. At the same time, you won’t want to be overly passive as you may miss an opportunity.


In the posts on INTERNAL and EXTERNAL promotion, we noted the importance of recording data on prospective families and what features about your school might resonate with them and influence their decision. Topics can range from educational models, before and after child care, music, arts, theater, sports, doctrine, safety, class size.  The list can go on and on. As those key items are identified, they can be used as warm opportunities to extend invitations to those prospective families.


Many scenarios can be identified and leveraged:

  • School band concerts provide opportunity to reconnect with those interested in music

  • School art shows provide opportunity to reconnect with those interested in art

  • Open Houses provide opportunity for those to meet with teachers to discuss education models

  • New financial aid opportunities allow you to quickly connect with those who have expressed financial difficulty

  • Fun family events provide opportunity for prospective families to get a taste of the school “culture” and interact with your “cheerleaders”

  • Parent education or workshops hosted by your parent organization show your prospective families that your parents are active and engaged.

  • College recruiting workshops provide opportunity for prospective families to realize your long term objective for your students

In all of these scenarios, by recording this data and making it actionable and personal, you are able to provide a great service to not only current families but prospective families.  This genuine approach positions you to execute enrollment plans with a feeling of confidence that your efforts to provide service to families takes precedence over the implication or concern that your efforts are invasive.


To say that everyone will be overwhelmed by your effort to service would be false. However, building your plan from a service mindset will effectively demonstrate the value of your school to prospective families in a truly genuine way.






Increase Student Enrollment and Retention- Retaining More Families

8 HACKS TO INCREASE STUDENT ENROLLMENT & RETENTION

Hack #8

Retain More Families

A key component to overall enrollment growth is retention.  The more students that you are able to retain year after year, the greater your potential to continue growing as opposed to staying even or declining. Someone once said, “It is easier to keep a seat that fill a seat!”  We couldn’t agree more. How do your parents’ feel about your school?

Our final hack, involves retaining families by establishing a feedback loop.  Such an effort allows leaders to gain insights into individual family concerns and how your school can address those concerns prior to families exploring alternative options.

Many neglect this critical area as in many cases, retention sometimes can feel that it requires little attention beyond sending a notice to families on key deadlines and basic expectations.  Early knowledge of families’ satisfaction and intentions can greatly enhance the ability of school leaders to quickly address concerns and continue providing a top quality education and environment.

Are there processes in place for your parents to provide constructive criticism without experiencing a backlash? Do your parents feel that their opinions matter?  Besides an anonymous suggestion box for ideas, a great way to understand the ongoing needs of your families is to develop and implement a survey program. Perhaps a survey that is linked with their annual enrollment and registration will provide feedback from parents as to what they feel very strongly about.  Although the anonymous suggestion box is good for those parents who may feel threatened and singled out by their comments, a survey associated with a student is more meaningful; because if there is a legitimate concern, leadership should be involved and the issue remedied directly with the parent in a timely manner.  When a parent knows that the school took the time to resolve their issue, they become advocates and cheerleaders for the school.


There are many different ways to design and execute a retention program.  A streamlined way would be to incorporate a survey into your re-enrollment process. The video below demonstrates a great retention program framework.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GJf5WIvDbYQ




Increase Student Enrollment and Retention – Advertising

8 HACKS TO INCREASE STUDENT ENROLLMENT & RETENTION

Hack #5

Get Noticed Part 2 - Advertising (External Promotion)

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.


    Increase Student Enrollment – Communications

    8 Hacks to Increase Student Enrollment & Retention

    Hack #4

    Get Noticed - Communications

    A successful marketing plan consists of three high level efforts.

    1. Planning/Strategy

    2. Execution

    3. Follow Up

    In our previous “hacks”, we fueled our planning/strategy efforts by identifying the value and message of our school as well understanding the needs of our target audience.  To recap:

    In this edition, Hack #4 involves mastering your communications channels.  With a strong message of value and clear idea of who benefits, you are now positioned to master your communications channels and execute your message to the appropriate families.

    The journey to increasing applications typically begins with bringing visitors or, foot traffic, through your doors.  Naturally, communicating opportunities to visit your school is a crucial step.  With that in mind, evaluating and utilizing the available channels will ensure your message is spread as far as possible and yields the highest results.  We will review a number of typical channels. However, you may have access to others not mentioned that should most certainly be utilized to aid your effort.

    In our previous post, we stressed the importance of reaching families with needs similar to that of your current families.  In that effort, leaders work to communicate to current families that theirs is an environment of community, where friends and families are welcomed and encouraged to participate in school activities.  Whenever possible, incorporate incentives to current families for bringing guests to school events.  Incentives can include pizza parties to the class with the most guests, dress down days, or extra recess/activity time.

    Besides incentives, getting your parents involved in the event accomplishes several things:

    1. Parents who help the school feel a sense of belonging

    2. Parents who are invested in the event, want to make it successful

    3. Involved parents are going to be natural social media conduits

    4. A group of parents pursuing a common goal creates energy.

    A successful ministry leader once said, “It takes seven different touches to reach your audience before it sinks in”.  Although seven may not be the magic number, the idea is that people respond differently to “advertising”.  Some respond better to audio, visual and tactile! Marketing through all these channels will ensure that your message will be received in one form or another.

    School Announcements

    Likely the most accessible and easily implemented communication channel is that of internal school announcements via P.A. system, during registration, monthly principal’s newsletter and handouts for students to take home.  Utilizing these channels to share the dates of upcoming events and the key details are a great first start to building awareness in your efforts and encouraging attendance.  As you plan these communications, share the key items of value that people will experience from the event as well broaden the invitation to extended family and friends in the effort to reach people who could similarly be served by the offerings of your school.   Some registration systems like K-12 Online have an area for Announcements which has proven very effective at the beginning of the school year for parents to input all the main upcoming events of the school into their calendars.

    Website

    Create a dedicated page of your event with eye catching images and an easy way to share this page on social media. The main landing page should the marketing page. From that page, buttons or hyperlinks can be added to share information of how parents can get involved with the event and who to contact. Do not overload your landing page with too much information. It should resemble a simple flyer that parents can use as a marketing piece.  This page should also have its own dedicated URL so parents can easily text or email the event to others.

    Email

    With a clear message, share upcoming events with those subscribed to your email list.  Provide clear details on the benefits of the upcoming events. When possible, provide opportunity for online registration so that you can begin to build out your database of prospective families to identify opportunities to serve and opportunities for relevant follow up discussions.

    Social Media

    Often underutilized, sharing news of your events via social media provides great opportunity for exposure to a broader network of families.  One of the key benefits of social media that is overlooked is that most people do not encourage engagement on their postings.  For example, many schools simply post that an event is taking place and struggle to generate “likes” or comments since there is no requested action.  In light of this, when you post about upcoming events, encourage your followers to “like” this post if they plan to attend or encourage comments such as “what are you most looking forward to experiencing?”  This type of ongoing activity on your posts helps ensure they rise to the top of recipients social media feeds and keeps your message active and relevant. Additionally, promoting shares or retweets will ensure your message reaches the circles of your current followers that you would not otherwise be able to reach.  Incentivizing shares or retweets with giveaways or prizes will further encourage engagement.  For example, “like and share this message for a chance to win a free [YOUR SCHOOL] sweatshirt” or something similar, will help your message reach broader audiences.


    Direct Reach Out

    When determining which audience can most benefit from the offerings of your school, consider that you will likely identify more than one actual audience.  The select benefits of your school can differ depending on which audience you are targeting.  For that reason, craft unique, personalized messages to potential audiences, specific to how their needs can be addressed by the services of your school.  Within this effort, identify the proper stakeholder or “gatekeeper” at any targeted groups or institutions to effectively establish a trusting relationship and create advocates for your school.


    Your Parent Organization

    Most schools have a PTA, PTO, Mom’s Club, Dad’s Club.  Parents who participate in these groups are your active and strong advocates.  Meet with the organization’s leadership, explain the purpose of the event and ask their help in promotion.  Sometimes getting them involved in the event not only makes them feel invested, but also lightens the workload...killing two birds with one stone!  On the other hand, something as easy as encouraging all the parents to  send or text the event to their friend circle will go a long way. Since undoubtedly, their friends circle would be other parents who would have similar interests.  


    As we previously identified, potential audiences could include:

    • Child Care or Early Learning Centers
    • Neighboring churches without companion schools
    • Area parent groups
    • Area community organizations
    • Local Meetup Groups

    For the above audience, offer to provide a “print-ready” copy of the event so all they need to do is insert it into their bulletin, newsletter etc. without much effort.  The less work for them, the better!

    With your strategy in place and your execution under way, you are well positioned to welcome a broad audience to your scheduled events.  In our next “hack” we will examine the final channel of paid advertising to further reach families that might share the interests of your target audience.




    Increase Student Enrollment – Internal Promotion

    8 Hacks to Increase Student Enrollment & Retention

    Hack #3

    Know Your Audience (Part 2 -Internal Promotion)

    Internal Promotion

    Our third hack involves extending the reach of your messages by using your current community of families as a vehicle to spread your message.


    ​​​​To grow your enrollment, you must increase the number of applications to your school.  Increasing the number of applications requires people on-site to experience all your school has to offer.  We recently covered areas of focus for online presence, which is crucial to projecting credibility and confidence in your school however, website visits and social media follows on their own do not result in visits to your school or applications.  


    The concept of internal promotion focuses primarily on leveraging the existing networks within your school community. While school communities consist of a variety of clubs and groups that extend beyond the school setting, the most powerful group at your disposal are your current students and families.  There are no better advocates for your school than those who are currently enrolled and are empowered by the mission.

    The effort begins by simply encouraging and incentivizing current families to invite their friends, family, and extended networks to participate in school related activities.  This strategy is illustrated in full in the video below.

    Events such as theater, music productions or fun family nights like a fall hoe-down, winter or spring festival, BBQ, movie night etc. allow opportunities for current families to invite other prospective families in a “no pressure” situation. Prospective families can mingle with other families, get a taste of the culture of the school and speak to teachers and school leadership in a casual setting.  This may also be an opportunity for prospective students to actually experience the classroom and school in an informal way. Some schools have even awarded current and prospective families with a referral fee credit when new families join the school.


    Hesitation:

    There may be hesitation or discomfort on the part of school leaders to ask current families to join in the effort, which is understandable.  School leaders are trusted figures in the lives of students and their families and are rightfully uneasy at situations that could violate that trust.

    For many, it’s not easy to actively promote their school as there is often hesitation that they will come off as dishonest or too salesy which could be off putting, not only to prospective families but to current families as well.

    To combat this uncomfortable feeling, realize that when families see the value in your school that compels them to join your community, they often want to share that experience with those close to them.  If you extend a warm invitation to include those they love in the experiences of your school, not only will it grow your community of wonderful people, it will allow others to experience all your school has to offer, which will ultimately lead to interest and enrollment.

    If you've like our content, please share this post with your fellow colleagues!

    Increase Student Enrollment – Know Your Audience

    8 Hacks to Increase Student Enrollment & Retention

    Hack #2

    Know Your Audience (Part 1)

    Can Your Audience Find You?

    In this second edition of “8 Hacks to Increase Enrollment”, we will examine the wealth of digital resources available that are built to assist in drawing attention and interest to your school.  Diving right in, the “hack” to quickly identifying and reaching the right people involves asking 3 key questions.

    1. Is my school easy to find online?

    2. Once located, is my school positioned in the best possible light?

    3. How can I expand my reach?


    For additional perspective, imagine you are a parent seeking the best school for your child.  You likely fall into one of the following categories:

      • Your child is now school age
      • You are new to the area
      • You are dissatisfied with the quality you are receiving from your child's current school

      Regardless of the reason, the first thing you are likely to do is grab your phone or computer and search for schools in your area.  First impressions are important. It’s important to understand who your prospective parents are so that you can effectively market to them.  Let’s face it, you would not market a product to your grandparents the same way you would to your child.  Effective marketing is knowing what triggers your audience’s emotions and interests.  Knowing this allows you to “speak their language” and helps you to market to them better.  Reviewing some school websites, we see sites with obsolete information, broken page links, an outdated look and feel and irrelevant information that will fall on deaf ears.  

      Your prospective parents are Generation Xers (Born 1965­-1979) and Generation Yers or Millenials (Born 1980­-1994).  According to “Marketing to the Generations”, your target market can be characterized as having short attention spans, ecology minded, tech-savvy, pro-community, pro-multiculturalism and seeks instant gratification.  With this in mind, are your marketing efforts appealing to these traits?    Is your website accurate, credible and user-friendly to the point it conveys that you are a tech-savvy school and appeases their need for instant gratification?  Does your media clearly state your school’s mission? Do your media images convey that you are multicultural and diverse?  Do you have online application and registration processes that satisfies their tech-savvy, ecology minded and instant gratification nature?

      Now switch roles. You are now a school leader, responsible for healthy enrollment at your school.

      • How well is your school represented in the search results?
      • Are you showcasing your best assets?
      • Is your school projecting value and credibility to potential families that are relevant to them?

      Many school leaders quickly recognize the need for improvement in this area but struggle with how to achieve the desired outcome.  It’s actually not as elusive as it might appear.  By focusing on two key areas, school leaders can ensure a professional and accurate online presence that will serve as an important first step towards earning the interest of prospective families.

      • Google Business Listing – According to searchengingwatch.com Google currently accounts for 72.48% of the world’s market share of search.  Google has a “My Business” service that allows leaders to create, customize and edit the listings for their respective organization to ensure optimal online presence.  Click here for a quick tutorial on Google Business Listings. 
      • School Rating Services – There are a number of rating services and while it may be a challenge to be represented in all of them, it is manageable to identify your personal top 3-5 and ensure your school is represented well.  It’s important to note that some of these platforms allow you to create a listing so that you can customize the information in the same way Google “My Business” allows.

      With regards to ratings, the most effective action is to encourage families and your community to visit the respective sites and provide an accurate, favorable rating.  A targeted communication either via email or social media with direct links to your school’s profile will ensure easy action on the part of the recipient and a higher likelihood that they will help in providing a rating.  You may ask your Parent Organizations to assist in these efforts.  Below are some of the primary rating vehicles:

      1. Google – as a part of your Google Business Listing

      2. Facebook – exists as a function of your current facebook page

      3. Great Schools

      4. School Digger

      5. Niche

      6. Yelp

      With these (FREE!) services, your institution is well positioned to catch the eye of prospective parents and further develop their interest in all you have to offer.

      Finding New Audiences


      With a solid digital presence in place, you are well positioned to promote the offerings of your school to an external audience.  External audiences will certainly vary based on a variety of factors but often include:

      • Child care or early learning centers
      • Neighboring churches without companion schools
      • Area parent groups
      • Area community organizations
      • Area sports organizations

      The types of audiences you are targeting will dictate the manner in which you reach out and invite them to your school.  Some audiences are best served by a direct personal approach via an onsite meeting, while others can be effectively reached via advertising and social media efforts.  To determine the best approach, it is important to understand the needs of each audience and how they are most comfortable interacting.  With Child Care Centers, a more direct approach is best as you are essentially seeking a trusted partnership whereby you will refer families with infants and young children to them while they advocate for you as children in their programs grow and become school age.  The arrangement can be informal and genuine and simply approached as nice people and trusted organizations working together.  Alternatively, you may be a part of or come across online social media groups the would be well served by your school.  Respectfully extending a genuine invitation to group members directly can go a long way.  Finally, paid advertising, specifically display advertising efforts can be employed to get your message in front of a focused target of people in your same geography as well as those that share similar interests. More on advertising below.


      Expanding Awareness in Your School


      Implementing a paid advertising strategy can be a great way to generate awareness and grow interest in your school.  Caution!.  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.  These strategies would include 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 Display Ads:

      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 how people enter their search criteria, your school could appear or “rank” a number of different ways.  Again, 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 optimally indexed for search engines.  A practical way to combat this is by utilizing paid search.  The Google AdWords platform allows a cost effective method 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 (when they are actively looking  for schools).

      Display Advertising – consists paid advertisements that you come across online in a variety of places.  Examples include Facebook and Twitter as well as select websites that serve up ads while you browse.  Each channel involves a setup process where you can select criteria to determine who best to target your ads to such as, geography, demographics, and interests.  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.  Visit our related post social media tactics for more details on how to begin executing ads via social media.

      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 conversions 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.

      Final Thoughts


      With a robust approach to drawing attention to your school, it’s important to reflect back on our first installment where we reviewed the importance of self awareness and identifying strengths and weaknesses.


      As new audiences discover the offerings of your school, first impressions are extremely important. The experience that you guide visitors through will often be the first touch points they have with your school.  You will want to ensure a professional, error free experience that incorporates modern, secure processes.  For example, if key information is not accessible in a seamless way on your website such as tuition or application procedures, it’s unlikely visitors would make extra efforts to contact the school or continuing searching for what should be a standard piece of information.  Taking this example further, asking prospective families to print forms or mail in physical documents in the early stages of interest can reflect poorly on the consideration given to key processes.  


      A seamless user experience that provides easy access to key information and a simple, secure and user friendly way for prospective families to apply to your school will further their relationship with your school and ensure an excellent first impression based on credibility and value.  If you've liked our content, please share this post with your fellow colleagues!


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