In this session, Ashley MacQuarrie and Michael Barber discussed enrollment marketing tips for January.
Watch the video or read the transcript below for more.
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Michael B (00:09):
All right. Hi, everyone and welcome to our Thursday Enrollment EM Live. We’re welcoming you all back from a few weeks of vacation. I have my colleague here, Ashley MacQuarrie. Ashley, how were your holidays?
Ashley M (00:24):
They were nice. Yeah, it was good. Some crazy weather here in Portland, but yeah, it was good. Relaxing. How about yours?
Michael B (00:32):
Yeah, they were good as well. I feel like the whole country had some crazy weather the last few weeks, so we will chalk it up to the winter months, and hop right into some EM questions. As always, before we hop in, we are here every Thursday, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern, answering all your questions related to enrollment marketing.
We are going to kick it off with of course a very cliche first of the year question. Ashley, it is the first week of January, as we all know. What should school leaders be thinking about related to driving enrollment efforts? Would love your thoughts there.
Ashley M (01:06):
Yeah. So for a lot of our schools, it’s lottery season. A lot of lotteries have opened up, or are opening up in this period. I can think of a handful of schools with mid-February lotteries. So that is really where a lot of schools’ focus is right now. And even for schools that don’t have a lottery, it’s really all about driving those pre-interest forms for those early planning parents.
So what I would focus on is how you’re going to communicate with those families once they express interest or enter your lottery. A lot of times we see that they get a lot of interest early on, and then that interest tends to fade and drop off. So how are you going to make your lottery families really feel like they won the lottery? How are you going to communicate with them throughout the spring and summer? And so we’re putting together ideas like sending welcome swag bags or yard signs, or putting in place writing communication plans for emails and things like that that are going to go out throughout that the spring and summer to keep families engaged.
Michael B (02:12):
I think it’s a great insight there. When we think about enrollment, it’s not just about obviously driving interest in the school, it’s also about maintaining interest in your lottery parents and your lottery list. It’s in maintaining that experience when someone has requested more information, what do we do with that individual? How do we drive them to become a student? Which leads me to my question number two. We had this question I think the last time we were together from video guy Jared, who’s an avid viewer of our live streams, and I believe is starting a school. But I wanted to circle back to this one. But what’s your ratio for student leads? In other words, what’s the average conversion rate from ads, is sort of a part one question there. So how many impressions to actually driving conversions across the site? And then conversion to an enrolled student. Would love some thoughts there from you?
Ashley M (03:06):
Yeah, so those numbers really vary really wildly. We work with schools in really small rural communities and then also really big metros. We work with schools where they draw from a very narrow radius around the school, and then others where parents are willing to drive 10, 20 miles. So it definitely depends. I would say 100,000 to 200,000 ad impressions in a season somewhere around 10 to 100,000 website impressions is typical. And then from there we typically see anywhere from a one to 5% conversion rate from an interest form, so completing our form on our landing page, or calling. So turning into a lead from viewing the ad or viewing that landing page. And again, that just varies really wildly because there are some really competitive areas and there are some areas where we just have not a lot of competition, and also not a lot of opportunity to reach a large audience.
And then from there we’ll often see anywhere from a 10 to 50% conversion rate from inquiry to applicants. So actually filling out that application. In our program in enrollment marketing, we support the schools in whatever way we can in converting those interest forms to applicants. But it really is on the school to be doing that outreach and calling and following up. And so it does depend. Some schools are absolute rock stars on it and have these systems in place that make it really, really effective, and others struggle with that and maybe don’t have the bandwidth. And then additionally, you have really competitive areas where a lot of families are applying for multiple schools, and so that can make it more challenging to actually convert that family into an enrolled and retained family. That’s just some ballpark numbers that we’ll typically see.
Michael B (05:05):
That range that you mentioned, the 10 to 15% from request for information to applicant, that’s a huge range. Are there things that schools are doing better that drive that? Because obviously if you’re going to be spending the money on driving interest, you should be really caring about that experience when someone does raise their hand and get them to that apply step. What are things that the schools that are in that 50% or higher of that range, so that 40 to 50% range? Are they do anything differently to get someone to convert from interest to applicant? What do you see there?
Ashley M (05:43):
Yeah, a lot of times it comes down to having a dedicated enrollment person. Somebody whose whole job is following up on those leads, chasing them down, reaching out to parents, doing tours, things like that. That is huge. But a lot of small schools … We sometimes see schools where the executive director is the one following up on leads, and they have so many other things on their plate. Or maybe it’s even a teacher or an operations manager who has a lot of other things going on. And so that’s just an issue of bandwidth. If you are a school where you don’t have a dedicated person, then having really strong systems in place that allow for automated email messages and things like that to move those families through the funnel, making it really easy for families to submit their forms online, submit their documents online versus having to come get a packet, having events where people can come and enroll on site, that can all help. But it really just does come down to manpower a lot of times.
Michael B (06:49):
Yeah, it’s such a good insight. I got to go out and visit the team over at [inaudible 00:06:54], which is a client of ours, and Dr. Bolock and her team. And they have invested in someone whose whole job is worrying about and leading enrollment efforts. And certainly I would imagine when you’ve got a person whose sole purpose is to make that experience better, those numbers are going to go, hopefully, in the right direction. So such a good insight there.
I want to ask, you and I had a quick sort of sidebar before we started this question on this idea of applicants to actual enrolled students. It’s going to vary widely, so there’s really not a number we can give there. But I do want to go back to this conversation that you mentioned. It’s that enrollment marketing is not just about obviously driving that interest. It’s also about how you get that kid into your school applied and into your school. Beyond what you’ve mentioned already, are there things when someone has applied, getting them actually into the school, are there schools that are doing things differently that help drive that applicant to actual student?
Ashley M (07:55):
Yeah. Communication is a really big thing. I think with older grades, some student-centric outreach and marketing can help getting the kids themselves excited. We’ve seen that be effective for high schools, and it really is just ongoing communication, and having events and opportunities for them to engage. Because we see a lot of times that the families will apply in the spring, and then oftentimes not hear from the school until the first day of school and then the school just hopes that they attend on the first day. Or sometimes parents don’t even realize when the first day of school is. So just making sure that you have these touchpoints all along the way to keep families in the loop. Email and text messages, and we’ve even seen visits and events and things like that be effective. It just really depends on the school and on the families that you serve.
Michael B (08:58):
Okay. Yeah, great thoughts there as well. Again, I think we’re touching on a theme today that enrollment is way more just about way beyond just driving that interest rate and generating that interest. And it’s about how do you go from that interest into actually getting a kid into your school. That experience really matters as you’re closing that loop from interest.
Okay, I don’t know about you, but I have had all over my social media has been people’s ins and outs lists for 2023. And so we’re going to pick up on this cultural theme and listen to some insights from you on what’s in and what’s out for enrollment marketing, as we head into 2023 and beyond.
Ashley M (09:36):
Yeah. I would say focusing, going back to converting, but retention. Retention is huge. This year, 2022, we really felt the impact of inflation, of movement and high cost of living areas, home values, fuel prices, all of that stuff was felt by our schools. Both in retaining those interested families, and also retaining their current families. And so just really focusing on communicating with your families to understand what’s going on so you’re not surprised so that you have an understanding of how many families you’re going to need. And then just really doing whatever you can to retain your current families, and converting those interest forms. So that’s a big one.
The other thing that I would say is focusing your efforts. Scaling down. We saw a decrease in importance and an effectiveness of some of the mainstay social media platforms this year. And I think that’s going to continue. Facebook and Twitter. And we’re seeing more effectiveness from trying and testing, in small ways, some of the newer options out there like TikTok, more YouTube, Spotify, things like that that are emerging. So I would say focusing on what works, and on a small scale, trying and testing some of these newer things. And what’s out is maybe the importance a little bit of advertising on some of those more old school, at this point, social media networks.
Michael B (11:19):
I love that. Great way to end our first session of the year. We’re going to wrap it up there because we’re going to be about two minutes over by the time we wrap up. But I think our theme of the week, if you will, was all about this idea of experience. Again, not about just driving interest, but how do you go about converting from those requests for information forms into an actual student. And as Ashley mentioned, numerous, numerous times, retention, retention, retention. That’s going to be a theme, especially as we head into somewhat of a murky economic environment, I will say.
So with that being said, I’m going to say a big thanks to Ashley for joining us once again, and to all of you that are joining us live. We appreciate you being here. We will be back at every week for the foreseeable future, answering all things enrollment marketing. Also, we’re going to have a couple of different topics on Thursdays throughout the year, so we’ll let you know as those topics adjust. We have a great webinar coming up at the end of January, which we’re just about to announce around teacher retention. So look for information on that. And we’re going to welcome our experts on teacher retention into our YouTube live series at the end of January. But for now, it’ll be Ashley and I as well as some additional guests we’ve got, we’re starting to get lined up for the year.
So as always, we look forward to seeing you every Thursday, 10:00 AM Pacific, 1:00 PM Eastern, right here on YouTube. And if you would be so kind and want to find out, or at least get notified of these lives, you can smash that subscribe button on YouTube and your YouTube app will notify you when we go live. So would love to see you here more often. Bring your questions next week. And as always, Ashley, thanks again for joining us.
Ashley M (13:01):
Michael B (13:02):
We’ll see you next week.