Marketing Ideas, Tips & Techniques For K-12 Schools

Creating an Enrollment Funnel – three simple steps to solving all of your enrollment needs.

Creating an Enrollment Funnel – three simple steps to solving all of your enrollment needs.

What if you had a specific set of steps you knew would consistently guide prospective families from piqued interest to full-time enrollment?

No tricks. No gimmicks. No fine print.

In today’s market, parents and families have access to more information than ever before. Search engines, social media, and communication tools make it easier than ever for schools to reach a wider audience with little effort. The market for possible enrollment has grown tenfold in the last decade, and parents are actively searching for the best school to fit their academic needs.

“That’s great!” you may be thinking, “Our school’s been looking to increase enrollment, and now’s the best time to do it.”

Not so fast.

The best way to describe this process is that it’s the exact opposite of fishing. Casting a wide net in open waters helps to yield the greatest amount of return, from a fisherman’s perspective. But casting a wide net to your audience works in the opposite direction: you end up wasting valuable time and resources hoping to reach anyone that will listen.

This is a mistake your school can’t afford to make.

Fortunately, there is an answer. By setting up an enrollment funnel, you can isolate target markets, offer trust and value to prospective families, and lock-in enrollment. All without making a single cold call or wasting your time with expensive billboards, radio ads, or TV commercials.

You see, it’s all about making the right moves and using time-tested strategies to engage your audience. Take the time to set up an enrollment funnel, and your enrollment woes will disappear before your eyes.


The three steps to an unshakable advertising strategy

This multifaceted approach naturally and logically follows the ethos and pathos of a prospective family searching for the perfect academic fit. Through identifying these needs and engaging appropriately, your school becomes hard to ignore.


Step 1 – Awareness

The first step to any effective enrollment funnel is the awareness stage. Think of this as the stage which highlights your most essential asset and uses it to bring prospective families right to your door.

And not the other way around.

To begin, identify what your school offers that no other school can. What do you have that is unlike any other educational institution?

A focus on STEAM education? 100% college acceptance rates? A revolutionary special education program?

Now isn’t the time for broad categories and superficial buzzwords like “engagement”, “rigor”, or “lifelong learning”. Those flavor of the week search terms may look good on a flier, but they don’t hold the water you need at the awareness stage.

No, this is all about what makes your school special.
When you dreamed of the perfect school that brought real-world literacy skills to even the most disengaged or unmotivated student, what was the unforgettable catalyst? What element of your school sets it apart from the competition?

Essentially: What can you do better than anyone else?

Find it. Highlight it. Give it everything you’ve got.

This is the awareness stage. Using modern media, such as Facebook ads, YouTube videos, and even search-engine optimization techniques, get the word out about that one foundational element that makes your school special.

Make your target audience aware of the one thing you do better than other schools.

Then, and only then, are you ready for step 2.


Step 2 – Consideration

You’ve made your audience aware of your school as one with a singular goal. They’ve narrowed down their search to a few schools in the area, yours being one of them.

With a handful of options, what can you do to help tip their hand and consider your school instead of the competition?

The consideration stage is all about providing value. Using infographics, eBooks, and webinars, how can you help your audience to see themselves as a member of the academic community?

While open houses and curriculum night events were perfect in the past, and some may still offer value, the average family is just too busy to spend two hours on a weeknight halfway across town. Between extracurriculars, chores, and occupational responsibilities, family time is at a premium.

This is where the medium of online communication becomes the perfect conduit for your potential audience. Provide value and offer information to build trust in your academic community without ever having to leave home.

Let me repeat that last element one more time: build trust.

Families today are wary of superficial promises, so don’t waste their time. Describe, in detail, why your school is the absolute best fit for their academic, social, and emotional needs.

Don’t bang down the door. Avoid cold calls. Ignore intimidation tactics. Simply build trust, and help your audience consider your school above the rest.

Do you feel a sense of purposeful guidance? The awareness and consideration stages take on the role of breadcrumbs to help your audience gradually feel at home in your school.

And now you’re ready for application.


Step 3 – Application

At this point, your target audience, having been funneled down to those specifically looking for your school as the perfect academic fit, are ready to make a decision. You’ve highlighted your school’s passion and demonstrated value. Now you’re ready to lock-in enrollment by appealing to your audience’s emotional side.

Prove to them why your school is the perfect fit. Help your audience to imagine their student in a classroom seat, taking notes, and becoming an irreplaceable part of a community.

Apply their decision of selecting the best choice above the competition. Hone in on specific aspects of your market’s day-to-day life, and up your targeting game. Increase the frequency of your target measures, and inundate your audience with a very important question:

What will I regret if I miss this academic opportunity?


Putting the pieces together

To recap, the three steps of an enrollment funnel are:

  1. Awareness
  2. Consideration
  3. Application

Without this specific set of steps, your marketing and advertising efforts are left searching for a needle in a haystack. Sifting through thousands of possible markets and reaching out to demographics that won’t be a good fit for your school are enormous wastes of precious energy, time, and financial resources.

And yet, the simple three-step approach of creating an enrollment funnel offers consistency and fidelity, bringing together a target audience that fits your school’s dedication to real-world learning.

Help your audience to feel more comfortable making one of the most important decisions of their lives. They deserve it. And so do you.


Dennis Nelson

Dennis Nelson

Teacher & Education writer