“We are losing students. Families no longer want to send their children to our school.”
You are not alone, there are many schools of all stripes and colors that feel the same way.
But we have some good news.
Your school doesn’t have to be a part of the trend of falling enrollment. In New Jersey, a state where private school enrollment is falling, Roselle Catholic, one of our clients, just got a 260% increase in their open house attendance.
You might be wondering how.
Why is enrollment falling?
It’s just the way it is – the market supply is increasing. School Choice is also increasing. There is something for everyone. Charter schools have razor-sharp value propositions. Independent schools have strong endowments.
There’s always a reason.
Oh, and parents, the decision makers, are pickier than ever.
Interestingly enough, the strong role and pickiness of parents can be exactly what you need to attract families to enroll their children in your private school.
But you have to be smart about it.
In this article, we will reveal how KIPP (the Knowledge is Power Program) has built its enrollment funnel.
They are great at what they do. Whether you are a private, independent, public, charter, magnet school or any other type of organization promoting education, you need to learn from the best.
They are one of the largest networks of charter schools. You will see how they increase enrollment numbers by using a funnel designed to:
We will explain their strategy in a step-by-step walkthrough, showing you exactly what works and why. That way you can decide whether a similar system would increase enrollment at your school.
Let’s begin with a few answers to questions that you probably have already.
What Is an Enrollment Marketing Funnel?
An enrollment marketing funnel is a system designed to take student families from the pre-awareness (parents that don’t know you exist) stage and convince them to enroll at your school. Of course, it’s more than just a two-step process.
That’s why you will need to guide your prospects, warm them up, and turn them into likely leads before you can close the deal. If you design your funnel well though, student inquiries will automatically begin to roll in.
Why Does My School Need a Marketing Funnel?
With the massive choice available, you have to realize that the chance of any parent choosing your school is small, and rapidly becoming even smaller.
Do they even know you exist? Do they recognize your brand? Will they ever come across your school when doing on online search? And if they do, will they get a full and complete picture of what you have to offer?
With a bullet-proof enrollment marketing funnel, you can massively increase the chance that parents (your primary target market) find out about (and select) your school. How?
By influencing their decision.
This is where increased School Choice becomes beneficial to you.
You need to present your school as the best choice for their child. Hmm, easier said than done. Where do you start?
Well, here’s how KIPP does it.
Stage 1: Awareness – Let’s Help Parents Hear Your Story
This is where the majority of parents hear about your school for the first time. And those who already know you, get to know you better than before.
Educational content is establishing a relationship.
As you can see, the content that KIPP targets their audience with is far from a sales pitch.
Instead of trying to close the deal, they promote articles that answer common questions from parents who are looking for a school for their child:
It’s working well by attracting plenty of prospects to the KIPP website:
But that’s not the only way in which a well-designed enrollment marketing funnel targets parents who are in the first stage of awareness. KIPP also invests in guest blogging, publishing articles on popular websites parents read and trust:
The goal of the article above is all about sharing. In this case, it’s a story that can inspire parents and show them how they can help their children excel. Rest assured that a parent who finds this article useful will send it to their friends – who are often also parents.
Because it’s not a typical promotion, parents are more eager to interact with it and share it. This increases your chance of driving more traffic and awareness to your brand.
What’s worth noting is that they don’t just promote articles like that on popular websites. Their own blogs are full of content their audience will find helpful, inspirational, and motivational.
The posts range across a wide variety of topics. Some of them introduce parents to people who are going to work with their kids. Others share tips that can make life easier for their child at school.
One of the categories that grab prospects’ attention right away are the stories of alumni. These stories give parents the answer to a critical question they keep asking themselves:
“How will this school impact the life of my child?”
Events help spread the awareness.
Of course, blog and guest posting is not the only way KIPP shares compelling stories.
They actively promote a variety of events on social media:
They also use separate Facebook pages for each event to help spread awareness even further. These pages are a lot more visible, easier to share and attract even more prospects to them.
Another way in which KIPP reaches their top-of-the-sales-funnel audience members is with fundraising projects. Raising money for students in need encourages parents to share the message with their friends.
Remember, that the fundraising drive should be a genuine act of solidarity with other students, and cannot be a marketing trick. This will be sure to attract massive numbers of visitors, get post clicks and build brand awareness:
Stage 2: Familiarizing parents with life at your school
Parents who have engaged with the educational content shared in stage #1 will soon look for more information about your school. This is where your institution gets evaluated as a product.
To facilitate that need and provide more details about the school itself, KIPP shares a lot of content focused on the life of its students.
Their broadcast includes information about sports events:
They also include social events such as open house days and school dances:
Events that unite students in pursuing a common goal are also included:
By sharing such events, you can achieve two goals at once:
- Your school gets a social media following boost, and
- Prospective families learn about what you offer on top of your excellent curriculum
But these are not the only goals that you can achieve by organizing such events and promoting them on social media.
For example, you can show off your facilities as well as your values (eco-friendly). If your parents happen to share the same values, it will be a lot easier for them to build a relationship with your brand:
But don’t forget that your facilities are just one side of the coin. What makes every successful school are the people who work there – hence it’s crucial to showcase your star teachers in your communication:
Another content strategy that’s working very well for KIPP, and helps strengthen the message of all the content they share, are interviews with parents. Prospects want to hear the opinions of people like them – if they can relate to the beliefs, opinions, and overall worldview of people already invested in your school, this will increase their trust in you more than any other initiative you can come up with:
Free Organic Traffic – a Hidden Benefit of Sales Funnel Content
Besides all the benefits you’ve heard already, there’s an added bonus in producing top-quality content about your school. This is known as Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Having all this content that’s shared, read, and linked to, you can help your website drive organic traffic. What many schools don’t know is that sometimes your site may not appear on top of search results even when searching the actual school’s name!
Go ahead and check the results yourself. Google your school name and see who’s #1?
Quite often big names such as privateschoolreview.com, niche.com, glassdoor.com, noodle.com, greatschools.org, schooldigger.com, yelp.com, and Edmodo.com, can steal your place. Thanks to SEO, you can win it back.
You need to acquire the top spot. And by writing content and sharing articles on a variety of websites, you can put your school name amongst the top ranking search results across a variety of relevant keywords.
Executing this strategy works, and the results KIPP have experienced are plain to see:
Stage 3: Convincing Parents to Inquire
Building awareness, sharing content, and warming up your leads are all important pieces of your marketing pie. It all means nothing, however, if you don’t convert your leads into inquiries.
Let’s take a closer look at what KIPP does to convert their leads.
Naturally, one of the first steps is to promote events related to the enrollment process:
While this is essential, a lot of schools do the same. That’s why, to drive the conversions up, KIPP uses a variety of personalized landing pages, which they promote with paid advertising.
This is critical: you might think that paid advertising is expensive. That’s not true if you do it right.
You see, by creating large amounts of marketing content in the first two stages of awareness, KIPP built an audience full of parents who are ready to make a final decision. At this stage, the only thing that the prospective student families need is a clear call to action.
This drives cost per inquiry down. Not to mention that targeting custom audiences is a lot cheaper compared to advertising to a random group of people, who have never heard of you.
Below, you can see sample ads – notice the astonishing click-through-rate of 26.6%! One in four people who saw the ad, clicked it and arrived at the landing page (mini standalone website).
Why a landing page and not their website? To make the advertising effective, you need to bring your prospects to unique pages that have a limited number of distractions and one goal.
Check out the sample landing page used by KIPP in their ads:
The first thing parents see when visiting the page is a strong headline. It introduces one of the benefits of studying at KIPP (bright futures start here = your children will have a bright future if they enroll).
Next, they can click a button with a clear call to action on it, or scroll down to see even more benefits of the school, or watch a short video. At the bottom of the page, there’s one more call to action.
In fact, landing pages are what makes KIPP’s enrollment marketing funnel so successful. As you could see throughout the article, they used separate pages for every element.
Moreover, they do that for each grade and language!
That’s what allows them to achieve metrics as in the example below. Notice that their average time on site is quite high, especially for a landing page that is designed to sell:
Stage 4: Getting Parents to Commit
What happens “behind the closed doors” is automated nurturing. Getting the inquiry is one thing – but no school is done here.
Keep in mind that not all parents who inquire will commit. That’s why you need compelling email campaigns that will build even stronger relationships.
Quite often, parents get in touch with more than one school – and the one that gets them to commit first, wins.
Because every nurturing system is automated and, at the same time, personalized, we will need to dedicate a separate article to it. Instead, let’s take a look at some of the tools, which you can use to build an enrollment marketing funnel just like KIPP.
WeVideo – an online video editor, which you can use to capture, create, view and share great movies developed with schools in mind.
Videos created using it are a great addition to the KIPP enrollment funnel:
Other essential tools include:
Unbounce – an intuitive landing page builder. It allows even people who have no idea about web design to create eye-catching marketing landing pages.
MailChimp – one of the most popular, beginner-friendly email autoresponders. You can’t nurture your leads without an email campaign, and with MailChimp, you can set one with no technical skills at all.
Click Funnels – A comprehensive sales funnel solution. It’s perfect for creating landing pages, opt-in pages, as well as tracking and analyzing campaign performance.
Eventbrite – a platform designed to plan and promote your events. Perfect to create events both for your students as well as their parents.
Calendly – to close some of the parents, you will have to follow up – sometimes with a call, other times in person. This is where Calendly, a scheduling app, comes into play, helping you manage your commitments effectively.
But why so many tools? Can’t I just focus on one website, and drive my traffic there, without all the hassle of landing pages?
Unfortunately, you can’t. Even if you are in one location only, you need a variety of landing pages, designed with different goals in mind.
For example, if your schools are in different cities, you should do what KIPP does to personalize their communication. Let’s take a closer look at their main website.
Kipp.org – this is the main site of the KIPP organization. Parents can find here everything about the foundation itself.
The goal of the page is to provide information and position the brand rather than promote any of the schools or try to pitch the enrollment:
So if KIPP.org doesn’t promote any particular school, how do they advertise one of over 200 educational institutions in the network? They create separate landing pages, one for each location such as kipphouston.com, kippnyc.org, or kippmetroatlanta.com.
KIPP promotes all their landing pages in two ways. The first one is paid advertising, targeting parents who fit the customer profile in a chosen location.
The second way of driving traffic to the landing pages is the kipp.org site itself. When visitors type in their city or ZIP Code, they are presented with a map of schools in their selected region:
There, parents can either visit a page of the school they find suitable, or they can go straight to the regional landing page. Note that all schools in a given region are promoted on the corresponding local page.
In fact, KIPP divides all their schools into regions which can be quickly accessed using the menu:
That way they can track interest in each of the schools and make sure the copy and the design of the landing page are suitable for the local audience.
Furthermore, KIPP adds other details to make sure each landing page is optimized for conversion. For example, each of the pages includes a strong call to action, visible right after entering it:
Did you notice how strong the “Enroll Now” message is? Even the student in the image is pointing at it! That’s not an accident, KIPP designed it that way. And we have measured that these small touches increase your conversions.
KIPP also makes it easy for parents to browse the schools on the regional landing page. That way they can present and promote more than one school to the same family, giving them a choice:
And every school page provides parents with everything they would like to know about the chosen institution:
Naturally, there’s no doubt the values of every family differ. That’s why KIPP shares a lot of information that might be critical for parents, such as the breakdown of the student body:
The performance of their students is also included. Graduation and college acceptance rates are crucial statistics that many parents search for:
When compared with the average local and state results, such statistics are worth more than a good testimonial. They prove the effectiveness and quality of the education offered:
Of course, not everyone comes to one of the landing pages from thekipp.org website. For those who had never heard about KIPP, every page includes a section dedicated to the foundation of the school.
They also include a variety of other content for parents who are not yet ready to convert, such as information about events and awards. All of these are designed to warm up the visitor and help position the school in the eye of the visitor
Apart from call-to-actions, every landing page includes an invitation to connect. That way, parents who come across it and are not yet ready to inquire, can stay in touch and learn more about one of the KIPP schools in their region:
Summary – Putting It All Together and Attracting Inquires
Phew… Sounds like a lot of work, doesn’t it?
Here is the deal.
If you want to successfully attract parents, build a relationship with them and convert them, you need a funnel just like that. And, even though it seems complicated, it’s more affordable than you think.
How can that be?
First of all, remember that you’re not paying for the old-school ways of advertising – no TV ads here. No ad spend goes wasted on prospects that aren’t qualified, interested or even there (how often do you scramble to the kitchen when ads come up on the TV?).
You’re investing in marketing that’s designed to increase your enrollment. Provide you with tangible, targeted, proven results.
One student would pay for all of this.
With an enrollment marketing funnel like the one that KIPP has built, you can get inquiries coming in on autopilot. And all you need to get one is follow the below checklist:
- Compelling multimedia stories to attract prospects, introduce your brand and achieve viral effect
- Educational content designed to attract and educate readers, and help you secure top position for your brand
- Converting landing pages and ads designed to provide your campaign with a huge CTR
- Strong call-to-actions, encouraging parents to contact your school
- Automated email sales funnel created to turn those who inquire into scorching leads ready to enroll
- Simple enough? It is.
Easy to do?
Well, that depends. If you have the tools, experience, and can create and follow the right strategy, inquiries are closer than you think.
And what if you don’t?
In this case – get in touch with us. We have exactly what you’re looking for to drive targeted leads to your website and get enrollments rolling in.