A Comprehensive Plan Can Drive School Growth

“What should we do to grow our school’s enrollment?”

“How should we turnaround our school’s enrollment decline?”

“Are there specific school growth strategies that we should implement?”

There are typical questions that I get nearly every day from school leaders across the country. School leaders are seeking solutions to turnaround their decline or to grow a stagnate enrollment. No one likes to be responsible for a school in decline.

So what’s my response?

Honestly, the answer isn’t simple, but yet it is.

In order to grow your school’s enrollment, you will need a comprehensive plan. There isn’t one magical solution that will result in school growth.

Let me share with you the components of this comprehensive strategy:

Goals – What are the goals that you are trying to reach? You will need enrollment goals that include the retention of current students and recruitment of new students. These goals should include inquiries, visits and applications to drive the new student enrollment results.

Budget – You should dedicate 1-3% of your school’s operational budget to marketing strategies. This does not include the salaries of your admissions and marketing staff. While I am not an advocate of just spending money because it is in your budget, I always want to make sure the resources are available to spend on the right strategies that will produce results.

Staffing – One of the most crucial elements of your plan is the staff needed to implement the processes and strategies. While the number of staff can vary from school to school, you will need the right staff dedicated to enrollment and marketing.

Lead Generation Strategies – Generating leads and interest in your school is one of the most important components of your plan. How will you generate the leads that you need to reach your new student goals? What strategies will you use? The following strategy categories can help to guide you:

  • Outbound Strategies are traditional advertising strategies that focus on pushing out messages to generate interest and awareness for your school. These strategies typically include print, radio, TV, direct mail, billboards, and other ads. While these strategies may provide some awareness for your school, they won’t likely produce leads. If you’ve been reading my blogs over the years, you know that these aren’t my “go-to” strategies.
  • Inbound Strategies focus on using the Web to draw prospective parents in to discover your school. Your website is the “front door” to your school that must tell your story in an emotionally compelling way. Through effective storytelling on social media, paid search and other inbound strategies, you can utilize the Web to engage with your target audience.
  • WOMbound Strategies utilize people to share word of mouth in your community. Through your parents, students, alumni, faculty, staff and board members, you will want to inspire them to tell others about their experiences at your school and to nudge a friend to take a look.

Lead Nurturing Strategies – Once you generate leads, it is important for you to nurture them. This nurturing process includes personal contacts by phone, email, text messages and mailings, as well as automated sequences to keep your school in front of the prospective parent. You will need an effective database and a system to manage this flow of contacts.

Events – Events that attract prospective parents to your school are important to schedule. Open houses, preview events, Welcome Wednesday’s and other events all work to showcase your school in a scheduled format that usually includes a presentation and tour. In addition, it is important to schedule soft-sell events to attract your target market to campus to benefit from the activity or program (examples include Touch-a-Truck, Library Story Time and more).

Retention – It’s true that it is more cost-effective to retain a student than it is to recruit a new one to your school. A retention rate of 90% or higher is based on strong parent satisfaction in your school. Through effective strategies like continuous enrollment, internal communication, transition grade meetings and other strategies that are outlined in my e-book, you will want to include these in your plan.

Tuition and Financial Aid – Cost is one of the greatest barriers to considering a school. Therefore, it is critical that you include a strategic effort to overcome this barrier. This may include strategies like Variable Tuition or communicating how your school is affordable. In addition, you will want to consider your strategy for tuition and financial aid and how you can maximize enrollment and net tuition revenue.

While there is certainly more that I could suggest, it is important that you develop a comprehensive plan for your school’s enrollment and marketing effort that will result in growth.

This is what I do in my work with schools almost every week of the calendar year through my Enrollment Catalyst Program. I assess their current effort, develop a comprehensive plan and then provide the coaching for the team to implement the strategies that will move their school forward.

Let me know if you are interested in learning more about how I can help you grow your school’s enrollment through a comprehensive plan.