The Intersection of Enrollment and Marketing

Recently, I was invited to write a quarterly article for the new School Marketing Journal (SMJ) for school leaders in Australia. The publication was recently launched by Brad Entwistle, the founding partner of Image Seven. I am thankful for this opportunity and wanted to share my article with you since the publication is available in Australia. Click for more information on the School Marketing Journal. 

During the past decade, I have worked with hundreds of independent and faith-based schools. I often find that there is a disconnect between marketing and enrollment.

Let me tell you a story about what I often find when I begin work with a school.

On a recent school site visit, one of my meetings focused on the marketing strategy. This meeting included the development director, admissions director and graphic designer.

I first asked the group, “Who is responsible for marketing?” The marketing director said that she was responsible for placing ads. These ads were created by the graphic designer. The admissions director provided some input to the decisions made about the advertising buys. From this group, no one was really responsible for marketing the school. In fact, they weren’t even thinking in marketing terms.

I asked the group a second question, “What is your marketing strategy?” The initial response was silence followed by a rehashing of the advertising discussion. A marketing strategy didn’t exist. Rather, the group focused on using their limited budget to make advertising decisions.

Marketing was simply an afterthought for this school. The development director and her staff were supposedly responsible for marketing. However, the marketing effort often focused on graphic design, photography and event logistics. The admissions director took a “wait and see” approach instead of being proactive in generating interest in the school through a comprehensive marketing effort.

In many cases, I find that marketing is disconnected from the enrollment effort. However, it is critical that marketing intersects with enrollment (admissions).

Let me explain.

While there are many definitions of marketing that you can find and use, I prefer to focus on three active ingredients of what marketing is as it is related to enrollment in a school:

  • Lead Generation – Marketing must work to generate enrollment leads for and interest in the school.
  • Storytelling – Marketing must work to tell the school of the school in a way to bring the school to life and to attract prospective parents.
  • Brand Awareness – Marketing must work to increase the awareness of the school in the community.

This is where the intersection between marketing and enrollment occurs—it occurs in the following three areas:

  1. Intersection in strategy – Marketing must focus on generating leads to drive interest and traffic for enrollment. Think about the top of the traditional enrollment funnel. Marketing works to get prospective parents into the funnel. Then, the enrollment department can work to nurture the leads. As a result, the strategy between marketing and enrollment must intersect.
  2. Intersection in team – My bias is that marketing should be part of the enrollment department. As you probably can tell, I don’t think that marketing fits in the development office as the focus is on fundraising. A marketing position should be part of the enrollment department since this is the focus of the school’s revenue generation. In fact, this is one of the first recommendations that I provided to the leadership team of the school that I mentioned above.
  3. Intersection in results – Marketing and enrollment must work together to produce the results that school’s leadership desires. The ultimate goal is the school’s desired enrollment and marketing must be results-oriented.

Marketing and enrollment must intersect in your strategy, team, and results. When this intersection occurs, you will have the best opportunity to achieve school growth. Otherwise, both areas will be disconnected and it is not likely that you will achieve your goals.

Does marketing intersect with enrollment at your school?



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