10 Best Practices for Your School’s Online Inquiries
Have you considered how effective your online inquiry process is on your website?
What happens in the admissions office once the inquiry is received?
As part of my process to assess a school’s enrollment and marketing processes and strategies, I use a fictitious email account to inquire on the website.
I want to experience what a prospective parent experiences.
Last year, I worked through this process at one of my schools. After my inquiry, I received an email back saying that they weren’t ready for the admissions process and I needed to call the office in a couple of months.
Earlier this week, I conducted a study for a group of large schools that included my review of this process. It was surprising what I found.
Some schools didn’t even have an online form.
A few schools never responded.
Most sent an automated email that was impersonal and didn’t provide any compelling information on the school.
Many never sent another email or even attempted to reach out further.
As a result of this process and my experiences consulting with schools, I developed a set of ten best practices that you should implement:
#1—Make sure that you are aware of the current follow-up process in your admissions office. Conduct an assessment to make sure your first response counts. This is critical and you need to pay attention to the first response. You have an opportunity to create a first impression through your inquiry process.
#2—Provide a reason for a parent to inquire and create an expectation for what they will receive from your school. Inquiry forms bug me when they don’t provide a reason for inquiring and they don’t share what a parent will receive. You need to tell the parent why you want them to complete the form and what they will get in exchange for their information.
#3—Make sure you have an inquiry option on your homepage and in your admissions section. If you want a parent to inquire, you need to provide an opportunity. It seems like a no-brainer, but some schools miss this important strategy.
#4—Avoid the use of automated impersonal emails that do not create a positive first impression of your school. No one really likes an automated email, especially when it isn’t personalized. Remember, the parent just gave your school their name. It is important to use it!
#5—Limit the number of fields required on an online inquiry form to the most important information. School databases are notorious for requiring many fields in their online inquiry forms. I have seen forms that have over 20 required fields. It is better to keep it as short as possible in order to motivate the parent to respond. A parent doesn’t want to tell you everything in the first form. Save it for the application process.
#6—Make sure your first impression counts. Don’t send them a message saying that someone will be in contact with them soon. I have actually received automated emails in response to an online inquiry that say that someone will contact me soon. Please don’t do this. Remember, the parent just inquired. You need to respond to them right away.
#7—Include compelling messages, stories, videos, links and call-to-actions in your email follow-up. Follow-up messages to an online inquiry should provide some compelling information about your school. Don’t ask the parent if they have any questions. Instead, lead them through the process of discovering your school.
#8—Create and implement an engaging lead nurturing sequence for prospective parents. I often see schools that have the “wait and see” approach in place. They receive an inquiry and send an initial email. Then, they “wait and see” what happens. The parent should receive a lead nurturing series of contacts from your school’s admissions office.
#9—Utilize content downloads (e-Book) as a lead magnet to effectively generate online inquiries. Out of the 29 large schools that I reviewed, only one was using a lead magnet in the form of an e-Book to generate leads. This strategy works effectively in schools. A parent completes a form and receives an e-Book in return. My friends at North Star Marketing excel in this strategy and have helped many schools launch this initiative. For example, Eastern Christian School has five e-Book’s on their website that are used as lead magnets.
#10—Utilize all follow-up methods including emails, phone calls, mailings, text messaging and video messaging. I always recommend to admissions staff that you need to use a combination of follow-up channels to reach parents. What works with one parent may not work the same with another. You will need to implement all of these strategies to get through to your prospective parents.
Is your school’s online inquiry process working effectively?
Do you have a follow-up plan in place that works?
If you are interested in an outside perspective, I can provide this assessment and guidance to you as part of my Enrollment Catalyst Program. This can be conducted with an on-site visit or a virtual set of meetings. Please reach out to me directly to discuss how a partnership with your school can help you in your enrollment and marketing effort: Rick.Newberry@EnrollmentCatalyst.com.