It's the start of another busy enrolment season, and as schools ramp up their marketing efforts, it's important to ensure your school can stand out amidst a sea of open days and more.
Understanding what's floating to the top of parents' priorities will help ensure your school doesn't sink to the bottom of their shortlist, so read on for our tips on how to keep your school front of mind, and what the tides are telling us about how schools can market themselves in this competitive environment.
Is your school making a splash with parents' priorities?
More parents than ever are making the move to non-government schools. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, independent schools saw a 3.3% increase in student enrolments during 2022, compared to a 0.6% drop at government schools over the same period.
However, increased enrolment numbers doesn't actually mean that schools can coast along. Unlike government schools that require enrolments to be from a specific catchment area, parents will generally have a deep pool of independent schools to choose from. Schools are already focusing their efforts to ensure they take advantage of this increase before it dries up.
Knowing what factors are a top priority for parents is vital to ensure you are staying front of mind. In a recent study conducted by Independent Schools Australia (ISA), the 4 top considerations for new parents are:
- Educational excellence
- Good teachers
- Good facilities
- Supportive and caring environment
A notable shift since the last report in 2016, affordability is less significant to new parents, and the importance of schools' extra-curricular offerings is rising.
Expanding on this, NAB also recently surveyed families who have or have thought about changing schools. When asked why they changed or considered changing schools, the top 5 results were similar to the ISA study:
- Better alternatives elsewhere
- Child's happiness and wellbeing
- Insufficient attention to individual student needs
- Quality of school facilities
- Quality of teachers
Across the two surveys, student wellbeing and school facilities are clear standouts. You can learn more about student wellbeing in one of our recent blogs.
While these top priorities give good insight into what parents are looking for when selecting a new school, it is important not to pigeonhole specific items but instead focus on a more holistic view of how parents evaluate a potential school. Ultimately, you'll know your school community best, and focusing your search more locally may show that different demographics could have alternating priorities.
Staying Afloat with Trends
There is a long road between when a prospective parent first interacts with your school and becomes a part of your school community, so what are you doing to keep them engaged?
In a recent study by Independent Schools Queensland, 66% of parents stated their decision-making process started at least two years before their child attended school. In a similar study conducted by Australian Scholarships Group, 42% of parents surveyed began looking at high school options before their children began attending primary school.
Digistorm states in their 2022 Admissions report that the main three ways to keep prospective parents engaged are:
- Regular contact via email
- Invitations to events
- Targeted newsletters
Regularly contacting new families via email is a great way to stay front of mind. However, a fine line exists between regular communication and clogging their inbox, which can cause email fatigue. With too many emails, you risk recipients becoming annoyed and unengaged, so finding this balance is vital to ensure they stay subscribed and interested in communications.
When communicating with prospective parents, it is essential to remember where they might be sitting in their journey to limit sending them information that may not be relevant to them at that time. Consider the following buyer's journey to assist in getting information pertinent to the correct people.
Awareness: Parents understand that their children require formal education, but they're still figuring out which type of school would be best and what options are available. So, they may not know the right choice for their child yet.
During this stage, you should focus on delivering thought-provoking content around your school's ideals or approach to education that provides value while not focusing solely on making a sale, such as a "Getting Ready for School" checklist or a blog.
Consideration: Parents begin to research the schooling options available to them and start to formulate opinions.
As parents start to research options, deliver content that informs them about your school and its unique selling points. For example, does your school offer top-of-the-range technology? Or does it have a long-standing legacy?
Decision: Parents in this stage now have a shortlist of schooling options. Focus on why your school is the right choice for them.
Reviews and testimonials are a great way of demonstrating authority and will also differentiate your school from the competition providing a clear path for parents to make a decision.
Keep the Information Flowing
The information your school is recording can provide further insights and help establish trends in your enrolments process.
For example, you may have many families expressing interest in your school and a large portion of those flow through to the application stage. However, not many of them visit the school for a tour or attend an interview. Knowing where there's initial interest and where engagement drops off, you can identify gaps in your content or areas to improve how you market your school to prospective parents.
Having the right tools to record your enrolment data can allow you to better understand your school's enrolment process and improve areas that may be causing roadblocks allowing you to drive your school’s sales process better.
Tracking enrolment data doesn't have to stop there; the address information your school is collecting can be extremely valuable. However, this data may be hard to consume if you are not using visualisation tools such as geocoding and heat mapping.
Heat mapping adds an additional layer of insight that precisely identifies which locations are more or less successful than others. For example, a heatmap may show a specific region in your local area is experiencing a surge in enrolments so that you know where to investigate further. Many factors could contribute to this, such as population growth, a strong feeder school, convenient bus routes or effective marketing in the area. Identifying this factor can help you expand the tactic to other locations.
To learn more about how TASS can assist with address validation and heat mapping, click the link below.
It doesn't end at the Shore.
Once parents have moved through the enrolments process and have become a part of the school community, it is important to ensure they continue to stay engaged.
According to Digistorm's Admissions report, 53% of families hear about schools via word of mouth. This means that keeping your parent community happy is crucial to ensuring a healthy stream of enrolments, now and in the future. Check out one of our previous blogs for more tips and ideas for keeping your new school community engaged.
As schools navigate the choppy waters of enrolment season, you should keep in mind the importance of staying afloat in a sea of competition. To reel in prospective parents, schools must make a splash with their business and marketing strategies and incorporate a variety of tactics that will help them hook and retain the attention of their target audience.