Imagine your ideal parent seeing your ads while browsing online whether they are at home or on their phone. Imagine that parent clicking the banner ad and immediately being sent on a digital journey that begins with a fast-loading landing page, full of information, images, inbound marketing articles, and the calls to action that you deem important, all expertly optimized for conversion. Throughout the following days and weeks, a promotional video will give brand recognition while parents are shopping online or watching Hulu. With interest piqued, they click the call to action icon on a retargeting ad and get funneled directly to the admissions office for the close.
Today, the combination of inbound marketing, social media engagement, Google search and programmatic advertising are the building blocks of a funnel that is proving results over and over. The enrollment funnel of today perfects the benefits of traditional print marketing venues by meeting your ideal family wherever they are – only this time, it can be anywhere in the digital universe and with 100% trackable results. Today’s funnel can test and perfect messaging, creative designs, or video promotions. It can reach larger targeted audiences and bring them through a digital journey that you create, ending with a tour of your school.
Gone are the days of guessing who will see the ads and which ads are getting better results. You can now purchase ad space that ensures only the families that fit your enrollment needs are receiving coveted paid advertisements. Reaching parents when they are browsing online for their home improvement projects, listening to music on the ride home, watching their favorite shows, or scrolling through their social media feeds has never been easier.
Your team is now able to target prospective families by household income, number of children, or even places they have visited, including tutoring centers or other academies. The digital enrollment funnel of the future puts you in front of families that just moved to the area, that live in the same neighborhoods of current families, and can even send your ads to families that took campus tours of competing schools up to a year ago.
We all know the benefits of being able to tell your story more intimately to this generation of parents, and now you can do that through a series of carefully planned interactions specifically designed for your audiences’ timelines and newsfeeds.
This requires a 360 digital approach that engages both current and prospective families through inbound marketing, digital ad spends, and social media engagement all focused on presenting your value to parents. Schools have been moving in this direction for years knowing that this next generation of parents is one of digital natives who demand ease of use and seamless flow in their digital experiences.
What began long ago as a simple need for better representation on search engines, SEO quickly turned into schools completely rebuilding their websites to ensure that the specific usage of key words kept their name at the top of the search list. Today, this is still as important as it was years ago since the number of prospective families researching schools through search engines has only increased over time.
The move to social media engagement and Google ad purchasing were the obvious next steps for your digital outreach with Gen X and Millennial parents habitually seeking their hourly dose of the platforms.
Social media has become one of the only venues that serves to both reach new families and connect with current families as well. Posting school events, reminders, pictures, and messages has become essential to prospective and current families alike. It gives current families the ability to be a part of the school community, and illustrates to prospective families what their school community and culture could look like. Inbound marketing content can also help reinforce the ideologies and missions that your school community is so proud to stand behind, and it can further highlight those principles to communities outside the walls and social networks of the school.
Both SEO and social media engagement offer excellent exposure since most families today will use search engines and rely heavily on word of mouth when choosing schools. In fact, HubSpot shows that a consumer is 4x more likely to convert from word of mouth recommendations, emphasizing the need to engage current families in a way that creates positive posts that further increases the “word of mouth” support of the enrollment process. While content creation and social media engagement are critical parts of the digital structure of today’s school market, how can you reach, engage, and entice families with this content once it’s created?
Digital capabilities are progressing at speeds that are difficult for marketing and admissions departments to keep up with. Ways of reaching potential clients, or in this case families, that were previously unavailable are now becoming mainstream. One of those capabilities is programmatic advertising.
Programmatic advertising brings families in level-by-level, usually starting with a promotional video or interactive banner being displayed on the webpage they are viewing. The ad is designed to entice the parent to simply click on it for more information and once clicked, the programmatic ad will route the prospective parent wherever you would like them to go. Typically, that click takes them to an optimized landing page that has been tailored with options for more condensed information as well as a call to action. However, this tool can be effectively used for whatever call to action you may need, whether it’s scheduling a tour, donating to a capital campaign, or even helping with re-enrollment by sending current families directly to their re-enrollment forms. This process delivers an informed family directly to the school’s admissions representative for the campus tour and eventually, for new enrollment.
Statistica showed that in 2018, on average, over 93% of this generation of parents owned smartphones, 82% used them to stream music, 75% to check the news, and 78% to check the weather. You are bound to be missing crucial venues to put your school at the top of mind without expanding into other digital ad space.
Although you have focused much of your digital strategies on social media messaging and key word recognition, programmatic is all about ad placement and refinement. The catch with programmatic advertising is that it requires access to bidding platforms which can be expensive memberships. Finding the right digital marketing firm that has direct access to bidding platforms will save you significant costs and get your creative material out in front of families with 100% trackable results.
The enrollment funnel of the future is digital because the parents of the future are digital. Meeting your prospective families where they are in the digital universe and with interactions that they will respond to is the only way schools will be able to market themselves effectively moving forward. While you have been adapting your content for the parents of today, the opportunities of delivering that content has just begun for the K-12 school market. When you mix in good inbound marketing content and timely social media posts with support from SEO and programmatic ad buys, you have a recipe that is delivering results time and time again.
With so many unknowns in the world of enrollment today, how to reach families and get them to your campus should not be a guessing game of strategies of the past. Be a part of that future enrollment funnel. Embrace it and invest in it. Rarely do you get the opportunity to invigorate your work by creatively diving into all the elements that put together the enrollment funnel of the future. Each piece of this puzzle, all important in their own ways, creates the digital environment that entices parents to click on the advertisement that will change their children’s education forever.
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