Note: "Driving Demand" is a three part series on manufacturing interest and demand for independent schools and colleges. Written by our Director of Enrollment Management Services, Kelly Laboe, each article focuses on foundational aspects of generating interest and demand for enrollment. This is the first in the three part series.
Independent colleges and universities have multiple “triggers” that allow them to drive demand at the top of the funnel, including the SAT, SSS, ACT, NRCCUA just to name a few. What triggers to independent K-12 schools possess to manufacture interest at the top half of the funnel? The answer? Nada…None…Zip.
This is the key missing function in driving enrollment in K-12 private schools. We all struggle to create more prospects and inquiries and most K-12 independent schools have failed to develop the most basic and effective demand generation “triggers” to drive the top half of their enrollment funnel.
In an effort to determine the key motivators that inspire families to jump into a school’s inquiry pool, ISA has surveyed over 50,000 private school parents since 2003. The result? By far, the number one information source for institutions among this 50,000 plus cohort of parents was word of mouth and what we call "relational marketing". Among the least effective information sources among this cohort were print advertising and campus publications.
So, what did we learn truly “triggers” this population? We learned that It is all about relationships. The parents said it themselves. Print media, view books, direct mail campaigns all have their place in providing content and context, but they are by no means the key triggers to increasing prospect and inquiry activity. Relational marketing drives interest at the inquiry level, birthing the family into a sequence of future communication.
Since we know that relational marketing is the key motivator, what should your school be doing institutionally to effectively create these triggers?
• Start within your organization and assess internal marketing and collaboration.
• Maximize your internal and personnel resources.
• Re-orient, re-orient, re-orient. No more receivership model.
• Create and commit to a clear and executable relational marketing strategy.
• Articulate a clear and consistent “why” statement.
• Commit to creating a strong presence within the external community.
• Create a social media presence that is easily “liked” and/or shared.
We all know that Independent K-12 institutions find demand generation to be one of their hardest jobs. We also know that relationship marketing is the key to demand generation, and very few schools have organized their resources around relationship marketing. To be ahead of the game, schools need to institutionally commit to this external orientation and prioritize “trigger development” as mission critical.