Mar 30, 2016

Retention (Seven Spokes of Successful Enrollment Management)

It is tempting to focus on the admission funnel and to be very concerned that your schools inquiry base is strong. In fact, it is among the most common concerns we hear at ISA: “we need more people at the top of the funnel”. This absolutely might be true. However, keeping your current students, keeping them satisfied, and stewarding them into being spokespeople for your school is among the most fruitful and important uses of time and resources. If retention is weak or marginal, it is unlikely that the other spokes of the wheel are going well. I might go so far as to say that it is unlikely they even have the potential to go well.  

We live in the age of relational marketing. This has always been true to some extent in independent schools, and is even more true as millennial parents care less about viewbooks and websites and increasingly rely on trusted individual sources of information, like current or recent families. In other words, there is a direct correlation between the willingness of your current families to spread the word about their experience at your school and the success of your enrollment efforts for new families.

When thinking about marketing, schools focus on potential new students but really the focus should be on current families. Telling the story of your school, especially it’s unique points of impact (see this article for more info), is a vital way to keep current families engaged and excited about your school.

Do the math. It is likely you are losing one class in your school to graduation, and you have one or two (or perhaps several) significant entry points each year to fill. In the middle are all of your current families. Somewhere around 80% of your student body needs to re-enroll, yet admission officers are spending much more of their time focused on the 20% who are new.

It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing the majority of your energy on creating incredible experiences for prospective families. This is important, naturally, but providing a red carpet treatment for your current families is equally, if not more, vital for healthy enrollment.


Image courtesy of Business Insider AU.

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