However year in year out, the competition for new students is getting fiercer as more and more new schools compete for the attention of students and their parents.
Over the past decade there has been a 320% increase in the number of international schools across the world, and recent figures from the International School Consultancy reveal that there are now more than 8,000 English-medium international schools, teaching a total of 4.26 million students worldwide.
This rapid increase in the number of international schools indicates a healthy, growing market but one that competition is growing in – meaning that marketing has moved to the top of the agenda for many international schools. These schools need to find ways to;
1. Ensure that prospective parents are finding their organisation when they undertake their research process
2. Fully understand what information is important to these parents
3. Provide the right information, at the right time, in the right places to their target audience
4. Differentiate their school effectively to stand out in this crowded market
If you could only get more students out of your marketing and enrolment efforts, you know your profits would soar. If this strikes a chord, then you need to learn about the one thing that’s sure to dramatically improve your sales: intelligent follow-ups.
If you’ll apply the following fool proof secrets, not only will you close a lot more prospective parents from your leads, but you’ll also do it in less time and your margins will be higher because you’ll be selling your education institution from a position of respected authority.
Secret #1: Know your leads.
Every time your school runs a marketing campaign, the leads you get can be divided into three categories:
1. Parents almost ready and willing to sign their children up. i.e. leads ready now (hot),
2. Parents still taking time to decide the best school for their children. i.e. leads that will be ready soon (warm—these leads are critical to your school marketing success), and
3. Parents that are unsuitable. i.e. leads that may never be ready (cold or bad leads).
The problem is, you can’t divide the leads into categories because you don’t know for sure which leads go into which categories. So your enrolment team members have call every lead once or twice, then they spend the time with the leads that look like they’re going to close.
A smart enrolment consultant that works towards sales driven targets does this—they go for the low-hanging fruits. Prioritising their time with prospective parent that are ‘hot’ is the natural result here because
1. Enrolment sales consultants are rewarded for delivering student numbers within specific deadlines.
2. Enrolment sales teams can’t tell the difference between warm leads and bad leads until they reach them.
3. If your enrolment staff does reach the prospective parent and the timing isn’t right, he or she doesn’t have the time or patience to constantly follow up.
There’s nothing wrong with your enrolment teams spending their time with hot leads.
However, the problem of prioritising the hot leads comes when they neglect all those warm leads. Instead of doing the tedious, boring follow-up grunt work, enrolment sales teams usually wait for a fresh batch of leads to come from the next roadshow or newspaper campaign.
In the meantime, the warm leads from the last batch get cold, and they’re soon forgotten. Most of these parents, will go on to choose competitor schools. You need to get more out of your leads, and when you do, your student enrolment will grow and profitability will soar.
Secret #2: Timing is everything.
Student enrol when they‘re ready to enrol, not when you’re ready to meet your student number growth targets. This means you have to be in front of prospective parents when they’re ready to enrol. In other words, you have to follow up with them religiously:
1. You need to follow up with warm and even cold-that-may-warm prospects consistently and frequently for an extended period of time.
2. You can’t afford to leave this in the hands of your salespeople.
3. You need an automated system for follow-up and tools to implement the system.
Secret #3: Integrate sales enrolment and marketing.
In most schools, the marketing department’s job is to get the leads and the student enrolment department’s job is to call on the leads and close the sale. But in between getting the lead and student enrolment, there’s a huge gap. To close the gap, you need to recognize that:
1. Marketing’s job doesn’t begin and end when the lead is acquired,
2. Enrolment teams’ job doesn’t begin and end with a phone call to each lead to see how ‘hot’ they are, and
3. Someone (either marketing or sales) has to be in charge of nurturing and “warming” the leads that aren’t hot right now but will be hot down the road.
Think of it this way: Every school has a lead generation department (marketing) and a lead closing department (student enrolment), but they’re lacking a lead warming department. To bridge the gap between marketing and sales, you need a lead warming department.
Here’s how to make that happen:
1. Send relevant, valuable information to every prospect regularly, relentlessly and frequently.
2. Communicate with prospects efficiently, aside from the normal, time-consuming, one-on-one methods.
3. Log all communications between your school and the prospective parents and students in an organized fashion.
4. Arm yourself and your enrolment reps with an arsenal of specific information you can send to prospects on request.
5. Track the progress of each lead through the sales pipeline, so you always know where every lead stands.
Secret #4: You must have a living, breathing customer database.
If you want the strongest possible student community, you must actively, systematically, and methodically build your prospective student and parent base. All your contact, prospect and customer data, order and billing information—everything—needs to be entered and stored in the database.
You need these people organized into meaningful groups. And you need the flexibility to sort through the database so you can easily pull up prospects or customers who might bring you more business.
Secret #5: Tell your brand story
It’s a proven fact that human beings have to hear the same thing over and over before it sinks in. You may know your products and services like the back of your hand, but sometimes your prospective parents don’t “get it” the first time they hear the message. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that if a parent heard the pitch once, they understood it. Chances are, they didn’t. Find new and interesting ways to talk to your prospective parents again and again and again.
Your customers have changed. They now have more control than ever over the buying process and how they want companies like you to talk to them. It is no longer enough to continue throwing sales collateral at them.
Your content is the personality of your school. It’s both what you say and how you say it. But then again, it’s a little more than that. It’s your chance to provide real value to parents, over and above what you want to sell to them.
Your follow-ups must inform your prospects and customers. You need to provide valuable information. Be a Trusted Thought Leader in Your Industry. Generate Awareness of Your Brand Through Relevant & Engaging Content. If you’re showing up with no value, you’ll wear out your welcome fast. Give them the information they need and you’ll earn their trust.
Secret #6: Set up workflows and processes
To maximize your student enrolment, you must build a relationship with prospective parents from the start. Use a multistep follow-up sequence that incorporate and orchestrate email, direct mail, phone, fax, voice and other media. Meet prospective parents and students where they are. Some prospects will respond to your call, others to your email or letters, and others to more innovative options, such as invitations to teleseminars or webinars.
Secret #7: Automate your lead generation.
Use an automated, measurable lead engine based marketing automation platform. A content hub drives up engagement, increases lead intelligence, tracks visits and leads.
Don’t follow up based on set schedule. Set the system to follow up your target parent behaviour. Use lead intelligence to see how interested your leads are. The more interested behaviour is shown, the faster your follow up should be.
The program significantly increases the readership of thought leadership content, and adaptive tactics improve conversion rates – with above-benchmark response rates. Highly targeted re-engagement and conversion campaigns can drive up to 65% for email opens, with real-time lead scoring highlighting the ‘best bet’ leads for sales
If you combine all seven concepts into one cohesive, automated, fail-safe system, you won’t just see incremental sales improvements—you’ll see revolutionary transformation in your student numbers.
About Sunshine Digital
We’re a content driven marketing agency, part of Sunshine Group that specializes in helping education companies grow. Our automated, content tools help you transform your sales and marketing processes to generate more leads, nurture and close more effectively, and increase revenue with ROI.
Sunrise is a Hubspot Certified Agency Partner. Our HubSpot partnership means you spend less time making snap decisions with poor data, and more time increasing the growth & ROI of your marketing strategy.
Your education business needs to grow – Our lead generation tools help you do just that.