The intersection of enrolment and marketing

During the past decade, I have worked with hundreds of independent and faith-based schools. I often find that there is a disconnect between marketing and enrolment. Let me tell you a story about what I often find when I begin work with a school.

On a recent school site visit, one of my meetings focused on the marketing strategy. This meeting included the Development Director, Admissions Director and Graphic Designer.

I first asked the group, “Who is responsible for marketing?” The Marketing Director said that she was responsible for placing ads. These ads were created by the Graphic Designer. The Admissions Director provided some input to the decisions made about the advertising buys. From this group, no-one was really responsible for marketing the school. In fact, they weren’t even thinking in marketing terms.

I asked the group a second question: “What is your marketing strategy?” The initial response was silence followed by a rehashing of the advertising discussion. A marketing strategy didn’t exist. Rather, the group focused on using their limited budget to make advertising decisions.

Marketing was simply an afterthought for this school. The Development Director and her staff were supposedly responsible for marketing. However, the marketing effort often focused on graphic design, photography and event logistics. The Admissions Director took a ‘wait and see’ approach instead of being proactive in generating interest in the school through a comprehensive marketing effort.

More often than not, I find that marketing is disconnected from the enrolment effort. However, it is critical that marketing intersects with enrolment.

Let me explain.

While there are many definitions of marketing that you can find and use, I prefer to focus on three active ingredients of what marketing is as it relates to enrolment in a school:

  • Lead generation – marketing must work to generate enrolment leads for, and interest in, the school.
  • Storytelling – marketing must work to tell the story of the school in a way that brings the school to life and attracts prospective parents.
  • Brand awareness – marketing must work to increase the awareness of the school in the community.

This is where the intersection between marketing and enrolment occurs. It can be seen in the following three areas:

  1. Intersection in strategy: Marketing must focus on generating leads to drive interest and traffic for enrolment. Think about the top of the enrolment funnel. Marketing works to get prospective parents into the funnel. Then, the enrolment department can work to nurture the leads. As a result, the strategy between marketing and enrolment must intersect.
  2. Intersection in team: My bias is that marketing should be part of the enrolment department. As you can probably tell, I don’t think that marketing fits in the development office as the focus is on fundraising. A marketing position should be part of the enrolment department since this is the focus of the school’s revenue generation. In fact, this is one of the first recommendations that I provided to the leadership team of the school that I mentioned above.
  3. Intersection in results: Marketing and enrolment must work together to produce the results that a school’s leadership desires. The ultimate goal is the school’s desired enrolment.

Marketing and enrolment must intersect in strategy, team, and results. Otherwise, both areas will be disconnected and it is not likely that you will achieve your goals.

Does marketing intersect with enrolment at your school?

Dr Rick Newberry is the President of Enrollment Catalyst. Based in the USA, his goal is to provide school leaders with effective marketing and enrolment strategies, as well as staff accountability, direction, and results needed to grow their enrolment.

SMJ Rick Newberry

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