If I could sum up all of the research studies, statistics, and Google search queries done in preparation of FinalsiteU in just four words, it would be this: the funnel has changed.
Your prospective families don't want to be marketed to, but rather, conversed with and nurtured. Decisions take longer because of a variety of influencers, including social media, word-of-mouth, and the variety of content that fills every minute of their screen time.
Expectations are higher. Personalised content is more powerful than ever. And shopping around to find the "perfect fit" is much more common than making a commitment based on a single endorsement.
Thus, the funnel becomes both wider and longer. And while we have the capability to cast a much wider net earlier on, it also takes much more time, effort, and content to get a conversion.
That being said, your website (and all digital strategies) need to keep in mind that in general, you have two types of prospective families visiting your school's website: high-commitment visitors, and low-commitment visitors.
High commitment visitors are those who are ready to apply for one reason or another, and require little to no nurturing along the way. In short, your school is their top choice, so they will be forgiving with all aspects of your process. However, these visitors are much less common than low-commitment visitors.
Low-commitment visitors are the prospects who are just shopping around and wanting to learn more. They need help making a decision, and your school is one of many options. These visitors are at the very top of the funnel, and your website is the first opportunity you have to gently nurture them down.
It is essential that your school's website is designed to appeal to low-commitment visitors — as they are the most prevalent, and require the most attention. This means re-evaluating these three common website mistakes.
You're Still Using Long Enquiry Forms
Imagine this: you're online shopping for new trainers — and in order to learn the details of a particular running shoe, you need to provide at least 12 form fields of information about yourself. And that's just to learn more.
Would you actually take the time to fill out the form, or would you be discouraged and head back to Google? The majority of us (low-commitment visitors) would head back to Google, while a few (high-commitment visitors) would stay because they know that trainer is the one.
A simple analogy, but it gets you thinking — right? If you're asking a prospective family to share every last detail about themselves just to get a phone call or brochure from your admissions team, you've just put a plug in your funnel.
Online forms work this way:
As a prospect, I am willing to share this information about myself in order to get something of value from your school in return. What is being provided by your school should always be a greater return or reward than what was provided. But with those long enquiry forms, they are receiving very little for the amount you're asking — resulting in extremely low conversion rates.
When putting together your form, here are a few stats to think about:
- There is a 120% increase in conversions when you reduce the number of form fields from 11 to 4
- There is a 20% conversion rate on forms with only 3-5 fields
- The average conversion rate on a form with 11+ fields is only 5.4%
So forms like this one below, are just plain scary.
You Have a Poorly Executed Tuition Page
A school's tuition page is typically in its top 3 most visited website pages — and yet, it's never treated with such importance. It's just some plain text of tuition, fees, processes, aid, etc.
A top-hit page treated with the same attention as that random interior page that has a total of 6 visits in the past 90 days? Something's wrong there. Good tuition pages shouldn't just list information, but should be treated as prime opportunity to share your school's story.
Rather just just listing costs for the school year, think of your tuition page as a place to tell a story, and be sure to include:
- A value proposition
- A video or photo slideshow
- Information on affordability
- Social proof (AKA testimonials)
Further reading: 4 Strategies to Create Independent School Tuition Pages That Convert
Your Social Proof is Limited to a Single Page
At FinalsiteU, admissions expert Rick Newberry shared how "word of mouth" marketing is the number one way families find out about schools—backing up that what people have to say about your school bears a lot of weight in the decision-making process.
- Over 70% of Americans say they look at reviews before making a purchase
- 63% of consumers are more likely to purchase from a site if it has reviews
- 70% of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don't even know
- Testimonials on a landing page can increase conversions by 34%
With these stats in mind, it's apparent that simply keeping a slider of testimonials on your homepage isn't enough. With website visitors entering your website through a variety of pages (tuition, athletics, admissions, etc.), it's essential that social proof is on your school's most important landing pages.
A few tips for sharing social proof on your website:
- Keep them brief, with the option to "Read More"
- Don't put the same testimonials on every single page
- Consider which pages you want to add testimonials to, and then gather page-specific testimonials that really sell value
- Incorporate photos to make them personalised