- Independent Schools
- International School
In this blog, Niccola Scott, head of UK sales at Finalsite, shares some of her learnings from over 10 years’ experience of working with independent and international schools. Niccola has found that too often, marketing, communications and admissions processes exist as disconnected pieces of a puzzle. She reveals how, with the right marketing tools and techniques, you can align these processes in order to create a simple and more effective admissions funnel.
The Problem: A Million Little Pieces (of Data)
Marketing, communication and admissions are all inherently linked. Many schools have robust admissions processes in place such as a regular marketing programme and a set of regular communications to different audiences. There are multiple journeys along the admissions funnel and each stage of this journey generates a multitude of data from prospective parents or pupils.
This data is collected in various formats (such as emails, letters, telephone calls, digital applications or paper forms) and used in various ways. For many schools, however, many of these processes are still manual or split across multiple systems, thereby causing difficulty in capturing the data. Extracting the data from different sources can also make it harder to follow-up on enquiries in order to lead prospective families to the next step of the admissions funnel.
Key questions include:
How do you make the process from initial enquiry to enrolled pupil more effective and more efficient?
How do you capture this data and how do you ensure it is being used effectively and efficiently?
Streamlining a school’s data makes it easier, quicker and more cost effective and in the end helps drive enrollment and engagement. But where should a school start?
Free On-demand Webinar: How to Connect the Pieces of the Admission Puzzle
Step 1: Look At Your Website
Does the website answer the basic questions your prospective parents are looking to address? There are four key areas to focus on as represented by the four pillars in the diagram.
1.Ease of use
The user journey and the design of the homepage are crucial. Can the user land on the homepage and find the information they are looking for from any device? Your homepage should dictate the journey of your audience. When someone lands on the homepage (whether that be a new family, your current community, employees, alumni or friends) you want them to have a journey that is pertinent to them. Having entry points that are clear can help ensure the user continues through the site looking at content that is tailored to them.
Don’t forget the importance of SEO! Making sure you appear at the top of search results is as important as having a great homepage. Homepages are less effective if they can’t be found in the first place!
Research tells us that most people will make their minds up within 7 seconds of landing on your site as to whether they will go any further. So capturing interest quickly is key. Long gone are wordy paragraphs. Today it’s all about short video and visual information and logos that capture attention. It is important that schools articulate their values on their homepages. That may be in the format of logos - or infographics - that stipulate the key selling points of the school: be that academic achievements, extra curricular facilities or class sizes. Whatever makes your school unique has to be immediately obvious on the homepage.
An example of a school who does this well is Felsted. Their use of bold images and visuals on the homepage won them a Platinum award for excellence in design at the internationally acclaimed dotComm awards!
Prospective parents and pupils have to see themselves at your school. A powerful homepage depicts students telling the story of why they love being at the school. Good visuals can help parents understand what you provide and help them to decide if their child will fit in with the school. Articulating those values and using the student's voice is a powerful marketing tool.
Lady Eleanor Holles do this extremely well. Not only have they added video content and striking images to their homepage but they have handed over their Instagram account to their sixth formers to curate!
Clear calls to action are the next step for prospective parents. Make it easy for them to get in touch with you via whatever channels you offer. CTAs are crucial bridges to your website and admissions goals, so make sure they stand out or risk losing your visitors!
Social presence is also really important. Many prospective parents, or prospective teachers, will use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram to find out what goes on at your school.
Step 2: Simplifying Data Flow
As well as being a communications and marketing tool, a winning website should provide a platform for collaboration for everyone involved in these processes.
Through your website, whether through analytics, forms or calls to action, you will be continually collecting information and data which can be used to drive recruitment and retention.
However, as we have seen, too often the data needed to communicate sits in another system or in an excel spreadsheet (or even scribbled on a piece of paper) and this means that using this information to market to new groups can be manual and reactive.
Data should not be a barrier to reaching your goals. Connecting systems reduces the workload for your team but also improves the user experience for parents, keeping retention rates high.
The Solution: Connect the Pieces of the Puzzle
With our content management system, Composer, you can create and communicate from a single place. Designed specifically for school marketing and communications professionals it offers a broad set of intuitive features including the ability to:
- Quickly and efficiently develop and publish content.
- Create dynamic groups and individualise their messages.
- Centralise resources such as images and video.
- Integrate school calendars which allows you to easily send event updates.
- Embed social media feeds which then gives you an updating stream of news and stories.
- Schedule beautiful school newsletters and emails.
- Send messages and updates which can be tracked and monitored.
- Create useful forms that help you to capture information and data.
- Take payment for admissions fees and tickets.
- Manage your RSVPs for open days or events.
Integrating Your Systems with Finalsite
At Finalsite we work with a number of partners to provide seamless integrations, helping you to manage your existing data. When you integrate your core data into Composer, you continue to use the systems you already have in place, rather than making a switch. From well-established enterprise Management Information Systems (MIS) to Student Information Systems (SIS), we have decades of experience of moving data securely and efficiently.
With more than 30 popular partners, student information systems, and payment gateways, our platform is designed to work with many of the tools you already have in place, rather than force you to switch to an all-in-one.
About the Integration Process
Data integration saves time by automating the process of uploading parent, pupil and staff data into Finalsite from your existing MIS or SIS. This automated data integration takes the place of manual data sheet uploads. Your data flows one-way, from your SIS/MIS into Finalsite. The integrated data can be used for all your communications: newsletters, eNotify lists, online directories, class pages and rotas, alumni pages, and more.
The actual data integration runs as a scheduled task, updating data in Finalsite that has recently changed in your SIS/MIS. Depending on how the exports from your SIS/MIS to Finalsite are configured, data updates may be synced to Finalsite every hour.
Plus you can maximise the use of many of your external systems by making them easier for your users to access with a single sign on. This allows you to securely link users to the systems they need to use, making your Finalsite portal the hub of all information, content and third-party software access for students, teachers, parents and alumni.
With our easy-to-use software, you can empower your school to connect the pieces of the puzzle. Our experience and our technology allows you to connect your marketing efforts to your communication and admissions strategies. This helps you save time by streamlining communications and informing your marketing decisions thus increasing your admissions.
If you want to learn more about how Finalsite's CMS can streamline these processes for you, talk to us today!
Armed with her degree in English Literature, Julie started her career in print publishing working within the editorial team at Penguin Books where first she discovered the wonderful world of digital marketing! She worked on launching the Readers’ Group Website at Penguin Books before moving on to Audible UK where she was Online Editor. She then took a fashionable step into e-commerce where she worked on the launch of Selfridges. A keen reader, when not working within the marketing team at Finalsite UK, Julie spends most of her spare time reading books and looking after her school-age twins.
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