Drip, Drip, Drip: Admissions Campaigns for Different Prospects

As admission professionals, we understand the value of an independent school education, how it is one of the greatest gifts parents can give their children. We also understand that when you invest in an independent school education for your child, you are investing in a premium product, a luxury brand. Neuroscience tells us that emotions associated with our judgments guide us in making decisions. Evidence suggests that decisions to purchase a luxury product are overwhelmingly emotional. 

Just as emotion is the key driving force in luxury item decisions, the same can be said to be true in choosing a premium educational option. How we make our prospective parents and students feel is going to help guide their decision. All admission professionals have the best intention to personalize each family’s experience, but the reality is, when you’re receiving hundreds of inquiries per season, it’s challenging to deliver on that goal. In today’s digital world, however, we have the ability to use recruitment tools and strategies to help us.

Inbound marketing, a marketing methodology that attracts potential customers by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to them, is a recruitment strategy that has helped us get the right content in front of the right people at the right time. The strategy and technology enable us to move prospective families through the admission funnel, guiding them with prompts to take the next steps in their process. There are a variety of inbound marketing platforms to choose from. Hubspot, a one-stop-shop for creating, optimizing and promoting content, building out lead generation funnels, automating lead nurturing, and reporting on end-to-end performance, offers CRM (customer relationship management) tools that allow you to manage your ongoing relationships with prospective families.  

Together with our communications team, we developed an email drip campaign, a series of automated emails sent to prospective families that allow you to nurture your leads, communicate often and effectively, personalize your message and steward families through the admission process. While outbound marketing sometimes delivers content that your audience doesn’t want, inbound marketing allows you to form emotional connections with your audience and solve problems that they already have. 

Initially, we started with one drip campaign for all inquiries. Every family who entered the admission funnel as an inquiry, whether they were a new family or an existing one, was placed into the same admission drip campaign sequence and received regular engaging communication throughout the admission season. We have now moved to the next level of our inbound marketing, which is to establish unique drip sequences for the different audience segments entering the admission funnel. New families, current families applying for another child, even families who are inquiring a year early, are all able to be entered into their own drip campaign sequence that is deliberate and intentional. 

Talking to these distinct audiences and having the ability to deliver unique content for each audience helps build long-term relationships and makes them feel known. New families are introduced to many different programs, school mission, core values, educational philosophy, etc. Existing families receive a drip sequence that doesn’t duplicate content that they are already receiving, but instead reaffirms the value of our brand and their decision to be a part of our community. Families who are inquiring early receive just the right amount of communication to keep us top of mind, without burdening them with too much information too early on. It is also a great tool to help build a database of prospects for future years. 

Our intention is to eventually design interest-based drip campaigns that are tied into specific buyer personas, allowing us to interact with our prospective families in areas of interest based on how they engage on our website.

Having an inbound marketing strategy has enabled us to understand our audience better and market to their specific needs. It’s also allowed us to personalize the process and ultimately attract mission-aligned families to our school. From an internal perspective, it has helped us identify opportunities, focus our efforts, and organize our priorities. 

It definitely takes time to develop the various drip sequences and create unique content for each of them. It also requires ongoing management of the platform, including purging old contacts and adding new ones, but ultimately it will allow us to achieve our goal of ensuring that our school feels like the luxury brand that it is.

The Covid-19 pandemic provides both unique challenges and opportunities for independent school recruitment. These personalized recruitment strategies that are designed to establish emotional connections with prospective parents and students will be key to our success through COVID-19 and beyond. 

Lindy Kadouri is the director of admission and enrollment management at the Milken Community School in Los Angeles.