3 Enrollment Funnel Mistakes Small Schools Make

May 23, 2020

Hi friend, 

I'm here with you today to talk to you about three enrollment funnel mistakes that I'm seeing small schools make.

Now, I'm really excited for you to hear this.

Why? Because I don't want you to waste your time and energy on things that might not be working.

1. Thinking that virtual school Open Houses are the way to warm-up prospective families

So I want to kick off by saying that this is a common mistake and it's totally reasonable why we're making it.

We're making the assumption that an open house is a great way to warm up people.

Why is this a mistake you ask? Because let's look at our audience now. It has changed. Our idea of an open house used to be that people came on campus, they get to know us and stuff like that.

A lot of schools can't do that right now (obviously depending on where you live!)  But in these times right now, where everything has gone online, the traditional open house doesn't work.

So what we've seen people do is just say, "We're just going to do a virtual open house. That's how we're going to warm people up."

But it's not the same, friend. It's not the same warmth as actually going somewhere.

Just think about if you were trying to take a virtual party it's sooo not the same. The conversations, the tone, that connection isn't the same.

So the mistake is thinking that the open house is the way to go to warm people up. I would say expand that concept. Let's think about beyond an open house.

How are you warming people up to who you are and your program? How are you getting them involved? Are you offering free classes? Are you doing something in the community virtually where they're getting to know you better?

I mean, I can think of a million things you can do to help engage your audience and warm them up. This is what I work with my clients on. We go through and identify for their school the best way to warm up their potential people.

We go through that in depth because every school is different. So it's identifying what's going to work for your school and then making that part of your enrollment funnel.

Now, sure could you have an open house later? Absolutely. But right now it's probably not the best way to warm up your audience.

And then that takes me to mistake number two.

2. Sticking with traditional school open house/tour formats

I have attended many virtual open houses and really, you all are doing great. Don't get me wrong...I know the work that went into them and everything like that.

But what a lot of people have done is basically take the open house format that they had, you know, when they were physically having open houses and then transferring that into an actual virtual open house.

And why is this not working? Let's look at who we're trying to target. If you're targeting parents with preschoolers, then those parents are not going to be able to focus uninterrupted for an hour. It's impossible. I've tried it!

So if you want parents to engage, you have to meet them where they are. If you're going to go with the open house format, then it's time to do some market research.

What are the struggles your parents are facing? I'm guessing they're being pulled into 5,000 different Zoom things and that if they have younger children, they're being interrupted every five minutes. 

Once you figure that out then you can format your open house.  Maybe it's an open house week instead of a day. Maybe you schedule 20-minute sessions with the topics that they're interested in and schedule it over a week. There are many ways you can do that.

Another mistake I'm seeing with the virtual open houses is you're requiring parents to fill out 5,000 questions just to sign up to attend your open house. That's another barrier to entry to getting your ideal parent to attend an event (when they're probably already Zoom-fried!).

Just don't do it. I know you want to collect information on your end, but we need to make it as simple as possible for people to come (just like, hopefully you're doing for your virtual tours!!). Keep it simple and easy - the person's name, email, and maybe the grade they're interested in.

Look, I know it seems like you're going to miss out on all this data, but the goal is to get your school in front of these people.

And if they're encountering this barrier-to-entry and don't even sign up for the open house, then you're missing the opportunity to engage with huge amounts of your target audience.  

Another barrier to entry I see schools doing is not making virtual tours as easy as possible to schedule. Not only are they requiring massive amounts of data to sign up but they're also going back and forth via email to schedule.

What's the low barrier to entry option? Use scheduling tools like Acuity or Calendly!

That way a parent can say, "okay, I have 20 minutes on this day and I can fit this in." And scheduling seems to be a little bit of a struggle for parents right now so making it easy for them is key.

Takeaways: Anything you can do to identify your market, do some market research, and then create something that serves your prospective parents where they are will help them get to know your school better (and ultimately enroll!).  

3. Not sharing your distance learning plan and addressing the "Elephant in the Room" questions

Look, parents don't want to know what your traditional school is like. Well, I take that back. Yes they absolutely want to hear about your school.

But if you're not speaking about how your school is:

  • Preparing for the fall
  • Rolling out your distance learning program
  • Formating your distance learning to serve students
  • Creating hybrid-learning for multiple fall scenarios
  • Integrating new students into the community and making them feel welcome (um, that's huge!)

Then you're not addressing prospective parent concerns.

So if you're not covering these topics either in your virtual open house virtually or in your tours and communications, then you're not going to see parents convert because those are the biggest questions that they have right now.

Are you sure of what's happening in the fall? Of course not...no one's sure of the fall. But you can give them the information they desire so that they feel informed.

For example

  1. These are the three scenarios that we're thinking about for the fall
  2. Here's how we're rolling them out
  3. Here's how we're going to make sure every student has that personal connection with the teacher
  4. Here's how we're going to make sure that your child feels like they're a part of the classroom.

You want to overcome a prospective family's objections - when you're talking to them, when you're doing your open house, when you're doing videos online - this is huge!

Be honest and transparent because that's what parents are looking for right now. Think about this...it's really hard to invest in something right now if you don't feel comfortable or there's uncertainty in the future.

So it's reassuring these parents that "don't worry, this education is absolutely worth your investment."

So those are the three mistakes I'm seeing right now. I hope you found them helpful.

I'd love to get to know you more. Please connect with me on LinkedIn or any of my other social platforms. Have a great day!


Aubrey Bursch, Founder, Easy School Marketing

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