June 19, 2022
By Dr. Harry Bloom, Senior Vice President, Client Solutions, Measuring Success
(This is part one of a series to help you define your school’s prime prospects.)
The foundation of intentional, proactive student recruitment is having crystal clarity about the families and students a school is targeting. This is true for two basic reasons. Without knowing the target audience, a school cannot conduct the research necessary to determine if its marketing messaging is effective.
More colloquially, Lewis Carroll said, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” Given that 66% of independent schools are under enrolled or struggle annually to fill their classes, most schools simply do not have the luxury of not defining their target families and students as precisely as possible.
Schools that successfully used data science to define their target audiences did so at the individual family level and at the market segment level. (A market segment is a group of consumers with common wants and needs that are targetable.)
To ensure maximum focus on all your school’s prime enrollment prospects, your school’s student recruitment plan should have two focal points.
- A “Lookalike” prospective family focal point that provides a prioritized list of your best enrollment prospects, along with contact information (including complete name, address, email address, zip code, and income.)
- A market segment or social network focal point that enables you to concentrate your word of mouth and ambassadorial efforts to maximum effect.
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Generating a Lookalike family profile involves four key steps:
- Step one: Deeply and comprehensively delineating your current school families’ characteristics by creating extensive databases of demographic and lifestyle information.
- Step two: Comparing this data-enriched characterization of your current families to the profiles of all the families living in your marketing area.
- Step three: Ranking every potential family living in your market by how similar it is to your current family profile, with the highest-ranking families representing your best recruitment prospects.
- Step four: Adding complete first and last names, address, phone, and email contact information to the profile of your highest potential families so you can count and target them efficiently and effectively via social media, direct mail, etc. as relevant to your school’s marketing mix strategy.
Word of mouth marketing is the most powerful way for schools to build enrollment. Schools are enabled to be explicit in choosing social networks and market segments including feeder schools, employers, religious, and social organizations. Word of mouth marketing works to create a powerful combination of outcomes measurement, documentation, and ongoing monitoring.
After a Lookalike family profile is generated, you can begin identifying your highest potential target market segments. Doing so involves these steps:
- Analyze: The organizational affinities of your families in depth, including feeder schools, area employers, local clubs, religious institutions, etc.) and identifying those who offer significant incremental enrollment potential because your school’s Share of Market (SOM) can be increased.
- Prioritize: These market segments in terms of a few other relevant factors, including the strength of independent and public school competition for segment members and travel difficulty.
- Reprioritize: Your target market segments and where you will focus your school’s word of mouth efforts as well as parent, student, and faculty ambassador efforts. This also includes your efforts to document the beneficial outcomes your school provides to market segment members—also known as a strong “value proposition.”
By perfecting your school’s data-driven definition of where to focus marketing and enrollment management efforts, you will lay the foundation for maximum enrollment growth. To learn more about how to perfect your school’s recruitment targeting efforts, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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