November 15, 2020
Millennial parents, unfortunately, are often stereotyped with less-than-ideal characteristics. The truth is, millennials will soon join (and in some lower school parent groups, even overtake) baby boomers and Generation X as the essential target audience for your school's enrollment—if they haven't already taken over this position.
According to a Pew Research April 2020 report, millennials have already overtaken baby boomers as America's largest generation—millennials (ages 23 to 38 in 2019) numbered 72.1 million, and boomers (ages 55 to 73) numbered 71.6 million; Generation X (ages 39 to 54) numbered 65.2 million and is projected to pass the boomers in population by 2028.
If marketing to millennials seems to be more difficult, you're probably right. Not only do millennials have shorter attention spans, they also have high expectations. Their generation expects your school to supply high-quality academics focusing on well-rounded students, organic lunches free of chemicals and not served on plastic, comprehensive outdoor education and play, and technologically advanced coursework.
The millennial generation continues to grow, and you must adapt your enrollment strategies to appeal to this generation.
Smaller Applicant Pool
Millennials are a broad demographic, but they also have fewer children, start families later in life, or even opt not to have children at all. According to Pew Social Trends, as of 2018, approximately 19 million millennial women had given birth to a child—this amounts to a little more than half (55 percent) of all millennial women, smaller than the shares of previous generations who had given birth at a comparable age. This is a significant decrease compared to 62 percent of Gen X women, and 64 percent of boomer women who became mothers between the ages of 22 and 37.
This demographic change can lead to a smaller applicant pool and thus more competition to fill seats. To retain a competitive enrollment strategy, communicate a mission-and-values-based approach to prospective families, going beyond the one-size-fits-all. Creating messaging that clearly indicates a rich curriculum is a key differentiating factor for many private-independent schools.
Millennials may be the largest generation workforce in the U.S. but they're also the least wealthy—leaving a stark generational wealth gap between millennials and their predecessors. Most of these families face smaller budgets because they haven't yet reached their peak earning years. Federal Reserve Data indicates that this generation holds just 4.6 percent (or $5.19 trillion) of U.S. wealth; Boomers, however, are ten times wealthier—they have 53.2 percent (or $59.96 trillion) of US wealth.
Tailor your approach and messages to suit parents who experience things differently than those who came before them. A new enrollment strategy might include adapting your financial aid methodologies to capture more middle-to-high income families. This allows you to award less financial aid to more students—increasing your student population and your bottom line.
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One stereotype is true—millennials greatly value technology. No matter the question, they turn to the world-wide-web for answers—they trust they can find what they’re looking for on the web. In fact, 75% of millennials make purchasing decisions directly influenced by internet research.
In a world full of options, competition is stiff, and the landscape for private-independent schools to capture (and convince) millennial families looking to enroll has never been more challenging.
If you don't already have a strong digital marketing strategy for your enrollment, now is the time to consider one. You'll need an optimized website, social media strategy—including user-generated content—and inbound strategy like email marketing to remain competitive. Consider video marketing, since Millennials consume more digital video and media than the average person, according to a Nielsen Company 2018 report.
Schools have always relied on word-of-mouth advertising for enrollment and retention. Social media marketing has completely changed the way parents share their recommendations for everything, including schools for their children.
According to an Adobe Voice of the Generations Report, the millennial generation uses social media networks to seek advice twice as often as those over 37 years of age. This means parents are turning to hundreds (or thousands) of internet users to research information about your school. This can include social media and online reviews.
Enrollment success hinges on how parents perceive your school's program. Make sure your school's mission aligns with your messaging—on all platforms. Monitor your accounts and listen to what parents have to say. Your enrollment depends on it!
Nurture Brand Loyalty
Millennials don’t stick with brands or institutions simply because they’ve always used them, and your school is no exception. According to a Daymon Worldwide Global Study, only 29% of millennial parents have reported being loyal to specific brands. In comparison, 35% of Gen X parents had brand loyalty.
This means continually proving your school’s value to parents. Complacency leads to brand erosion. The millennial generation wants to know they are valued in exchange for selecting your school for their children's education.
Enrollment and retention rely on parents enrolling (and remaining) year after year. Focus on building loyalty to your school by tailoring your approach to what millennial parents desire. You can do this by implementing ongoing communication, loyalty programs, and personalization.
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