You’ve taken admissions online because you want to provide a top-notch, personalized and simplified process. And while your admissions platform plays a pivotal role in the applicant experience, you can’t rely on it to do your job for you.
An inquiry is often prefaced by a series of events that a prospect takes in their search for a school. And, if you’re not getting as many inquiries as you’d like, it’s fair to say that somewhere, your funnel is cracked — or maybe even completely broken.
How do you figure out where it is cracked? It’s a rather simple twofold answer: 1. If you’re not getting enough website traffic, you need to focus on the top of the funnel (awareness). 2. If you’re getting plenty of website traffic, but not enough inquiries, you need to focus on the middle of the funnel (consideration). Focusing on this middle of the funnel is what we refer to as Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO). CRO is the process by which you convert more of your website visitors into inquiries, by improving the process by which they find and engage with your school.
Whether you are focusing on the top or middle of your funnel, here are ten tips for using digital marketing and your website to help you reach your goals.
BUILD A CUSTOM “INQUIRY” LANDING PAGE
A custom landing page focused on getting inquiries is the foundation of your CRO strategy.
Your admissions section should have a custom landing page dedicated to inquiries. This page is most likely a combination of your “admissions process” page and your “why [school name]” page. The goal of this page is to both sell the value of your school and educate on the admissions process. It should not simply be a link to your inquiry form, but rather, an immersive, compelling, and intentional design and user experience to draw the user in and spark a conversion.
KEEP YOUR INQUIRY FORM SHORT
It’s important to keep in mind the kind of visitor that is going to come across your form: high-commitment, or low-commitment. High-commitment visitors who are ready to just apply to your school with little to no nurturing are few and far between (legacy students, siblings, etc.). Low-commitment visitors are shopping around to see what kinds of schools are out there but are in
no rush to make a decision. They are in the awareness and consideration phases of the applicant journey i.e. the top of the funnel, and they respond best to short forms.
In short, while it is tempting to get as much information as possible from your applicants up-front, this is an easy way to deter them.
USE TESTIMONIALS THROUGHOUT YOUR EFFORTS
Online testimonials are even more powerful than word-of-mouth. Whether you choose to have video or text testimonials, incorporating candid and social proof that your school is worth the investment is key. Quotes from parents, students, faculty and alumni are key to increasing conversions, as over 70% of Americans say they look at reviews before making a purchase/decision, and 63% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase/decision from a site that has ratings and reviews.
INCORPORATE PHOTO AND VIDEO ON ADMISSIONS PAGES
Website pages with video have higher conversion rates than those that don’t — up to 80% higher, actually — so incorporating an admissions video is key. However, if you don’t have the budget or resources to put together a snazzy admissions video that really pulls on those heartstrings, opt for a photo or series of photos that would have the same effect.
HAVE A CLEARLY DEFINED VALUE PROPOSITION
What makes your school different than everyone else? What is the outcome of your school’s education and experience? Why should a prospective family invest in your school’s education and experience?
Answering these key questions —in a short and compelling manner — is the key to earning inquiries.
Value propositions should be shared in a text headline at the top of a web page, but can also be supplemented with photos, infographics, and testimonials that reinforce it.
INVEST IN PAID SOCIAL ADS
No matter who your target audience is, they spend time on social media. Investing in social media ads allows you to reach new audiences and stay top-of-mind for existing audiences for less than the cost of traditional advertising.
If you invest in social media ads, be sure to send prospects to the custom landing page you’ve already built so that you have complete control over their experience on your website.
FOCUS ON GETTING TO PAGE 1 OF GOOGLE
You can have the most beautiful campus, and website to showcase it — but if no one can find you, what is it worth? This is a question we often don’t consider, even though more than 90% of online experiences begin in search, and another 80% of those searches are “unbranded” — meaning they’re searching for terms like “best international schools in Italy,” rather than “International School of Rome.”
In addition to the prominence of search in a prospect’s journey, being on Page 1 is imperative, as most Internet users don’t scroll past Page 1 — let alone the first three results!
Schools can invest in SEO or PPC to help them get to Page 1, but a hybrid of the two will yield the best results.
DRAW ATTENTION WITH BOLD CTAS AND PAGE POPS
Does every page in your Admission section work towards driving a conversion? Do a quick audit of your website’s pages to determine if each page directs website visitors towards a conversion. If not, add calls-to-actions, or even Page Pops, to relevant pages to guide users to where you want them to go.
GET PERSONAL ON YOUR WEBSITE AND VIA EMAIL
Millennials and Gen Z can see through in-authentic and mass emails, so it is important to make the process as personalized as possible. When using OpenApply, use personalization elements as often as possible to make emails feel like it is just for them.
If you want to take your digital marketing one step further, you can also invest in website personalization. For example, Finalsite’s personalization element available in their CMS, Composer, allows schools the ability to customize page content based on a website visitor’s location — allowing international schools around the world to serve up unique content to their prospective and current families.
USE THANK YOU PAGES
“Thank you” pages are an often forgotten, but key aspect to digital marketing. When someone submits an inquiry form, an open house RSVP, or downloads a piece of content — you’ve already done the hardest part: earned the conversion. So, capitalize on that momentum and try to earn another one.
“Thank you” pages can be used to promote another admissions event or relevant content to further nurture and engage website visitors.