The current state of the world—with all of the tension introduced by COVID-19— is serving as a lesson or, at the very least, a reminder to independent schools that yielding efforts do not start after you accept a student. Instead, yield efforts start the moment a family begins engaging with your school.
That first interaction might be visiting your website, meeting an admission officer at a fair, calling or e-mailing your office, or even meeting a current family or employee of your school in the supermarket. There are steps each of us, as enrollment leaders, can take to help shape the reputation and brands that define—and oftentimes precede—our schools.
Develop a Strong Value Proposition
It’s more important than ever for schools to define their value proposition, and to articulate it well. Your prospective families want to know what’s in it for them. They want to know that there’s somewhat of a guaranteed outcome. They also want to know the specific value they’ll get out of your school. Ultimately, parents want to know how investing in your school will benefit their child.
As a school, we can’t say or guarantee what colleges or universities a student can get into. But, we can share the hard and soft skills children will be equipped with when they’re here. Each of these is a key component of your value proposition.
Don’t confuse sharing your story with bragging. If there’s something your school does well, it deserves to be shared.
Define Your School’s Brand
You also have to think about how you are articulating your value proposition and how families receive it or see it. Where are you putting your value proposition? Is it clearly communicated through different platforms? Is it displayed on your website, social media pages, LinkedIn page, and sites you’re featured on?
To share your value proposition well, you need something I’m very passionate about: great branding. When I came to George School there wasn’t a “George School Green”. We didn’t have a style guide, and our website wasn’t all that inviting. These were all intentional changes we made to bring our value proposition to the forefront and build a distinctive brand that really pops.
Refresh Your Digital Front Door
The majority of the traffic coming to your school’s website is comprised of prospective families. Your website is essentially the face of your school. It’s that first handshake, that first hello. Your website may certainly make or break whether a family decides to complete the inquiry form and move forward with you.
With that in mind, you have to think about what content is on your website, what information is easily accessible, and how many clicks it takes for families to get to key pages. Families come to your website for information. It’s not taboo to put things like your tuition on the website.
For example, if a family goes to your website to find out if they can make their dream of sending their child to your school a reality, and you either don’t have tuition listed or you have it buried because you think it’s a negative, by the time they find it (or stumble around your website and cannot find it) you’ve already frustrated them and they leave. You’ve lost that opportunity.
It’s not about being secretive anymore.
A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats
We recently contributed to the creation of a consortium called the Boarding School Consortium (BCS). Right now there are 13 boarding school members. We all collaborate on ways that we can cultivate the market and educate the market about boarding schools.
We don’t just want to promote our individual schools, but all boarding schools. Because we cannot afford to do this on our own. The success of each individual boarding school means success for all boarding schools. Because even if a family isn’t the right match for one school or a school isn’t the right match for that family, they’ll still be knowledgeable about boarding schools in general and maybe we can help connect them with the right boarding school.
When you work with other schools your value proposition really comes into play. You need to be able to differentiate yourself because let’s face it, value propositions sometimes feel like a copy and paste. All of our schools can talk about rigorous academics, competitive athletics, great arts programs, beautiful campuses, a sense of community, diversity, and all of these things on a varying scale. It’s just a spectrum. That’s where it comes back to your clearly defined value proposition with unique differentiators. You’ve got to understand what sets your school apart from the pack.
We should all be educating the market about the options and opportunities that are out there and available for families while letting the unique values and personalities of each of our schools speak for themselves.
Sales teams at corporations often embrace the phrase “Always Be Closing.” My advice to other independent school enrollment professionals is that we’ve got to always be yielding.
Especially in today’s times, with Coronavirus turning many of our typical initiatives and plans upside down, we cannot afford to provide our prospective families with an experience that is any less than excellent. No matter the channel or the time of year.
More about Rohan
Rohan is heavily involved in the private and independent school community at large. He is passionate about creating a welcoming and top-tier experience for every student at George School. Here are some of the organizations, boards, and committees he has been involved in:
- Principal Consultant for the Glasgow Group, LLC
- Founding member and Chair of My Brothers’ Keeper: A Retreat for Men of Color in Education
- Founding member of the National Diversity Practitioners Institute (NDPI)
- Chair of the Faculty Search Committee for the annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC)
- Co-Chair for the University of Pennsylvania School Leadership Program Alumni Steering Committee (ASC)
- Co-Chair of the Boarding School Consortium (BSC)
- Member of Newtown Friends School (NFS) School Committee
- Member of the Admission Leadership Council (ALC)
- Member of the Admission Advisory Council for ASSIST