Marketing Automation for Education: How to Get Started
Sending valuable hard-earned, qualified visitors to your homepage to fend for themselves and then crossing your fingers is not a strategy.
My company, Kreative Webworks has been consulting on school enrollment marketing programs since 2011. Here’s what we’ve learned:
Choosing a school is a big investment for a family, not just financially, but emotionally. Even if your school’s website totally rocks, just dropping parents or students off on the site to “explore” everything that your school has to offer is a bit presumptuous.
An initial visit to your website rarely results in a submitted application form. It just doesn’t work like that. When someone visits your school’s website, there are only two things you can be confident of:
- They are at least considering a new school, or they wouldn’t have found their way to your website in the first place.
- You aren’t the only school they are considering.
Parents and students don’t make decisions like this spontaneously. They need to develop an emotional connection with your school, and a single session information dump — even about how wonderful you are — rarely cuts it.
Families need to build a sense of familiarity and confidence in your school over time. This requires multiple touchpoints, which requires a strategy to “nurture” your leads through your enrollment funnel.
The good news is, with a well-planned strategy and the proper technology, lead nurturing can become largely automated. This will free you and your enrollment team to concentrate on enrolling new students instead of the time-consuming pursuit of constantly shifting strategies.
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How can you use marketing automation for education?
Many marketing departments and digital agencies are using the marketing automation process to automate repetitive marketing tasks based on certain criteria or trigger events. Specific actions such as sending a series of strategically-designed emails or even initiating a spontaneous conversation with the school’s chatbot can all be pre-designed.
This isn’t just for efficiency’s sake, but also to help provide a more personalized experience from start to finish.
You can use marketing automation software to design targeted email campaigns that are automatically personalized with the recipient’s name, and highlight information about a relevant grade level, thus creating a more personalized interaction.
The premise behind marketing automation is to mix software with a well-thought-out digital strategy. While marketing automation can do a lot, you still need to have a plan in place to make the most of this tool.
Marketing automation is more than email
Marketing automation is often misunderstood and involves more than just sending a series of emails. However, email marketing remains king, and should be part of your digital strategy. We’ll go over that more in the next section.
In the meantime, let’s go over some of the ways your school can implement marketing automation to ease your workload and increase enrollments:
Students and parents of school-aged children are often more comfortable tapping out letters on a device than they are actually talking to another human being. People expect quick responses today and don’t want to have to call for simple questions; especially as more millennial parents are enrolling their children in school.
A simple chatbot can answer common questions or ensure you’re notified when someone reaches out. Most chatbot platforms allow for customization through A.I. (Artificial Intelligence) to engage a prospect, answer their questions, and collect their contact information for follow-up.
Proper marketing automation takes into account the behaviors of your leads across multiple channels and should help you craft the most effective marketing strategies. You can sort contacts into segmented lists based on specific behavioral criteria such as how often they open your emails.
You can also automatically send personalized emails to users based on a trigger event like filling out a contact form on your site, clicking a “request more information” button, or downloading a lead magnet.
Then, we use a process called “lead scoring” which assigns a point value to every action a parent or student takes, such as opening an email or clicking on a link or downloading a brochure. Prospects that reach a minimum predetermined point value are clearly more engaged with the school and go down a different, more aggressive follow-up path.
Social media posting
Using marketing automation, you can schedule social media posts in advance to save yourself time and keep your postings consistent. Your school can create all the engaging content it wants, but if you don’t post enough or even at the times when your audience is most active then it’s wasted effort.
Platforms like Constant Contact allow you to manage all of your social media in one place. You can share content across multiple channels and respond to conversations and mentions without ever leaving your account.
I recommend creating a content calendar to decide what you are going to post and when. Many of these posts can be event focused based on holidays or scheduled school events. These pre-scheduled posts can be augmented with manual posts as ideas and current events dictate.
Effective automated emails your school should send
The key to email marketing automation is finding effective ways to automate your digital marketing workflow to gain more leads without investing more time.
One of the best marketing tactics your school can implement is sending targeted, personalized and yes… automated emails. This will make your job much easier, help you nurture leads throughout their journey from interest to retention, and provide you with better tracking of campaign effectiveness.
According to Statistica, 306.4 billion emails were sent and received every day in 2020 and that number is expected to increase to more than 347.3 billion by the year 2022. These are opportunities your school can’t miss out on and proves that email marketing is still going strong.
If you’re unsure the types of automated emails your school should be sending, here are a few examples you can start implementing today:
When a prospective parent fills out a contact form, create a sequence of automated emails that keeps them engaged until the application deadline. In your content, you can include key benefits of your school, common FAQs, testimonials and videos, tuition information, and other relevant content that addresses your buyer persona’s main wants and needs.
With marketing automation, you can create highly segmented email lists based on age, interest, gender, or donation amount. For example, segment parents into categories based on their child’s grade level. Rather than sending generic school-wide updates, you can send parents monthly or quarterly emails with information about curriculum changes, what’s coming up in the school year, stand-out students, and anything that relates to their child’s age or grade.
Set up an automated email series leading up to a large-scale school event such as a fundraiser. Start by hyping up the event and include general event information. Remind attendees once a week and ramp up the email frequency the week of the event. Provide helpful content such as how to login (if virtual), event itinerary, how the money will be used, success stories, etc. to encourage a successful event.
Send out surveys to receive constructive parent feedback. Do this at the end of every school year so that over the summer, you can make any necessary changes or find out what you’re doing right, and what you can improve. Survey responses that are particularly favorable can be approached to write a full online review.
Final thoughts on marketing automation for education
To implement these campaigns and help you deliver powerful results, you can use Constant Contact’s email marketing automation tools. You can easily segment your contacts, automatically send emails to non-openers, and create drip campaigns all in one place.
Marketing automation for education is much more than just sending an “automated” email every so often to garner new interest or provide parents with generic school updates.
Sure, marketing automation takes some up-front planning and a bit of technical and marketing expertise, but it’s almost always worth the investment.
How much should a school budget for marketing? Well, how much can each new enrollment benefit your school’s bottom line? If one new enrollment each month can off-set your school’s marketing investment, it’s probably worth taking a look at.
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