Your school website is the second most important factor (faculty quality and engagement is at the top of that list) in building your brand and enrollment. To be most effective, though, It needs to tell your story in a compelling way, have a clear and consistent call to action, and provide convenient ways to start the relationship.
Here are 5 questions to evaluate your school's website:
Is your website simple to read and navigate?
Website design experts are using less words and more spaces, with more images that capture the story and navigation that is user-centric. Say more by saying less. Give them enough to pique their interest, avoiding the full commentary that dominates so many school sites. (Especially those ridiculously long welcome letters from the head/superintendent/principal/etc.)
Limit your words and the options available so that they know how to find the information that will help them make the next decision. Hire a professional photographer to capture high quality images that convey the excellence that you promise.
Do you make it easy to contact those responsible for enrollment?
Do you want them to contact you or not? If you're genuinely interested in recruiting more students, why do you make it so hard to find your contact information on your website? (And then when they do call, are the forced to endure phone automation hell?)
People want to know who to call, with a specific name and ideally a friendly face to which they can connect. This is the beginning of what you hope will be a long, mutually profitable relationship. Don't play hard to get!
Simple exercise: Find a stranger at the coffee shop and ask them to determine who and how they should contact someone at your school to learn more about it based on your website. Time them actually doing the research on your site. If it takes more than 3 seconds, you need to fix it. Fast!
Does your website help you grow your list of prospective students?
In the world of marketing, your list of prospects is gold. The design of your site should intentionally collect key information about visitors and help you grow your list of prospective students. You should also have a communication flow that shares additional information, listens to their needs, makes introductions, and invites participation.
Give them a way to "opt-in" to your communications and marketing through their interest in your school or through a free resource you provide. The opt-in form should ask only for basic information (e.g., name and email address) because you can ask for more information (e.g., student's age, interests, issues, etc.) later as you cultivate the connection.
Is your call-to-action consistently and repeatedly prominent throughout each page?
Ambiguity is not your friend when it comes to marketing through your website. Give prospective families a clear path to taking the next step. Show them how you help them achieve their education goals and then make it REALLY easy to schedule a visit, submit an application, etc.
You may also want to consider adding some marketing strategies such as:
- Add a free download that provides valuable information about the developmental needs of their student
- Share your Graduate Profile along with the scope and sequence of your student product at each level
- Offer a calendar tool for them to schedule a visit that is at a convenient time
Find ways to start the relationship off with momentum and then guide them through a progressive continuum of engagement.
Does your school website consistently convey your compelling brand narrative?
In a succinct and sticky way, tell them who you are and why you exist. Position your school accurately with a value proposition that will get their attention and prompt the next level of engagement. This requires having a deep knowledge of who you are and how you deliver remarkable value to the students and families in your school.
Keep in mind that your brand isn't just what you tell people on your website--it's also what your community says about you. A critical point that was shared in the current webinar series to Maximize Summer Enrollment is the opportunity to collect data from new families because of the extremely valuable perspective they offer. This data will help you refine your story and make corrections where there is conflict between the message and the experience.
We often use a Leadership Retreat to assess the organization and then create a more compelling story and marketing strategy. Growing enrollment requires a higher degree of unity in understanding and communicating the brand, including a more intentional website.