Understanding the Enrollment Customer JourneyJune 10, 2019
A note from Digistorm: This post was originally published in May 2017. It has been updated to include more relevant information.
Algorithm. Automation. Omnichannel. Geofencing. Hyperlocal. There’s no shortage of digital marketing buzzwords out there, and we’d like to throw one more on the pile: customer journey. If you’re researching tactics to boost your inbound marketing strategy, it’s likely you can’t escape it — the term ‘customer journey’ is everywhere. And for good reason!
In most cases, people don’t purchase a product the first time they hear about it. It’s much more complicated than that, and involves multiple touchpoints across various channels over a long period of time. This process is what’s known as the customer journey, and it’s incredibly important for businesses (including your school!) to understand.
In 2019, schools are competing for every last enrollment, and fighting to provide the best experience for prospective families. Understanding their journey is the key to ensuring that your school comes out on top.
Start with awareness
The first stage in any customer journey (including prospective parents) is awareness, where the customer realizes they have a problem. In some cases, the parent can clearly state what their problem is. This problem might be as simple as, “my child is turning 5 next year, and he will need to go to school”.
In other cases, the parent might know that something is not quite right, but they can’t state their problem clearly. Their child’s grades might be falling, or they might be experiencing bullying.
The awareness stage sees parents begin to research what they need to do in order to solve their problem. The important thing for your school to be doing while parents are in the awareness stage is to help parents identify what their problem or goal is by providing them with content that clearly states the things that they might be experiencing.
Identifying goals and challenges
In the awareness stage, it’s important for schools to understand what parents are looking to achieve, and the challenges that they might be facing. You can then help parents to identify their problem and provide them with information to help them define the problem.
To do this, you’ll need to map out how clients are educating themselves on these goals or challenges. They may be conducting online searches, participating in online forums, listening to the opinions of others in their peer group or reading online reviews. To present them with information that they need, you might guest publish a step-by-step guide to enrollment on a parenting site. The aim of this information is to attract parents through the creation of engaging and educational content — also known as inbound marketing.
It’s also important to understand any misconceptions that parents might have when they are in the awareness stage. Your information can knock any misconceptions or misinformation on its head.
Move to consideration
The next phase in the customer journey is consideration. This is the phase where your prospective parents define what they are looking for in a school and commit to finding the type of school that will be the best fit. They aren’t ready to enroll yet, but they are looking to get as much information as possible in order to narrow down their list.
In this stage, parents are performing broad searches, such as “best private schools near me” or “Lutheran schools in Sydney”.
The important thing to do at this stage is to provide content that highlights the best (and different!) things about your school in order to nudge parents in your direction. Families in this consideration stage need to be nurtured in order to keep them thinking about your school. You can retarget them with paid advertising, social media ads or direct email communication.
Think about what kind of categories parents use to evaluate schools, and whether your school fits in. Is there an educational philosophy that parents are looking for? A religious denomination? An academic, musical or sporting program? Parents will make a decision about the type of school they are looking for and then narrow down their choices.
Decision narrowing searches
Consider what information parents are looking for that will help them to consider their options, and whether your they can find this information quickly and easily. Is there an overview of your school and its offerings on public school directories? Does your school feature in relevant publications?
Making a decision
The final stage of the customer journey is the decision stage. At this stage, the parents will have decided on a few schools that they would like to attend, and will have most likely completed their enrollment applications. Individuals at this stage should be handled with care, as every interaction with the parents matter.
This is the stage where your school needs to provide parents with information that persuades them to enroll their child in your school.
Think about the criteria that prospective parents will be using to evaluate your school. What do they like about your school compared to other schools within your category? What concerns might they have about what you are offering?
Consider all the stakeholders
Often, it’s not just the prospective parents that are involved in the enrollment decision. Step-parents, grandparents, siblings and friends can all play a major part in helping parents to make their choice. The child themselves may also have a say in what school the family chooses.
Nail down the pain points
Now that you’ve mapped out every stage of your school’s customer journey, it’s important to understand where prospective parents are not enjoying their experience. This is known as a consumer pain point.
Uber, the peer-to-peer ridesharing company, capitalized on a poor customer journey back in 2009 to get 3.8 million customers to stop hailing cabs and start getting in a car with strangers. After they mapped out each step that a customer would have to take in order to hail a taxi, they identified the not-so-pleasant aspects: not being able to find one when you need it, rude drivers, safety issues and expensive fares. They then worked through these pain points and found solutions to create a simple, clean experience that completely disrupted the taxi industry.
In your school’s case, a pain point may be a particular manual process that is stopping parents from completing their child’s enrollment. Improving upon this pain point may be something small, such as setting up an email address where busy parents can contact your admissions team outside of business hours. It might be allowing parents to photograph and upload crucial documents from their phone, rather than requiring them to bring them into the school office.
Improve the experience
Improving your customer journey based on the user’s experience can be incredibly beneficial to your enrollment rates. Reducing the steps, making them simpler and reducing the amount of time the user spends during their journey are all important when considering improvements.
Moving your enrollment process online is one change that can vastly improve your customers' experience. Interested in an online enrollment portal? Contact the Digistorm team!