How many kids do I need? It should be a pretty straightforward question, right? But even after you’ve gone through the complex mathematics of projecting your openings for next year, how many applications will it actually take to fill them?
Fortunately, a lot of schools have struggled with this question, and we can learn from their experience. The following conversation rates are based on our experience with our partners and data provided by our friends at SchoolMint. Individual cities have their own quirks, but generally you need a little more than two inquiries for every opening. Here is how that breaks down:
A robust prospect list allows you to run an effective targeted campaign to complement your strong referral and mass marketing plans. District directories are the gold standard, but if that isn’t practical in your city, you can build your list through a combination of email responder ads, digital ads, and social media. Purchasing lists is another option, but they tend to be pretty low-yield. Even with a solid list and strong materials, highly effective schools only get about 10% of their prospects to take the next step.
Potential families need to be able to show interest without having to make a commitment like a simple form, enrollment hotline, or email link. When they do reach out, become the friendliest bill collector they ever met. The most effective organizations reach out 8 to 12 times before giving up on a lead. Software can automate your follow up while maintaining a personal feel, but phone calls are effective, too. With good follow up, 75% of inquiries will go on to complete an application. Longer applications can drop completion rates to as low as 65% and simpler processes can increase rates up to 85%.
The most effective way to ensure applicants go on to enroll their child is to get them into your school. Parent information nights, school tours, and events are great ways to turn your school from a concept into a place where they see their child thriving. It’s important to make families feel welcomed with a warm greeting (from a student, current parent, or team member), a small thank you gift, and food if it’s an evening event. With a strong personalized follow-up plan, you should expect 75% of families who complete an application to enroll their child. The complexity of your application process could increase or decrease that conversion rate by about 5%.
Once a child has signed up, you need to make sure they show up. The biggest reason why families tell us they drop off at this stage is poor communication from the school. Other schools are still recruiting, so it’s critical to continually remind families that they already made a great choice. A mix of weekly emails, mailings, and phone calls shows families they are valued and their child will be cared for. It’s also critical to have a good no-show plan to quickly identify who isn’t in school within the first few hours of the first day and have staff on hand to make follow-up calls. Even with a great follow-up plan, it is not unusual to have a 5% no-show rate, which is why many schools over-enroll by a few students at each grade level.
After all of that blood, sweat, and probably a few tears, it’s hard to believe that the real work of fundamentally transforming what is possible for these children is just beginning.