Enrollment Marketing Will Change in 2019 for Christian Schools

In Christian School, education marketing, Nonprofits by Amy AlexanderLeave a Comment

Two people can look at the same crashing wave and have two completely different conclusions. To one of them (a non-surfer) the waves look ominous and more like a tsunami than an opportunity for recreation. To the surfer, the huge wave is enticing, and instead of a fear response, he or she simply says, “surf’s up.” Whether you are an eager early adopter and jump in with change, or wait patiently to see how a trend will develop, there is no denying the power of the waves of change to reshape the landscape. Waiting too long to address a trend can create a crisis of its own.

At Story Collaborative, we’d rather surf than be swept away.

In 2019 we’ll be experiencing waves of change that have been building over the last couple of years. Some of these trends have now reached full wave height. Like ocean waves that crash upon the shallow coast, when culture and technology collide they create extra large waves in communication and marketing. Think about how Wikipedia has impacted the traditional sales of encyclopedias. The impact of these trends can make or break or propel an existing school growth model.

Intentional responses to waves of change

We’re not among those who throw around dramatic claims at the end of every year about how the marketing sky is falling, but we are tracking trends that we believe are becoming change drivers. there is a list of those trends that we believe will shape what works in 2019, determining winners and losers during this year.

Tipping points is another way to think about change. According to Gladwell, The tipping point is the magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Just as a single sick person can start an epidemic of the flu, so too can a small but precisely targeted push cause a fashion trend, the popularity of a new product, or a drop in the crime rate. tipping point is a trend that has gained momentum to the degree that is now the driving force. It is becoming or already has become a new norm.


These trends are important to the schools that we serve because they determine the difference between effective marketing and growth and the loss of impact.

Organizations that adapt in response to waves of change are the ones that grow and thrive into the future. Clinging to legacy approaches can take organizations down the road toward extinction. While many schools still cling to print and other outreach methods, parents have moved firmly online.

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Here are some of the areas of change that we think will make a difference this year:

1. Mobile Surfers – The percentage of people who access the internet (and your website) from their mobile devices is now well past 65%. This is changing everything about the way that people interact online, and mobile-friendly websites are just the beginning. What’s needed is something much deeper to engage the visitor with an experience with the brand on their mobile device. To surf instead of wipe out on this wave, you have to understand the mobile experience and how it applies to your organization and your customers [families].

Schools that haven’t mastered the mobile experience are likely to send many of their stealth applicants off to enroll somewhere else. It’s not just students who primarily use mobile – it’s parents too.

2. What you think of as a website, is really not an effective website anymore. What people want in a website has been conditioned by their experiences on Netflix and Amazon. People expect websites to be smart – anticipating what they want so that they find it right away. Most school websites are actually a relic of days long gone, and new browsing behaviors require that we think about personalizing web experiences in ways that take us completely outside the “school website box.”
3. Social Media -Social media used to be simple. That changed when Facebook went public and committed to aggressively promote its advertising platform. Now, regular sharing by brands is restricted to 2% and managing Facebook ads have become a big priority, while there is a big disconnect between these two activities. Schools need to understand that mobile sharing is a vital way to both represent and support the school community. But that activity is not going to replace sophisticated online advertising in social media.
4. Parents have high(er) expectations. While the reality of demanding customers is not a new experience, responsiveness on social, the expectations they now have for real-time customer service, do-it-yourself access and multiple communication channels is reaching a new level. They are becoming less forgiving, and the state of your technology will be compared against the biggest brands in the country. Your school public technology (website, email, chat, social) will be compared with the most put-together brands in the country because consumers have come to expect excellence online.

Parents make a connection between the technology you show them online, and the educational and technology level in the classroom – you can thank Netflix and Cyber Monday for that. 

5. Small schools are using big data to find and keep parents and students. Using marketing automation has become a key way to integrate customer service, marketing and sales to reduce costs and to fuel growth. When combined with an easy to use CRM and rich data sources for targeting, small organizations are doing what only the largest ones could accomplish. Managing internal information for parents and students is completely different than what needs to be managed for prospects, and it takes a different software system.

6. Purpose reaches deeper than mission. Having a mission, vision and values statement used to be the foundation for building a school, but a school that builds around a deeper purpose are outperforming those who don’t. Think Tom’s shoes, Patagonia or “Life is Good” apparel. Purpose can’t be faked, and parents will pay more if the purpose of a school resonates. It’s a false assumption to believe that a Christian mission will connect with a Millennial, and school purposes have to be identified and presented as something that resonates with the life goals and the parenting desires of those who you want to win for enrollment.

Is 2019 Going to Be “Surf’s Up,” or Tsunami for you?
How we respond to change matters. Understanding the change that is occurring and taking intentional strides to adapt can make the difference between the waves of change causing us to say, “surfs up,” or experience the same waves like a tsunami that is destructive.

Attend the Executive Briefing for Christian Schools

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