Enrollment Marketing: The Customer Journey

Enrollment marketing is a complex problem, but one strategy can help: the customer journey. We'll break down the five main phases here.

By Heather Palacios Last Updated: January 26, 2024

Nearly every aspect of a district’s operations, from staffing to program offerings, stems from one key factor: enrollment. After all, in most cases, your enrollment numbers determine your funding—and your funding determines just about everything else. Enrollment marketing is a complex problem that can’t be solved with a simple answer, but one strategy can help: the customer journey.

The customer journey refers to the series of steps customers—or, in your case, families—move through as they learn more about an organization or brand. Applied to enrollment, it tells the story of how families join your district and how your happiest families become advocates for your schools.

This model is a good fit for enrollment marketing for a few reasons. For one, it’s extremely customer-centric. At each step, you’re focused on what families are feeling and experiencing. And unlike other marketing models, the customer journey continues after someone makes a purchase—or, in your case, enrolls. After all, a family’s journey with your organization isn’t over once they enroll their child in your district; in fact, at that point, it’s just beginning. Their experiences moving forward will determine whether they stay in your schools or go elsewhere.

Many organizations have their own approaches to the customer journey, but for our purposes, we’ll focus on five main phases: Awareness, Interest, Decision, Retention, and Advocacy.

Enrollment Marketing: Awareness

During the Awareness phase, families encounter your brand for the first time. In this stage, families may or may not be shopping around for a school district. Your objective here is simple: Get in front of prospective enrollees’ eyes, and make them aware of your schools. Or, if you’re the only district in your town, remind families that your schools are doing great things for the community.

What to Do in the Awareness Phase: Make touch points with your audience through ads, social media, community events, word-of-mouth, and search engines. These are all great ways to leave lasting impressions with your audience and help them develop familiarity with your brand.

Enrollment Marketing: Interest

Like the name implies, you’ve probably piqued a family’s interest by the time they arrive at this stage of the journey. Maybe they’re new to your area, or they have a child just reaching school age. Perhaps they’re unhappy with their current district. Whatever a family’s reason may be, when they’re in the Interest phase, they are actively comparing schools to find the best fit.

What to Do in the Interest Phase: Share student success stories and testimonials, offer tours of your schools, and create a page on your website detailing what it’s like to be a student in your district. This stage of the customer journey is all about making unique connections. What are the little things you can do to make your district stand out? 

Enrollment Marketing: Decision

The Decision phase is a critical moment in the customer journey; at this point, families are deciding to enroll their child in your district. However, the decision isn’t official until they’ve submitted their last registration form and their child has shown up to class. Focus on making the enrollment experience as seamless, helpful, and easy as possible.

What to Do in the Decision Phase: Customer service and hospitality play a big role in this stage. Being readily available to answer questions and explain the registration process can go a long way toward offering a seamless enrollment experience. Your enrollment page is arguably your most important tool in the Decision phase, so you’ll want to make sure this page provides helpful information and an excellent user experience.

Enrollment Marketing: Retention

In the marketing world, the Retention phase is all about delighting and engaging families so that they continue on with your district rather than switching to another option. Making sure they’re having a great experience is key to keeping them in your schools.

What to Do in the Retention Phase: One of the best ways to retain families is to keep them connected to your district. You can craft these connections in a variety of ways: investing in extracurricular programs, providing exciting course selections, being strategic about feeder patterns, or even building ongoing touch points through newsletters. Think about how you can keep families looking ahead and continuously excited for the future.

Enrollment Marketing: Advocacy

Advocacy is the last stage of the customer journey. By this point, families don’t just want to be a part of your district—they’re committed to it. Families in this phase will often advocate for your schools to their relatives, friends, coworkers, and neighbors. They’re also the group of people who will stand up for your district if or when it’s necessary.

What to Do in the Advocacy Phase: To grow more advocates, you have to invest in the ones you already have. The Advocacy phase is all about amplifying your advocates’ voices and influence. Engage with them through community leadership programs and family advocacy initiatives. Because word-of-mouth is so powerful, your advocates are oftentimes the first touch points people have with your schools—the spark that kick-starts the customer journey cycle all over again.

Subscribe below to stay connected with SchoolCEO!

SchoolCEO logo