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Glossary of Terms

In the school world (or any other industry for that matter), we are all susceptible to using jargon or “inside baseball” language we know and understand but our audiences do not. We can all stand to be more thoughtful and hospitable in the language we use, and to that end, we are providing an Enrollment Marketing Glossary of Terms. This list isn’t comprehensive, and it will grow and change over time as the industry changes or the need for new definitions arise. We hope this is helpful to you, and we’re always open to hearing from you if you would like to suggest a term that should be added to the list! 

Let’s begin with terms you may not have heard until you had a conversation with North Star, then, we’ll move into other categories of terms.

North Star Terms

Healthy Enrollment™: Healthy Enrollment is the prioritized pursuit of strategic recruitment and retention goals, anchored in shared commitments to a focused school identity, an empowered enrollment team, and engaged right-fit families, fostering a thriving learning community.

Age-and-Stage®: The divisions that segment and provide structure to the academic experience and show sequential progression (e.g. Preschool, Kindergarten, Elementary, Middle, and High).

Family Journey™: The journey of the prospective family as they work through the enrollment process and eventually become an advocate of your school (Awareness, Consideration, Decision, Evaluation, and Advocacy).

Focused School Identity: Your school’s clear, distinctive value proposition that aligns your faculty and staff and resonates with right-fit families.

Empowered Enrollment Team: Your school’s enrollment team which has the expertise, capacity, resources, and authority to pursue Enrollment Goals and Seasonal Priorities. 

Engaged Right-fit Families™: The families at your school who value your approach, support your mission, and contribute to a vibrant culture.

Right-fit Family™ Rubric: A framework that identifies key characteristics of a Right-fit Family™ and assists the Admissions team in both recruitment and retention decisions.

Healthy Enrollment™ Dashboard: Your dashboard to display and track results and key metrics from your North Star-managed campaign(s).

Positioning Strategy: Foundational commitments by your school’s leadership in the following four categories:

  • WHAT we do: This is the business you’re in.
  • WHO we do it for: This is about choosing who you will and won’t serve.
  • WHY we do it: This is your purpose, vision, and values.
  • WAY we do it: This is your proven process that leverages your core competencies to produce a consistent result.

Messaging by Age-and-Stage®: A documented overarching narrative that unpacks your value proposition by audience segment.

Enrollment Goals: The recruitment and retention results your team aims for in pursuit of Healthy Enrollment™.

Seasonal Priorities: Seasonal Priorities are strategic initiatives you pursue to make progress in key areas of opportunity. These are easy to confuse with projects, but they are not the same. Projects should support your Seasonal Priorities.

Digital Marketing Terms

SEO (Search Engine Optimization): Techniques and strategies used to increase organic (not paid) visibility on search engines (“Inbound” and “Organic” also refer to or include SEO).

Paid Search: A Google-focused (most often) online marketing campaign where the advertiser (you) pays a fee each time the ad is clicked (also referred to in most contexts as Google ads or PPC: Pay-Per-Click).

Paid Social: A social media-focused online marketing campaign where the advertiser (you) pays for prominent placement in social channels (most often Facebook and Instagram).

Paid Display: A Paid Display campaign refers to a digital advertising strategy where the advertiser (you) pays to display ads on various online platforms, including websites, social media, and other digital mediums. These ads can come in various formats, such as banners, squares, skyscrapers, and interactive multimedia. 

Digital Content Marketing: A strategic approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience.

Direct Traffic: Direct traffic refers to website visitors who arrive without coming from any other site or identifiable referral source. This can happen when users get to your website directly by typing in your website URL or clicking on a bookmark.

Organic Traffic: Visitors referred by an unpaid search engine listing, e.g. a Google search.

Referral Traffic: Visitors referred by links on other websites. (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Niche, etc.)

Cost Per Lead/Inquiry: Cost per lead (CPL) refers to what it costs to produce a lead/inquiry. This is calculated by dividing advertising/marketing costs by total leads/inquiries generated.

Cost Per Acquisition: Cost per Acquisition (CPA), also known as “Cost per Action,” is a digital advertising metric that measures the total cost of acquiring a new student through a specific marketing channel or campaign. CPA is a key performance indicator particularly useful in assessing the efficiency and profitability of online advertising and marketing efforts. It is calculated by dividing the total cost of a campaign by the number of acquisitions (e.g. enrolled students) that resulted from that campaign.

Industry Terms

Traditional advertising: Traditional advertising refers to more conventional forms of marketing that are not digital. These methods include television, radio, print advertisements (like in newspapers and magazines), and outdoor advertising. 

Outdoor Advertising (or out-of-home): Outdoor advertising or out-of-home (OOH) refers to any advertising that reaches consumers while they are outside their homes. This includes billboards, advertisements on buses, benches, and transit stations, as well as digital signage that’s placed on roadways or busy pedestrian areas. 

Print: Print advertising is a form of advertising that uses physically printed media. Common formats include newspapers, magazines, brochures, flyers, and posters. 

Broadcast: Broadcast advertising encompasses advertisements disseminated via television and radio. 

Direct mail: Direct mail involves sending physical marketing materials directly to prospective families at their homes. This includes items like postcards, flyers, and promotional letters.

Mar-Comm (Marketing Communications): Mar-Comm involves managing all the various ways a school interacts and communicates with your prospective families and the general public. This includes advertising, direct marketing, branding, online presence, printed materials, PR activities, admissions/sales presentations, sponsorships, trade show appearances, and more.

Public relations: Public relations (PR) refers to the strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics. PR involves managing the spread of information between an individual or an organization and the public to promote a positive image and handle any public perception or crises. This can include press releases, public appearances, community engagement, and responses to media inquiries.

Team Definitions

Advancement: The role of Advancement typically involves a combination of fundraising, alumni relations, and sometimes marketing efforts to support the school’s long-term development goals. Advancement professionals work to build and maintain relationships with donors, alumni, and other stakeholders to secure funding for scholarships, capital projects, and other school initiatives.

Director of Marketing: The Director of Marketing is responsible for creating and implementing marketing strategies to promote the school, enhance its public image, and increase student enrollment. This role involves overseeing marketing campaigns, managing the school’s online presence, coordinating with other departments to ensure consistent messaging, and analyzing market research to target potential families effectively. The Director of Marketing works closely with the Director of Admissions with the goal of recruiting new students and retaining current ones.

Director of Admissions: The Director of Admissions oversees the process of student recruitment, applications, and enrollments. This role is crucial in managing the admissions team, setting recruitment goals, developing admission criteria, and organizing open house events and school tours. The Director of Admissions also plays a significant role as a gatekeeper for the school to assess Right-fit Families™ and communicates directly with prospective students and their families to guide them through the application process.

Communications: The Communications role involves managing all internal communications. This typically includes crafting newsletters, emails, and updates that keep the school community informed and engaged. The person in this role may also handle public relations issues, manage the school’s social media platforms, and ensure that communication strategies effectively support the school’s mission and values. They often work closely with the Advancement, Admissions, and Marketing departments to ensure a consistent and effective message across all channels.

Meeting Cadence: Meeting Cadence refers to the schedule and frequency at which team meetings are held within your school. This cadence is established to ensure regular and structured opportunities for team members to collaborate, share updates, discuss challenges, and align on goals and strategies. The primary purpose of setting a team meeting cadence is to foster communication, enhance team cohesion, ensure progress is being tracked, and facilitate timely decision-making. A well-planned meeting cadence can help teams maintain momentum, adjust quickly to changes, and ensure all members are informed and engaged in the team’s objectives and achievements.

Lead/Inquiry Management Terms

Lead Nurturing Sequence (LNS): A series of emails that are triggered by an action, such as a new lead conversion or a tour, and are delivered to the lead/inquiry by email in a scheduled and automated manner. 

CRM: CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. It refers to the platform, strategies, and practices your school uses to manage and analyze prospective family interactions and data throughout the recruitment phase of the Family Journey™.

Conversion Metrics & Funnel Terms

Lead Generation Funnel: A systematic approach to capturing interest in your school for the purpose of building your admissions pipeline and growing enrollment (Inquiry Generation Funnel.

Inquiry vs. Conversion:

  • Inquiries refer to any instance where a prospective family first identifies themselves by providing their contact information through website forms, chatbots, emails, phone calls – allowing the school the opportunity to document and begin to nurture that lead/inquiry.
  • A conversion occurs when a prospective family completes a desired goal. This goal could be a variety of actions, such as becoming an admitted student, applying for enrollment, signing up for a newsletter, registering for a webinar, or any other action that is valuable to your school. 

Website Conversion Funnel: Funnels for major audience segments coming to the site (prospective families and current families) that consider how the site should align with the anticipated journey for each audience and lead them to conversion.

Yield: Yield generally refers to the effectiveness or profitability of a campaign or strategy. It can measure the return on investment (ROI) or the outcomes achieved from marketing efforts, or it may refer to a school’s application to enrolled student conversion rate.

Conversion Rate: Conversion Rate is a metric used to measure the percentage of users who complete a desired action out of the total number of individuals exposed to the initiative. This rate is crucial in evaluating the effectiveness of various marketing and admissions activities by showing how well they convert potential leads into completed goals. Tracking conversion rates at each step—from initial contact through to final enrollment—helps your school understand where you are most effective in converting interest into concrete actions and where there may be room for improvement in your engagement strategies. Examples of how conversion rates can be used include:

  • Inquiry to Tour: Measures the percentage of prospective students or parents who, after making an initial inquiry about a school, proceed to visit the campus. This rate helps assess the effectiveness of initial communication and the interest level generated by the inquiry process.
  • Tour to Application: Gauges the proportion of visitors who submit an application after a campus tour, indicating the effectiveness of the tour in convincing prospective students to take the next step in the admissions process.
  • Application to Enrolled: This rate tracks the percentage of applicants who decide to enroll after being accepted, offering insights into the final decision-making stages of the admissions funnel and the persuasiveness of the school’s value proposition.
  • Inquiry to Enrolled: Measures the efficiency of the entire admissions process from initial inquiry through to enrollment, providing an overarching view of the school’s conversion effectiveness across multiple stages.
  • Website Visit to Inquiry Conversions: Assesses how effectively a school’s website can generate inquiries from its visitors, crucial for understanding the impact of online content and user experience.
  • Landing Page Conversion Rates: Specific to digital marketing, this measures the percentage of visitors to a landing page who complete a desired action, such as filling out a contact form or downloading a brochure, critical for evaluating the effectiveness of targeted marketing efforts and page design.
  • Paid Campaigns: Conversion rates in paid campaigns measure how well advertising spend converts into desired actions (like inquiries or applications) across various platforms, essential for return on investment (ROI) analysis and campaign optimization.

Return on Investment (ROI): The financial return gained from marketing activities compared to the costs associated with those activities. A strong ROI means the marketing efforts have generated significant revenue or value relative to the investment in those campaigns.

Estimated Lifetime Value/ROI: A prediction of the net profit attributed to the entire future relationship with a specific student relative to the investment made to enroll that student.

Enrollment Management Terms

Wait Pool vs Waitlist: 

  • A wait pool is a group of candidates for a specific grade who are eligible for admission, allowing the school to select the right fit student for seats as they become available.
  • A waitlist is typically an ordered list of applicants for a specific grade who are next in line for enrollment as seats become available.

I hope this has been helpful to you as you engage with North Star, and as you consider ways to make your own communication with prospective families more clear. If we can help, I’d love to speak with you! You can schedule a call — it’s a relaxed, no-pressure opportunity to reflect on how you’re attracting, enrolling, and retaining right-fit families.

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