How to Grow Your School Marketing Team

Growing your school’s marketing and admissions team

Rick Newberry (Enrollment Catalyst) and I recently finished “Getting Real,” a 7-episode Enrollment Marketing Geeks series on roles and responsibilities for recruitment and retention. In each episode, we blend topical teaching with collaborative conversations, bringing industry leaders and practitioners to explore unique contributions from key players — from the Board to Faculty & Staff and everyone in between.

We decided to address the “Roles & Responsibilities” topic because we see so many school marketing and admissions teams struggle with the fundamentals of team structure, job profiles, and growth paths. And when the fundamentals aren’t solid, things can get messy. And frustrating. And costly.

Our first episode in Getting Real unpacks how schools can move from having no one dedicated to enrollment marketing to having their first full-time team member in this role. Then we map out a systematic path for team growth and structure, resulting in robust, multi-person departments.

But before charting a course for team growth, school leaders and enrollment management practitioners need to understand what can happen when enrollment teams aren’t organized effectively. They must also recognize the indicators that signal it’s time to reorganize the team or make new hires.

10 Manifestations of Misaligned Enrollment Teams

Teams that have not scaled at the right pace or in the right order often feel the pain of misalignment, even if they aren’t clear on where it’s coming from. Let’s look at ten manifestations of misaligned enrollment teams:

No dedicated marketing and admissions team.

Perhaps your school doesn’t have a designated marketing and admissions team. Maybe your principal(s) or secretary manages conversations and fields interest from prospective families. This is okay when your school is still small, but what got you here won’t get you there as you get bigger. No one is actively telling your school’s story or owning the admissions process. Things are starting to feel strained. And if things feel disorganized internally, imagine how it feels for a prospective family.

Siloed teams.

If you have a designated enrollment marketing team, perhaps they are not working from a shared set of objectives. Far too often, marketing and admissions are pursuing disconnected goals. In reality, their goals should be aligned.

A disengaged Head of School.

If your enrollment marketing team operates without regular input from your Head of School, you will constantly be second-guessing your plans, waiting for approval, or wondering if your strategy is on track. The Head needs to value the marketing and admissions function enough to be actively engaged in the conversation.

Low engagement with the Board.

The Board of Trustees plays a part in shaping the family experience at your school. If you have little to no engagement with your Board, this is another major disconnect. Your team will likely lack essential funding if the Board has not bought into the value of marketing and admissions.

Unrealistic job descriptions.

There may be people on your team (including you) who are wearing too many hats. We’ve seen single job profiles that include event planning, website updates, social media management, admissions, tours, internal communications, fundraising, and substitute teaching. No one person can do all of these things well. Perhaps you can relate. Job descriptions should be realistic areas of responsibility to be managed rather than an amalgamation of tasks.

Diluted impact.

It’s easy for marketing teams to become overly involved with fundraising and/or internal communications. Both of these are important, but marketing resources are often absorbed by fundraising efforts or internal communications, with little time left to promote their school’s story in the marketplace.

Inconsistent meeting rhythms.

For some, the word “meeting” has a negative connotation. And justifiably so because most meetings are poorly planned and facilitated. But meetings are essential in the pursuit of healthy enrollment. Your team will struggle to make sustainable gains if you don’t meet at the right intervals, involve the right people, and discuss the right things.

Pursuing projects rather than priorities.

Does it feel like your team is moving from deadline to deadline with no time for planning? Misaligned marketing and admissions teams are often driven by project deadlines and events rather than focusing on strategic priorities.

Unclear metrics.

How do you measure your progress toward your goals? Is the data you’re gathering shared? If you’re working from independent dashboards or gathering metrics in separate places, it’s unlikely you’re working toward common goals.

No marketing plan.

Teams that are not working from a comprehensive school marketing plan are often unclear if they’re working on the right things or making progress in the right areas. They are not working from a strategy informed by enrollment goals and seasonal priorities.

Take a few minutes to review this list and identify which of the 10 misalignment manifestations impact your school. Rather than a simple yes or no, consider grading each marker on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being “Nah, this one doesn’t apply to us at all” and 10 being “Holy cow, this is exactly what we’re dealing with.”

It can be awkward, even painful, to surface and address misalignment, but so is limping along with people in the wrong seats, doing too much, or operating without a clear strategy. If your team is in pain, I would encourage you to get in touch with Rick Newberry, Enrollment Catalyst, to have him do an assessment of your team structure.

Want to read more on this topic? Check out 3 Areas Marketing Impacts School Enrollment or catch the full Getting Real series with the Enrollment Marketing Geeks

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