Can my website dramatically impact enrollment?
The honest answer is that it depends. The answer might be no for a local company with relatively small programs or classes where spots fill up by word of mouth and other non-digital advertising methods. However, the answer might be yes for larger local or national companies who rely on Google Search, Social Media, and other digital means of driving traffic to their site to attract and secure new customer enrollments. While this post is primarily for the latter of the two companies, we believe any business doing enrollment in 2022 will find value in exploring what we outline as Three Keys to Building a Website Focused on Driving Enrollment.
Key #1: Understand your target audience
Your target audience is the person(s) who enroll with you. Some marketers will separate these people into groups called buyer personas. A buyer persona includes the unique traits, motivations, and other factors about a person that makes your offering appeal to them to the extent they are motivated to enroll. You'll need to think deeper than generic stereotyping and biases to understand why your audience enrolls. While this exercise can take some time, it's worth every minute because each decision you make about how you design your website can be made with these people, your buyers, in mind.
Here is a question you can consider when building your target audience and the different buyer personas who enroll with you:
What job(s) are they looking to hire you to do for them?
This concept of your customer hiring you to do a job for them might sound funny. There is evidence suggesting that collecting demographic data and correlating it to why people purchase isn't a good strategy. You can read more about this in this Harvard Business Review Article. Essentially, the late author of this theory, Clayton Christensen, has demonstrated that people are more influenceable and predictable in their purchasing decisions when marketers and salespeople understand what they need done and then provide an easy way for them to "hire it out."
"When we buy a product, we essentially "hire" it to help us do a job. If it does the job well, the next time we're confronted with the same job, we tend to hire that product again. And if it does a crummy job, we "fire" it and look for an alternative."
One company with a clear focus on doing a job for their customers, and their enrollment numbers are evidence of their success, is a Preschool called Learning Dynamics. They are a preschool, so yes, they do all the things you would expect a mom or dad to look for in a preschool:
- Friendly, personable administrative staff
- Loving yet organized and structured teachers
- A clean, safe environment for kids
However, their job (and they communicate this from day one) is to teach kids to read. Specifically to teach preschoolers how to read to prepare them to learn at a high level when they go to Kindergarten and elementary school. But more than that, they also give parents the tools and roadmap they need to help their kids at home. If people can't come to one of their 6 locations in Arizona and Utah, they can purchase their curriculum and use it at home. Just watch the video below and tell me this concept of hiring a company to do a job for you isn't what your customers are doing when they enroll with you.
The question you need to answer is, what are the jobs? People are likely hiring you for a few different reasons. Please do your research and write these jobs down before building or redesigning your website.
Key #2 - Know how your target audience prefers to visit your website
If you're building a website for the first time and have no data to support your design decisions, consider that according to a major research firm, website traffic on mobile devices went from about 31% in 2015 to almost 55% in 2021. Perhaps you can start with a lower-cost, single-page website without all the bells and whistles until you learn more about what browsers and devices your audience most frequently uses. Tools like Google Analytics, Hotjar, Lucky Orange, and other software offer real-time and historical reporting on your site visitors' browsers, operating systems, etc. This information may significantly impact how you design and build your site for the long haul.
Whether your visitors primarily view your site on their phones or a desktop, your site will need to be responsive and mobile-friendly to achieve search engine optimization. This means:
- No pinching and zooming to read or find some aspect of the page
- No desktop menu designs on a mobile device
- No microscopic text and images
The secret to doing this right is to remember to do your best to meet your visitors where they are.
Key #3 - Optimize the enrollment experience
You need to give careful consideration to the enrollment experience on your website. I see so many websites with buttons saying, "Enroll now" or "Register now" and then I click...only to remain 2-3 pages and dozens of clicks away from actually beginning the enrollment process. The negative impact of this kind of experience magnifies (or is magnified) by a poor mobile or desktop website experience. So, don't do items one and two above and then stop there. You've done all that work to package and sell a job to the targeted audience. You've optimized your website to fit the needs and devices of your visitors. The last step is to ensure that this process is optimized when the customer is on your site and ready to hire you to do the job.
Here are some simple steps to make sure the enrollment experience elevates your offering rather than frustrates your site visitors:
- Make sure calls to action represent what will happen next. In other words, don't create a button called "Enroll now" if that button will take the visitor to another page, and then another page, and then finally let them enroll. If possible, keep your visitors on your site from start to finish.
- Ensure that your forms are as streamlined as possible. You shouldn't ask for any information that is not necessary to provide your service. People hate, hate, hate having to fill out lengthy forms.
- Any forms on your site (or the site of your software provider if enrollment happens off of your site) that collect customer information need to be secured using SSL. If you don't know what an SSL certificate is or if you need to get one, you can read more about them here. Data security is top of mind for most people.
- Be sure that your enrollment process has a way to limit capacity in programs or classes so that you don't over-enroll. What you're after here is the movie theatre experience where the moment a seat is selected, it is no longer available to others.
- Be sure you give your customers payment options when it comes time to pay. Again, going back to your buyer personas, you will have people who need the job done and want to hire you to do it, but things like income budget might stop someone who is otherwise a good fit if all you offer are pay-in-full options. Offering payment plans can bridge these potential gaps and help you convert more of your visitors to customers.
- If you're taking payments at enrollment, be sure that the customer has options. Most people use a credit/debit card, but bank transfers via electronic checks are making a bit of a comeback. Also, make sure you or your software provider do not store cardholder data. Most processing companies use point-to-point encryption and tokenization to keep cardholder data secure.
- If documents must be signed as part of the enrollment process, be sure that you don't ask for the same information repeatedly. Forcing the customer to re-enter information they've already provided on a document to sign is a certain way to lose friends.
- Send customers customized thank you and confirmation emails. You'll likely want to automate this step and may have unique messages for each program or class.
- If you're working with repeat customers, make sure your enrollment process includes creating a customer account with login access. Removing the friction of customers filling out the same forms each time they enroll will work wonders for retention.
Your website is likely one of the great assets you have. Or, if it's not, it could be. To get the most from your enrollment website, be sure to:
- Get to know your target audience and what job they are looking to hire you for
- Meet your audience where they are (device, browser, etc.) and make adjustments to your site based on data
- Remove friction and make the enrollment experience enjoyable
If you need help with any of these things, please schedule a demo.