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Enrollment Marketing: Engaging Parents During Enrollment Time

Enrollment Marketing: Engaging Parents During Enrollment Time

Recruitment can easily become hectic with a marketing funnel as complex as higher education. You have countless channels to manage over a multi-year cycle, all designed to increase enrollment and retain newly enrolled students at your institution.

But in that process, one key demographic remains overlooked. Parents are playing an increasingly vital role in their students' enrollment journeys. They're critical influencers in the decision-making process, helping their children find the right school.

To account for this increasingly important audience, your marketing plan for school enrollment has to include prospective parents as a key audience. Join us for an in-depth exploration of why parent engagement matters, the challenges you might encounter, and how you can better engage parents in your enrollment marketing.

Table of Contents:

How Involved Are Parents in the Modern Enrollment Journey?

Experienced enrollment professionals likely already know that the parents of Gen Z students, which comprises today's high school and middle school population, are more involved in their children's college search than any generation before them. Plenty of research backs that up:

Broader generational research explains why this involvement is so high. Gen X parents to Gen Z students tend to be overprotective, engaging in hyper-parenting while considering themselves a close friend and confidant rather than an authority figure. 

4 Benefits of Involving Parents in Higher Education Enrollment Marketing

Given the high involvement of prospective parents in their students' enrollment journey, involving them directly in your enrollment marketing strategy carries clear benefits. It's not just influencing the influencer, but also in many cases influencing the decision-maker. More specifically, involving parents can carry these four benefits for your recruitment marketing strategy:

  1. Increased marketing touchpoints. Adding parents into the enrollment marketing equation means being able to expand your campaigns. Do it right, and you can gain access to what might be your future students' most important influencers.
  2. More rational messaging. Parents look for substance in messaging and focus on different topics than their students. Cost, safety, and outcomes matter more than anything. This allows positive messaging around these topics to shine, enabling you to go deep into the available scholarships, successful alumni, etc.
  3. More nuanced financial considerations. Speaking of finances: one of the biggest frustrations of enrollment marketers is the inability to communicate important information like the FAFSA to students. With parents, you have another opportunity to get important information about college finances across to parents who understand the nuances and care.
  4. A longer attention span. Messaging to prospective students has to be quick-hitting. Even in publications like your viewbook, they'll rarely read more than the headline of a given spread. Parents pay attention for longer, allowing for more in-depth storytelling and other content nuances.

Add these benefits to the general involvement of parents, and the reasons for involving them in your marketing plan for school enrollment become clear. As an audience, they matter nearly as much as the students you're looking to recruit.

The Challenges of an Enrollment Marketing Plan Designed to Engage Parents

While the above benefits are clear, marketing to prospective parents is not without challenges. For starters, it requires increased attention and resources in an already hectic environment; after all, you will need unique and dedicated messaging to succeed.

In addition, different priorities can make designing, writing, and creating marketing materials that will touch both audiences more challenging. How, for example, do you treat safety in your viewbook when you know it's among the most important topics for parents but is not of top interest to students?

Finally, parents tend to be more cynical about marketing messaging than their children. It's comparatively easy to sell a prospective student on the fun they'll have while in college. Parents, on the other hand, will demand more substantial messaging that backs up the headlines with truth and facts. 

4 Strategies to Engage Parents in Your Enrollment Marketing Strategies

Dedicating at least a portion of your enrollment marketing to parents is highly valuable, but you must navigate the above challenges to ensure its success. These four strategies can help you engage parents as you look to convert students and grow your incoming class.

  1. Run dedicated parent marketing campaigns. First, it's time to split up your messaging. Dedicated digital campaigns, print publications, and email campaigns to parents allow you to focus on the messaging they're looking for without disrupting your more student-focused campaigns.
  2. Plan campus visits around students and parents. According to one survey, parents consider campus visits their single most important source of information when researching colleges for their students. Parent-focused segments like info sessions at your open houses or even slight adjustments to your weekday visit presentation can make them more relevant for all audiences.
  3. Focus on parents more heavily in later funnel stages. Students start their college search early, but parents typically get involved less than a year before their student enrolls at a college. In other words, your application and yield-focused messaging will be the most impactful when looking to reach this audience.
  4. Create a parent portal, web hub, or newsletter. Parents will look for a consistent source of information, and this is your chance to hook them on your school. A parent website, portal, or even an email newsletter allows you to consistently share relevant information with them, from FAFSA deadlines to scholarship dispersals.

Engaging parents in your enrollment marketing is becoming increasingly important, but there is no doubt that it also adds to the complexity of your recruitment effort. Fortunately, you don't have to be on your own. In fact, a reliable partner at your side can make all the difference in the success of strategies like the above.

At Sonority Group, we can become that partner for you. Our extensive expertise and experience in higher education, including parent marketing, allow us to be by your side from strategy to execution. Ready to learn more or start the conversation? Let's chat!

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