Texting Your Way to Higher Enrollment

Private school text message marketing - Truth Tree

by Trevor Waddington, Principal, Truth Tree

Where is your phone right now?

My guess is it’s within eyeshot, or it’s in your hand because you’re reading this on it. 

Having a mobile-friendly website and a robust presence on social media apps are just two examples of why school marketers must be phone-focused. 

But few private schools are taking advantage of the fastest and easiest way to communicate with prospects using the phone—text messaging.

SMS marketing, or text message marketing, has become a cornerstone tactic for many businesses, and for good reason.

  • 97% of U.S. adults own a smartphone vs. 94% that own a computer.
  • 95% of text messages are read and responded to within 3 minutes of being received
  • 45% of text messages receive a response, 8x that of email 

Yet, in a recent poll we conducted on
LinkedIn and Facebook, only 21% of respondents said they were currently using text messaging for enrollment marketing.


For this blog, I’ll skip the commentary on “traditional” school marketing practices clashing with modern marketing standards, but know this…

Today, consumers not only prefer to be able to engage in conversations with the brands they purchase from — they expect it. According to Chief Marketer, consumers desire both one-word answers (yes, no, help) and natural language feedback at the level of two-way communication with businesses, and 60% of Millennials prefer two-way text engagement because it’s easy to use, fast, and convenient. Yotpo

Why Text Message Marketing for Schools?

Real-time Right now
Several websites have different stats, but all are in the same ballpark.

  • Close to 100% of people open texts
  • > 80% of text messages get read. 
  • > 60% of texts get answered regardless of the sender.

When was the last time you could boast those numbers for
email marketing?

Psych Trick
We like feeling the phone vibrate in our pocket or ping when we get a new message. That’s the dopamine talking.

We like dopamine. A text notification releases dopamine. And in that moment, the recipient of your text associates your school with feeling good.

Direct & Written
We are all familiar with mass emails, and so are the major email companies. That’s why we have folders labeled junk, spam, unfocused, and promotion. For now, whether the text is sent personally or through a mass SMS platform, the recipient will view it as more personal and, therefore, more apt to act upon it (i.e., open, read, respond).

Good Timing
Years ago, the day before the open house, we would call attendees to remind them of the event. Those went to voicemail over 50% of the time. 

People don’t answer their phones today, especially if it’s not a contact. If you call prospects with reminders, the time it takes to deliver the same information could be trimmed to a matter of seconds with a personalized text blast.

Convenience & Rapport
Hi Laverne, we received your email about openings in our current 5th grade. Since school starts next week, I thought it would be easier to text you to set up…

Hey Shirley, when you arrive on campus, park in the blue visitor spaces on the right once you pull onto campus. See you soon!

Lenny, if you missed our email about the big news on campus, here’s a link.

Start with a Plan

If all the above has you considering SMS/text message marketing as a part of your enrollment marketing strategy, here are some questions to consider:

  • Are you going to go old-school with a dedicated school phone used to text prospects directly or use a mass texting service
  • Will you use it for one-on-one conversations, blast texting, or both?
  • What kind of content will you send? 
  • Who will be the designated sender(s)? 
  • How will this impact your email marketing strategy?

Tips for Texting Prospective Families

  • It’s okay to send one-on-one without an opt-in IF you position the text to say, Hey Joanie, it’s Charles Arcola at Truth Tree Academy. I received your inquiry form and didn’t want an email to get lost in your inbox. If you’d prefer we don’t text, no problem at all…Otherwise, don’t assume you can text them. Have a text opt-in option on all admission forms

  • Don’t leave them hanging. Even if there are no unresolved questions in a back-and-forth, end the text session. It’s been great chatting. We look forward to seeing you for your tour next Wednesday. Have a great day!

  • Don’t text early in the morning, late at night, or on weekends unless it’s an emergency that will affect their lives, e.g., school closure on a visitation. Be mindful if your prospects are in different time zones.

  • Keep it brief. Just like with emails, TL;DR is a thing. And with texts, the “too long” threshold has far fewer characters than an email. To help keep it brief, include links to your website where details can be gleaned.

  • If you make it personal, be prepared to have tough conversations. If you go down the road of having one-on-one conversations with prospects, expect to continue them after a bad visitation day or, even worse, if their child has been rejected or waitlisted. 

  • Be on alert. If a prospect sends a text during school hours, they expect a response that day. Make sure someone is regularly monitoring incoming texts throughout the day.
  • 😊🍕🏫 and GIF with care. If emojis are not your thing, don’t use them. If they are not your school’s thing, don’t use them. Emojis are a great way to connect, but some have hidden meanings.

Something I say to schools quite often is to advertise where prospects are and where other schools are not.

With only a small portion of schools using text messaging as a marketing tool coupled with the tremendous upside, I recommend exploring texting as a part of your strategy to increase and sustain your best-fit enrollment.

Identify your school’s next digital marketing move.