The “Long Funnel” to School Enrollment Growth

Long-funnel marketing for schools - Truth Tree School Marketing Agency

by Trevor Waddington, Principal, Truth Tree

Dino, the Barber, stands outside of his storefront. He looks to his right and sees a mom and son two blocks away, walking casually toward Dino’s Barbershop. As they cross to his block, Dino notices the boy desperately needs a haircut. They don’t seem to be in a hurry, and in fact, he overhears the mom tell her son, ‘your hair is a mess.’


At that moment, Dino makes eye contact with the mom and motions with his eyes toward his BIG sign that says, “Dino’s Barbershop.” The mom looks up briefly, but the two walk on by.



Maybe the boy likes his hair long, and his mom knows he won’t get it cut. They may already have a hairstylist they go to regularly. Dino may have misheard what she said.


Or maybe there wasn’t enough time to seriously consider the need for a haircut and whether Dino’s Barbershop was worth the price of his services.


Whether you subscribe to Admissions Funnel or Brendan Schneider’s Enrollment Rings, the top of the funnel or the outermost ring tends to focus on the here and now and enrollment marketing for the coming year. But with so much marketing noise out there, you’ve got to get to future clients early and keep them hooked in what I call the Long Funnel.


If your school starts with children age 5, what are you doing to gain parents’ awareness of your brand when their child is 3, 2…when they are a newborn…when mom first learns that’s she expecting?


The Long Funnel puts a premium on grabbing the attention of probable clients as early as possible.


To download, the user provides their first name and email address (required). The child’s first name and birthdate are optional entries*. The family gets great advice from an e-book branded with your school’s information, and you get a lead to nurture for the next five years.


*Why child’s first name and birthdate? Email me, and I’ll tell you.


The lead goes into the entry class of 2025 audience group in your Customer Relationship Management tool (CRM). Every few months, they receive an email with information that provides them with value.

  • Top 5 Educational Toys for Toddlers
  • 3 Books to Read to Your Child to Help Develop Empathy
  • 4 Tips to Handle a Child’s Meltdown at a Restaurant

After a few years in the funnel, you can start to skew content more toward the value of your school and program.

  • How Math Literacy Can Strengthen Your Relationship with Your Child [excerpt]…and that is how early math literacy can help your child communicate better with you. At Truth Tree Academy, we teach math literacy through everyday situations your child will likely encounter. This relational approach is a powerful learning tool that makes learning math meaningful and fun at Truth Tree.


This is also the perfect time to invite them for toddler time or mommy/daddy and me at your school. Be sure to have your highly skilled early childhood experts aka your preschool teachers on hand to interact with the parents and kids.


As you move into years 3 and 4, you should know where you stand with each user based on their open and click rates. Some email marketing platforms, like MailChimp, will rate your contacts’ loyalty or disloyalty to your brand. Depending on where they rank, you can differentiate the next phase of the long funnel.

  • 5-star contact As a loyal reader of our emails, we would like to personally invite you to an Early Look Open House to learn more about our program. I know it’s over a year away before [CHILD’S NAME] would be eligible for our program, but we know how important finding the right school is and want to give you a head start. At this small gathering, you will meet one-on-one with one of our preschool teachers and get a personal tour of our campus from a current parent and student.”
  • 1-star contact Hi [PARENT’S FIRST NAME], this is Trevor from Truth Tree Academy. I noticed you unsubscribed from our emails. I know how you feel, I get so much spam some days I don’t know what to do about it all. Anyhow, if you are interested, we are hosting an open house for our preschool on Saturday, November 16, from 1-3 PM. Just let me know so I can put you on the guest list.

So, if fifty nearby families sign up for your original “newborn” content piece, what do you think their valuation of your brand will be in five years if they continue to consume your meaningful content? How likely will your school be in their consideration set if they seek an independent education?

Enrollment growth is not always about widening your funnel, it’s about lengthening it. Too often, folks think that enrollment marketing is a sprint when it’s really a long, long marathon.


Identify your school’s next digital marketing move.