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How Courtney Tomlinson of The Gardner School deploys data-driven personalization

How Courtney Tomlinson of The Gardner School deploys data-driven personalization
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Courtney Tomlinson started her communication strategy with how she wanted potential students and their families to feel.

“I wanted The Gardner School to feel professional, but, most importantly,  welcoming,” Tomlinson explains. “I think the term ‘radical empathy’ in the design of Halda’s products applies. It shows care and concern for the fact that these are busy people with things they need to know. Halda gets them there without making them search.”

“Halda is the perfect bridge between that drive to get people to the website and then those people becoming an inquiry–it’s a gap I didn’t know existed before.” -Courtney Tomlinson, The Gardner School

According to Tomlinson, this should be the new norm when it comes to connecting with families.

“They want that low bar to interaction…This allows prospects to learn on their timeline. They see the Halda forms and say ‘They’re paying attention to me, and I want a school that pays attention to my child’.”

She fine-tunes these tools with a tenacious sense of experimentation. Tweaks and optimizations lead to tailored interactions that inspire people to convert.

“Halda helped us see that as soon as people landed on our tuition and financial aid page they were bouncing. Based on that information, we created a Best Fit form to get ahead of some of their concerns on that tuition page. Immediately that form started converting at 5.3%. That’s traffic that previously would’ve been off our website.”

Since implementing Halda’s tools in Spring of 2023, personalization has delivered fast and meaningful results. So far Tomlinson has captured 128 student leads from her website. She’s also seen her applications per month rise as much as 1100% compared to 2022 before she implemented Halda. 

“Halda is the perfect bridge between that drive to get people to the website and then those people becoming an inquiry–it’s a gap I didn’t know existed before.”

How Tomlinson makes data-driven decisions

As a steward of her school’s entire enrollment process–we call her a full-stack enrollment professional–she has a lot on her plate; and she tries to make all those decisions with the best data she can find.

“Small schools, we’re a whole different beast,” Tomlinson explains. “Most tools are designed for huge schools. They’re overpowered and overpriced for what I need. I’m a former English teacher. I came into this position without marketing training. So it’s a really big deal that Halda is so user-friendly. Even as someone who does not have a background in analytics, I can understand what’s happening with my leads.”

For a leader without a full marketing and admissions team, that’s a huge help. “Halda is a timesaver, but it’s also like having a marketing and admissions office.”

Halda provides the data and information she needs for follow-up throughout the enrollment process.

“Halda helps me keep track of a lead and make sure I’m responding in a way that shows the level of care they’re going to get here at Gardner.”

She has also activated the Halda Retargeting Hub, a tool that greets return visitors with a personalized content environment.

“Equally interesting to us is what people are doing when they’re returning,” explains Tomlinson. “The Hub feature collects data on how many times people come to the website before they interact. It tells me what the barrier is to interacting and how I might lower it. Before, if my inquiry came in, I didn’t get the data about what they’re most interested in. My old email or my phone call strategy was just walking into the conversation and saying, ‘Hey, tell me about yourself, tell me about your child’, and I wasn’t able to hook them quite as effectively.”

Tomlinson also uses Halda to evaluate the quality of her marketing actions.

“I needed to evaluate the real effectiveness of my marketing–for instance, a social media post. With Halda I can see those peaks in my activity, where the visitors are coming from, and how those visits turn into leads. Before it was just a mystery,” Tomlinson elaborates.

“I can work my hardest on all these marketing pieces, but if I can’t actually get prospects to inquiry, I can’t start nurturing that communication. I need Halda for that.”

A Team-based personalization strategy

Data, however, is only a part of her decision-making process. What’s, perhaps, most impressive about Tomlinson is her willingness to work as part of a team.

“I call it my ‘dessert work'...I love to try out different variants and test out different ideas, and the AI suggestions are a great way to start off that work.” -Courtney Tomlinson

“I love working with people who love what they do and are really interested in figuring things out,” Tomlinson explains.  “The Halda customer service team does that really well. They’ll bounce ideas around and get to the bottom of what I’m looking to create.”

She’s an astute, unpretentious connector of people, who’s quick to call people by name and generously include them in the credit for The Gardner School’s success.

“With some of the fine-tuning that Aubrey and Judson and Mason (Halda team members) have helped with, we’ve been able to use the data we’re getting from the form to tweak and try new things.”

None of those new things could come to fruition, however, without Tomlinson’s incredible creativity and competence. Her efforts on behalf of the student experience have helped transform the marketing for The Gardner School.

Thankfully, that work–at least according to Tomlinson–isn’t much of an imposition.

“I call it my ‘dessert work’,” she explains. “I don’t always have time with all the other responsibilities I have going on. So I have to make myself wait to play with Halda. I love to try out different variants and test out different ideas, and the AI suggestions are a great way to start off that work.”

We couldn’t be more thrilled to provide that kind of experience to Tomlinson, but the real value comes from her tireless efforts to help future students and families.

If you’re interested in creating this kind of experience for your students, start your conversation with Halda today, or learn more about our amazing partners and their stories.

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