The most effective marketing tool your Christian school is NOT using to talk to prospective families

Most schools I consult with tell me that they are using email to communicate with families.  At which point I ask, “which ones?”

If you are using Constant Contact or some other email marketing provider to communicate only with your internal families, that’s OK, but that is more about communication and less about marketing.  Yes, good communication is vital for retention efforts (one of the reasons families often give for leaving a school is poor communication).  But I’m talking about reaching out regularly with prospective families.

Here are 5 tips you want to consider with your email marketing:

  1. THINK LIKE A PUBLISHER:  just like anything having to do with marketing, it is best to make sure it operates like a system.  The “hit-or-miss” strategies you have used are no longer effective.  Make your email marketing work on a calendar.  Work with your creative team (staff and/or volunteers) to look at your school calendar and create email marketing messages around attractional events (sports, theater, etc), marketing events (open houses, preview nights, etc.) as well as community events that showcase your involvement in the town at large (Christmas shoe drive, Spring Break food pantry assistance, etc.)  Holiday themed messages are appropriate as well.  Think more like a magazine publisher and start capturing and creating high value content for these monthly or bi-weekly messages.  For your December email marketing newsletter to prospectives, for example, you need to be gathering the content in October.
  2. BE USEFUL:  while you do want to inform your prospective families about your campus happenings, you will also need to think about what is useful for them.  Make these quick links go to your website (you will significantly increase your traffic this way).   If they are currently a homeschool family, you may wish to provide them a list of resources (yes, on your site) that would help them.  I would also include on this page a brief testimonial from a former homeschool family who is now at your school and loving it!  A resource page on your site with articles about better parenting, managing finances or “3 helpful homework tips for boys” will offer your prospective families some very valuable information.  On this page, be sure and give them an opportunity to read a blog post from a Dad of boys who loves his experience at your school.
  3. KEEP IT SIMPLE:  unlike an internal communication medium where you are trying to tell families every single thing happening on your campus, focus your email marketing to prospective families on no more than 3 items.  Sometimes you may only give them a single article to read.  Keep the layout and design simple to read and easy on the eyes (with Constant Contact, the templates are very easy to use).  Sometimes you may send out a message with no graphics at all, just text.  Unlike the publisher metaphor above (#1), the design fact is that when people are reading their emails on their desktop or mobile device, simplicity is key.
  4. BE CONSISTENT:  there is no magic formula for how often you should send something, but the more important factor is consistency.  I would suggest every 2 weeks, but you may prefer less or more.  You may want to schedule it so that it hits their inbox every Friday morning or every other Sunday afternoon so they come to expect it.  If it is useful and of great value to them, your audience will look forward to receiving it.
  5. MEASURE IT:  when you using an email marketing system like Constant Contact, you can actually measure the effectiveness of your emails.  You can monitor what subject lines create better open rates.  You can even see what articles that your recipients click on inside each email (this helps you create more useful contact just like this).  You can track who opens the emails as well.