Doesn’t every marketer, whether you are selling soap, automotive repair or a Christian school education, wish there was a magic formula for marketing? Well, I would not call it magic, but I can suggest a formula to follow.
The big picture is a formula is broken up into 3 macro sections:
STRATEGY + TACTICS + CONTENT
Now let us break this down into the specifics of the formula:
- WHO – Identify your audience (you might also call it your “ideal client” or “target market” although there are some nuances of difference in those terms). Know who you are talking to. Knowing them inside out. Be as specific as possible. Do not finger-cross fish with a net cast wide in the ocean (although I saw that work well when I lived in Africa), but rather, stick your stick into the corner of the pond where you are guaranteed to find who you are hooking . . . I mean, looking for.
- NEED – this unique audience has its own set of needs, pains, problems, frustrations and fears. What keeps them awake at night? What do they worry about? What solution do they long for that they can’t find a solution for anywhere else? When I was a missionary in Africa (church planting for almost 10 years in West Africa), we worked with a specific people (#1) who had unique things that concerned them, consumed them and caused them great anxiety.
- SOLUTION – what does your Christian school offer? No, I’m not talking about an education. It’s beyond that. It’s about a solution to the need (#2) of your audience (#1). The education you give your students is what they pay for (tuition), but how does that meet the need (#2)?
- DIFFERENTIATOR – considering the competition (public schools, other private schools, homeschooling, etc..), how does your school offer the solution (#3) in a way that no one else does? Is there some thing, some way, or some experience that your school can offer your audience (#1) in a way NO OTHER SCHOOL can? This is the Key Differentiator(s). There are other things you do that are maybe not exclusively offered by you (and no one else), but they do separate you from the pack – perhaps creating a Top Tier list of schools where you are now only competing with one or two other schools.
Now, let’s talk about the good stuff. These are the tools you use to accomplish the strategy. The “tactical and practical” are where every school wants to jump into. They want to learn how to use the tools and start building their house. But without the architectural drawings, how are you going to know HOW to build it? You won’t . . . or worse, you will be a disjointed, spliced-together structure that will soon fall apart. The tools you will want to use AFTER you know your STRATEGY are things like Facebook, direct mail, email marketing or even Preview Nights.
As you learn habits and behaviors of the targeted audience, you will also know how they communicate:
- How do they find solutions to the other problems in their life?
- Do they read reviews online?
- Do they search for it on Google?
- Do they ask their friends at church?
- Do they read letters in the mail?
- Do they consume content via email, on Pinterest or do they make decisions based on ads on the radio?
Every audience communicates uniquely. Know their method of consumption.
AN EXAMPLE OF THE FORMULA:
Perhaps your enrollment is weakest in the Middle School grades – that important transition out of Elementary. Rather than direct mail blasting your neighborhood with a generic/broad marketing message for kids from PK all the way through Upper School, or posting the same broad messaging day-in-day-out on Facebook, consider a more targeted formula.
- (#1) Identify that your audience is made up primarily of working Christian moms with kids in 3rd to 5th grade in the public school.
- (#2) The need/problem/pain/frustration/fear of this group is a concern for the spiritual growth of their children as their babies grow up to the young teenage years. They fear the influence of the secular public schools would be harmful to their spiritual formation. Yet they fear that some faith schools may offer sub-par academics.
Now that you have your eyes zeroed in on a specific audience with a specific need, you can begin to assess what solution you have to offer. Just offering a set of classes is not enough. Even if they are “based on Scripture”, such claims fail the “unique” test if there are other Christian education opportunities in the area (keeping in mind some families will drive up to 45-60 minutes to find this ideal solution for their kids.) What do you offer that is so unique? What do you offer that helps alleviate the need/problem/pain/frustration/fear of this targeted audience?
Now start thinking about the tactical approaches to reaching this audience. For most in this current audience, spending several hundred dollars in the local yellow directory book would be a waste of money. Look for a tool that this audience uses to find solutions and look for ways to use this medium to communicate to them.
Now that you have the STRATEGY and the TACTICS chosen, consider the way your content can reinforce your marketing message, supplying actual evidence of what you offer. You can say on a brochure that you offer “a loving environment for students to grow spiritually while thriving academically”, but where’s the evidence of that? Do you have case studies or success stories to share? Do you have a video testimony of another mom who, now with juniors and seniors, can speak to the truth of that claim? Showcase the evidence and you will make the connection!
This is the best marketing formula to use for your Christian school. Apply it to specific audiences and you will find your marketing messages are tighter, more targeted and I suspect you will see better results.