Most Christian schools share with me that their biggest struggle is bringing order to their chaotic marketing efforts.
This chaos may be in the determination and implementation of the right kind of marketing tactics and tools. Should we still do direct mail postcards? How much do we spend on Facebook advertising? Do we host more than one Open House event in the spring? If the competition is on Instagram, should we be doing it, too?
I appreciate these questions and understand why people ask them. But in reality, if you are struggling with your tactical plan, it is likely that you have a poor marketing strategy.
Trendy fads do not make up a sound marketing strategy. Just copying what you see other schools doing is not a smart way to market your unique school. And if you are just continuing year after year, doing the same things in marketing, then you know that most likely, you are going to get the same results.
Here are 3 things you can do to stop the chaos:
- MAKE IT A SYSTEM: I always tell Christian schools that before you develop your tactical marketing plan, you must have a strategy. But before you can begin to craft a strategic approach to marketing your private school, you must have built a marketing system first. A system ensures you have the “big picture” in mind. A system for marketing Christian schools is different than marketing a business, but in today’s integrated (traditional/digital) marketing world, a system ensures you are not marketing your Christian school the same way you were doing it 5 or 10 years ago. A system makes certain you have the right resources to do marketing the best way for your school (budget, personnel, skill sets, etc.) A system is also holistic in its marketing approach, solidifying your schools’ efforts at the 3 Rs of school marketing: recruitment, retention and referrals. A customized marketing system for your school will be the engine behind your school’s strategic vision and a catalyst for the strategy and tactics you put in place.
- STRATEGY BEFORE TACTICS: I once did church planting missionary work in West Africa (hear John 3:16 in the local dialect that I learned). In a meeting of the minds sitting on a wooden bench under a mango tree, discussing a daunting task of communicating the gospel to unreached peoples in the area, I once heard an older gentleman describe a proverb that is based on a 100-year-old legend of their tribe conquering a once larger neighboring tribe to gain access to land. As he likened it to the David-Goliath battle, he reiterated “nsu sensenwo wugan enuwawa sensenwo”. This proverb essentially means that “smart thinking beats large weapons”. Schools face stiff competition from the other private schools in town, but also from homeschool movements, online education and free public and charter schools. But if you have a strategy in place, you know who you are targeting, how to communicate with them, and how to reach them and turn them into loyal ambassadors for your school.
- PRACTICAL & TACTICAL: Rather than just tossing time and money at the same things that you did last year, you have to build your targeted assault that is based on how to reach your ideal target market. Copycat marketing does nothing but cause you to spend your resources unwisely. Having a billboard on the highway because your competition does too is not way to market your school. Advertising in a publication only because “our competition does” is not a marketing plan based on leadership in the market. If you build a sound system and work through a targeted marketing strategy, the tactical tool box builds itself.