When I consult with clients one-on-one through our “9 Steps to Marketing Your School” coaching program, I address school marketing at a few very fundamental levels.
First, I try and get everyone on board (myself along with the client’s entire marketing team) with a common definition of “school marketing”. My definition of school marketing goes like this:
“Getting ideal families to know, like and trust you in order to create loyal ambassadors for your school.”
You can dig a little deeper into this definition by digging way back into the School Marketing Podcast archives and listen to, “School marketing podcast #28: An Easy Definition of Marketing for Schools”.
Beyond this definition, I address 3 core areas that build on one another:
- SYSTEM – your overall marketing effort has to be built on a solid systematic way of marketing. Rather than chaotic, shoot-from-the-hip marketing, your school marketing is well-thought-out and intentional. Inside of your larger umbrella marketing system, there are plenty of micro-systems centered around social media, referrals, lead generation and nurturing, family follow-up, etc. Each one of these micro-systems has to assess the tools, finances, personnel and skills sets needed for success. Your marketing system should have a clear understanding by your entire team about how your school addresses the 3 Rs of school marketing: recruitment, retention and referrals. Without this fundamental understanding of system, you will only achieve average enrollment marketing success at best.
- STRATEGY – as the system is set in place, you can begin to determine your strategy based on your enrollment gaps and goals. While your marketing system (and all the micro-systems) are fairly consistent from year-to-year, the strategy should vary depending on where you need seats filled. Your strategy can obviously address 3-5 ideal family personas. If you do not target your personas at all, you end up with a “one-size-fits-all” marketing message that really should be renamed as “one-size-hits-small”. If you are broad and generic, your message will resonate with no one. Know the persona’s pain points and how your school is differentiated as the best solution in your local market to meet that need. Develop this “know-like-trust” effort with specific touch points to lead a potential family toward becoming one of your school’s most loyal ambassadors.
- TACTICS – the implementation part of marketing is what gets most of your attention (time and money). The “practical and tactical” make up the line items in your budget so you tend to think about these items most, but often neglect #1 and #2. If you do the former correctly, the system is in place so that a sound marketing strategy will dictate the most effective tactical implementation plan. If you are implementing the same marketing plan every year, then you are demonstrating that you have no targeted strategy.
If you find yourself focused only on the tactical plan, I would urge you to approach the upcoming school year with a different way of marketing. I offer a complimentary 30-minute phone consultation to discuss how I can help your school install a customized marketing system for your school!
Sometime in May, as you begin winding down the school year, another clock continues to tick.
The 100-Day countdown has begun!
Often heard when measuring the “effectiveness” of a President or Governor’s First 100 Days, this 100-day countdown is essential the time between May and August. In the enrollment marketing world, this might be your second half of the game or could include the proverbial “4th quarter” when every football coach in America says “games are won in the 4th Quarter!”
So, while your colleagues may be closing down shop and looking forward to some well-deserved summer rest, in admissions and marketing, this is crunch time. However, I do continue to see schools say, “we’re out of money” which is unfortunate because some marketing efforts demand an allocation of resources late in the game. But even if you are low on funds, there are plenty of things to do. I supposed this list could be twice as long, but 100 things to do is probably plenty!
Presuming you are not operating yet at full capacity at every grade level, here are 100 marketing things you can do in these 100 days before Fall Enrollment. I will not have time to go into great detail on some of them (the post would be way too long and no one would read it). Scan through the list and create a 100-Day Action List today:
- Assess your marketing strategy. If you are still trying to reach masses of people with a broad message, you are likely going to find yourself frustrated with your results. “One size fits all” really becomes “one size hits small” – meaning that your message will have poor traction and little results. You must target your enrollment gaps, assess the most strategic place to fill seats and target like a laser. If you need help with this, I would love to help you by developing a 100-Day Action Plan (let’s start first with a free phone consultation).
- Communicate clearly three things that distinguish you from your chief competitors. If your target market sits right now in the public schools, clearly communicate how your Christian or private school is different than the public school. Even more targeted, if your target market is in the public elementary schools but looking at middle school, then you must articulate how your school’s middle school experience would be distinct from that which a student might experience in the neighborhood public school. If your target market is homeschooling but finding themselves frustrated with the results or with the idea of teaching advanced math and science, how these moms and dads how you can offer them a solution. Again, let’s talk on the phone if you need some help.
- Identify the “pain points” of your prospective parents. I ask schools to identify 3-5 target markets and then ask them to identify that target market’s most compelling need, problem, pain, frustration or fear. When you do this, your content resonated because you are talking not about YOU, but about THEM! Read this article to help you understand the importance of identifying these essential “pain points.”
- Ask your staff if you feel like you have a definite marketing system. If the answer is “NO”, then please read this brief article first, “Why you need a marketing system for your school.”
- Make sure you enter the summer knowing what a systematic marketing plan should be doing to help you grow your school.
- Make sure that you create a very specific “KNOW-LIKE-TRUST” pathway for prospective families to learn more about you (AWARENESS), get to know you better (AFFINITY) and commit to you (ACTION). If this “know-like-trust” concept is new to you, read this article to help you understand the importance of creating a clear pathway.
- Put an army of your best current parent ambassadors in a room together and ask them to help you with referrals. Ask. If you do not ask, referrals will passively come in. Asking will incite a response that is far more likely to produce referrals than sitting around hoping they will. You can use a secret Facebook group to do this, too. Create momentum and urgency by putting people in a room or place together. This lets everyone know this is serious!
- Strategically advertise to your target market. Abandon all “generic” ads in last-minute publications or even online. They will get overlooked and your advertising dollars will be spent without return.
- Run some targeted Facebook ads. Vary the content, test the results and keep running what works.
- When you run ads on Facebook, do not just send them to your homepage. Create landing pages. Use something like Lead Pages or create special pages on your website so that you can track hits and inquiries from the various ads (this is a strategy to employ year-round as well).
- You can even buy unique domain names that can re-route to a longer URL (for example, buy “whyprivate.com” then re-route it to “www.covenantclassicalchristianschool.com/pages/why-private-schools-may-be-a-better-choice-for-your-student”. You can see where the long URL would be impossible to put in an ad but a short domain name is easy to remember.
- Determine a way to organize a service project day in your community where you can wear t-shirts to be highly visible. Host a summer play day at your school for the community. Participate in the 4th of July parade. Be visible during the summer months!
- While the summer may be a busy time for youth pastors, consider ways to reach out to strengthen your pastoral relations in your community. You know youth pastors are busy with summer church camps, mission trips, and service projects. Maybe provide a weekly luncheon or evening coffee where you provide the food, the fellowship, the worship time and the prayer time. Reach out to those who serve our kids! If you need help understanding why you should improve church relations.
- Develop value-added content for your target market for which they would be willing to give their email address in exchange. You want the email contact so you can know who is interested and can follow up. They want the content to help them. Topics could include: “Raising Middle School Boys”, “3 Things Parents Can Do At Home to Prepare a Child for a Great Elementary School Experience”, “10 Ways to Pay For College that Do Not Include Your Wallet”, or “A Checklist for Evaluating Preschools In Our Community”. Curious parents want this information to help them. When you become the consistent provider of helpful content, they associate your school with being valuable to them. Read this article about creating high-quality content for your prospective parents.
- More and more schools are learning the power of using webinars to reach families. Whether you host a live lunchtime webinar to reach more working parents or you simply offer a pre-recorded presentation for them to watch on-demand and on their own time, webinars are great tools for providing magnetic content that connects to new possible leads. Listen to our 50th anniversary episode of the school marketing podcast where our special guest shared how his school has been using webinars.
- Utilize email marketing to attract, nurture and convert leads. Click here to listen to a podcast about using email marketing to guide prospects to enrollment.
- Use individual emails to personally follow up with families who have visited, but also send out mass emails to all prospective families regularly throughout the summer. A family may have visited back in December at your first Open House and fallen off the radar. But they may be second-guessing their school choice so you want to stay top-of-mind. Use Mail Chimp or Constant Contact when mass emailing future families.
- Sponsor a Little League baseball team or offer to help them with trips to weekend tournaments. Your advertising expense can put you top-of-mind with families who would rather have you contribute money than they having to foot the bill or raise money on their own.
- When you are done with that podcast, read this article, “Using email marketing to engage prospective families (and doing it the right way!“
- Get inexpensive yard signs made for all of your returning families. Use a similar look and put them on the roadside in front of your school. Create window decals, too, that match the design. Bombard your community with a repetitive image that they might see while driving around their neighbor, in the community or in front of your school.
- Look at your head of school page. What can a future family learn about your head of school from your website? If it is nothing more than a well-scripted “Welcome” letter and a postage stamp sized photo, then you need to do more. Create a short video or audio message. Read this post on how to showcase your head of school.
- Sign up to watch this presentation, “9 Steps to Marketing Your School.”
- Write a series of press releases about some of the school successes and student successes you have had recently. Tweet them or email them to local media to give them plenty of opportunities to write about you.
- Host a summer concert in your baseball field or performing arts hall and invite the community. Even further, turn it into a “Got Talent” contest and create some buzz around town. Any way to attract the community to your campus is a good solid lead generation strategy. You’ll be surprised how many people say, “wow, I didn’t even know this school was here!”
- Do a virtual tour video of your school, especially trying to capture the campus when there are students still in school. Once summer comes, prospective families may not get a clear picture of how much fun the school is when they walk around quiet empty hallways. The Virtual Tour of AIM Academy is a good example. When people come to your campus, make sure there is a banner out front that says, “Sorry we missed you, but we want you here! Take a virtual tour on our website and then schedule a private tour online”.
- Parents like for their kids to be involved at school. Sometimes they find themselves frustrated in another school because their son or daughter cannot perform, play or participate. Learn how to showcase your school’s solution to that frustration many parents feel about their current school.
- Especially if you are trying to grow your preschool or elementary, you need to know how to marketing to millennials. In this podcast, a guest shares her expertise on how to market your school to millennials.
- While you might not have your greatest turnout, you might still consider offering an “Open House” for those families looking during the summer months. Purchasing access to our library of Open House resources will help you before, during and after the event.
- Read this article to learn about ways to showcase your students at your next Open House or preview event.
- Watch this 45-minute presentation about creating an effective lead generation strategy for schools.
- If you have difficulty keeping your Kindergartners, this article will help you understand the barriers to retaining them and how to keep more Kindergartners.
- Purchase our on-demand course called “Retention: Keeping Your Best” – this is a course with 5 mini-sessions covering a range of topics related to re-enrollment.
- Even in the summer, there are some of your current families on the fence on whether they will re-enroll. This is an article filled with numerous retention tips – read, “Retention Tips: If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”.
- Listen to 2 special guests from a school who share their practical retention tips.
- Ask 5 families to record two-minute long videos and capture them at commencement, at the end of school party or sometime during a high-emotion event. You will get automatic enthusiasm on the video and it will give you great content on your social media channels.
- Watch this brief video that includes “5 Website Tips for 2017.“
- Because a big part of your website is your BRAND, you must take an hour and listen to this really amazing podcast with a special guest who really knows private school branding!
- Make sure your website is responsive. If it is not, let us help get you a website, possibly even before August!
- Feature your school success stories on the home page of your website. If you do not share stories, you are just making unfounded claims with no evidence to back them (this is the reason I wrote an article called “You Are Really NOT the Best Private School in Town.“)
- Speaking of evidence, be sure and read this article about the importance of providing your future families evidence.
- As well, since I was asked to serve on a jury, I recorded a 2-part podcast series all about the importance of providing evidence. Listen to Part 1 then Part 2.
- Write about individual success stories and share them everywhere. Put them on the home page. Share them on social media.
- Record a short video success story and put that on the homepage (or at least have an inviting link/button that a future family would click on).
- Ensure an APPLY button is in an action-oriented color and prominent on just about every page.
- Ensure that a family who is not yet ready to apply can also easily find content that will help them learn more.
- Make sure your contact information is easy to find. You’d be surprised at how many school websites I visit where I cannot locate either the phone number or physical address.
- Give an option for parents to make contact with you when they are viewing your website after hours. Is there an easy-to-find contact form or email address that they can use to initiate communication with you? For some moms and dads just beginning to explore, they may not yet be ready for a phone consultation or a tour of the school campus. But they may have a few questions.
- Speaking of questions, create an easy-to-find FAQ page. You can create one master FAQ page about the school, but I could easily begin to think of 20-30 questions you would have to answer, which might make that page really long. Consider creating an Admissions FAQ, Athletics FAQ, etc. FAQ pages are a great way to give people nuggets of information and typically keeps them on the page longer than long chunks of text. Breaking them up into simply QUESTION/ANSWER is much easier to digest.
- Ensure that as often as possible you cross link within the FAQs to various pages on your website. The FAQ should be a quick anwer that hopefully invites them to go further. Again, the idea is to keep them on your site longer and to navigate around so they see more. If you are looking at a house to buy, you want the agent to walk you through the house and answer questions about each room rather than sitting in the foyer answering all those questions.
- Strip off all homepage content that is “internal”. You are primarily using your website as a marketing tool for new families. They don’t need to have to cut through the clutter of Tshirt sales, bake sales and lunch menus. If your content has dual purpose for both new and existing families, this is OK to have on your homepage.
- Invite some outsiders to audit your website. Invite them to give you a fresh perspective on the content, the tone, the language and the focus. You might be surprised to find out your website uses a lot of “school speak” or internal language. You might be surprised to hear that your website didn’t feel much different than the competitors. Or you might get feedback that says that a future family wasn’t really inspired after visiting your website. This would be good information to have. Obviously, they can also give you positive feedback as well.
- If someone new to town, ensure your website has some sort of content that helps them connect to your community and school.Create a free resource that helps new people find churches, summer camps, local holiday events or other activities that will help a new family acclimate. If you can contribute to their relocation experience being positive, this could help them think positively about your school, too.
- If someone is currently involved in homeschooling their kids but find it frustrating, have a free resource, webinar or FAQ page to help them make the transition from homeschool to day school (see this example from a former Christian school client).
- Some of you live in communities with business or military turnover. Create a resource page that connects specifically with this target market so when they visit your website, there is an instant connection. See this “Military Families” page that a former Christian school client in Mississippi created).
- Look at the page that speaks of our tuition schedule. The rule I usually subscribe to allows for the printing of your tuition on your page ONLY if it is surrounded by testimonials and evidence of value. If you are simply putting your school’s price tag on your website, you will likely turn some people away before you have the opportunity to share any evidence with them. Here are 2 resources that will help you deal with your tuition page: ARTICLE: “Helping Parents Deal with Sticker Shock” and a podcast episode with a special guest who asks if your tuition is worth reading.
- Get Google Analytics set up to monitor various measurements on your website (hits, traffic patterns, where people are coming from, etc.)
- Traffic past traffic patterns by seeing how families navigate your website. Google Analytics can tell you where they typically go after the homepage and even the next page after that.
- If your highest traffic pattern goes the way you want them to go, then optimize those pages with opportunities to nurture a future family’s understanding of your school, what other parents think, etc.
- If your highest traffic pattern varies greatly from where you want them to be going (for example, if Google Analytics shows you that after the homepage visitors go straight to your tuition page, this could be problematic), reexamine how you might create a better path. You can do creative things with content, links, and buttons that detour people away from where they have been going and toward that which you want them to see.
- Look at how many people are viewing your website on a mobile device vs. a desktop. This might change the way you present your content. If most people are looking at your website on a mobile device but you are daily staring intently at your website on a large desktop, you cannot replicate the user experience of future families.
- Ensure your physical address prominent on every page.
- Utilize various website plugins when possible to help you optimize your pages for SEO. Yoast SEO is a great tool and helps you analyze your on-page content as you are putting it together.
- If you haven’t done it recently, allow a third-party SEO expert to give you some effective SEO strategies. Optimizing your site for Google and other search engines is both art and science – let an expert help you.
- When possible, ensure your permalinks are SEO friendly. For example, the URL for this article has key phrases included. I still see school websites with URLs that look something like: covenantchristianschoolacademy.org/page/21947ska – uh, this is not good.
- Use titles for your images. This ALT text can have an impact on SEO but it also is useful when people come to pin your images and the description is populated.
WORD OF MOUTH:
- In the world of referrals, there are some realities of referrals. Understanding these 5 realities will help you jumpstart word-of-mouth marketing at your school.
- Listen to this recent podcast episode, Part 1 of 2 about improving referral marketing at your school (the podcast is less than 15 minutes long).
- Move right into Part 2 about improving referrals at your school (again, only 14 minutes and 29 seconds in length).
- Listen to this brief podcast episode for some quick word-of-mouth ideas
- You are bound to find some practical word-of-mouth tips in this article, “23 Word-of-Mouth Marketing Ideas.”
- If you have any summer enrollees, make a BIG deal out of them! Tweet about them, post a picture of the family on Instagram and Facebook and make them feel like a million bucks. Donate some spirit wear and ask them to take a picture of themselves using your summer social media hashtag (see below).
- Create some easy-to-use branded school graphics that families can use when posting on Facebook and Instagram.
- Get your teachers in on the idea of referral and word-of-mouth marketing!
- Create family-specific web pages and allow individual families populate the page with a lot of their own content (ultimately moderated by you). Let them making their own YouTube video (hopefully having some fun) or have them write their own story about why they chose your school. Families are much more likely to share their own family page than they will share your school’s homepage.
- Have a summer contest for referrals but do not compensate only with tuition discounts. Consider offering other unique perks (parking spots, premier photos/seats at the Annual Gala, etc.
- Your school’s total online presence must be strong to connect with future families who have grown up on social media. Read this article, “Creating a Total Online Presence for Your School” before going any further!
- Make sure you are still doing effective social media on these platforms.
- When creating content for your social media platforms, make sure your content is doing these 5 things to help you grow your school.
- When examining your summer Facebook content, here’s an article suggesting “11 Things To Post on Facebook During the Dog Days of Summer.”
- If you have wondered how Facebook determines their algorithm, this article might give you some tips on ensuring your audience actually sees your posts!
- Speaking of Facebook, shorten your Facebook username (facebook.com/pages/your-school-name/012345789012) to (facebook.com/yourschoolname). In order to do this, simply visit facebook.com/username
- I love the idea of your key leaders having a VOICE on your social media platforms. Explore the possibility of launching a summer podcast to stay top-of-mind with not only your current families but also with those parents looking for a change. Here’s a podcast episode that can give you some ideas on why your Head of School should have a podcast: Part 1 and then Part 2.
- Create a social media content calendar for the summer (and get a leg up on the fall, too) by downloading two free resources to help you prepare and plan your social media content.
- Launch a regular Facebook LIVE event starting the last week of school. Have fun and give people a reason to return. Tell funny stories. Have some corny jokes. Inviite special guests, including students, to come on to talk about something important.
- Create a summer social media hashtag and use it on all the appropriate social media platforms.
- Start a blog. Write it, record an audio blog or capture a video blog. Learn more about blogging as a marketing tool in this podcast episode.
- Ask 10 ambassadors to write a review online for you. If statistics hold true, you might get 2 people to do it. So you might ask 30 in hopes to get 6 reviews. These are part of your “social proof” evidence, so you want reviews as often as you can get them. Ask a mom, a dad, a student, a former student, board members and staff to write a review on Google, then say something similar (but not the same) on GreatSchools.org, and then have them replicate a similar review on your school’s Facebook page.
- Capture a screenshot of each review and repost it on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook.
- Enlist the help of some young adult staffers or even students to create a Snapchat campaign geared around growing awareness and enrollment. Offer incentives for creativity!
- Put these screenshots or at least a copy of that text sprinkled around your website (reviews surrounding any talk of tuition costs is essential). Consider as well having a list of all recent reviews on a page on your website where prospective parents are overwhelmed by the cumulative effect of powerful positive testimonials.
- Listen to this podcast about the importance of online reviews: Part 1 and Part 2
- Make sure you are managing your school’s online reputation. Reviews are a huge part of that! Read: “Managing your school’s online reputation”.
- Start exploring various ways to use Pinterest. In an article called, “Pin it to Win it” I share with you 3 reasons why you should be using Pinterest to help draw attention and attraction to your website.
- Read “5 reasons Instagram is great for your school marketing.”
- Read “7 ways to use Instagram to marketing your school.”
- Research and use any number of these resources or tools in marketing your school, managing your social media or coordinating your marketing efforts
- If you are needing help with understanding the basic essentials of marketing your school, please consider signing up for this brief presentation, “School Marketing Essentials” (it’s free!)
- If the idea of marketing your school seems complicated, another helpful resource could be this article, “A Simply Way of Looking at School Marketing.” or this article, “School marketing simplified.”
- Learn these 3 important things to eliminate the chaos in your school marketing.
- Sign up for the “Enrollment Marketing Roadmap” to get your summer and fall marketing on track in a hurry!
If we can help your school focus this summer on marketing your school better, fill out the form below to begin the conversation:
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