Here’s why you need a marketing system for your school

Before tactics, there is strategy. Before strategy, you need a marketing system for your school.

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”.

9 Steps to Marketing Your School

Beyond this definition, I address 3 core areas that build on one another:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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!


School Marketing - 9 Steps

Randy Vaughn

Why I Love My School

Billboards, brochures and jumbo baboons on the top of buildings rarely do more catch a fleeting glance. They offer NO value, however, in convincing someone that your school is the right choice for them.

When I talk at conferences or with 1-on-1 clients, I first address a definition of “school marketing”. Since I am a Duct Tape Marketing Certified Consultant, I am borrowing a definition that goes like this:

“Getting ideal families to know, like and trust you to build loyal ambassadors for your school.”

The “know-like-trust” part of that definition is where the real challenge in marketing is. Families need evidence.

Too many schools still assume that with the perfect ad, radio spot or even Facebook campaign, that they will increase enrollment. While that may give you some results, the tried-and-true results come from a relationship building marketing effort that offers prospective parents the opportunity to get to KNOW, get to LIKE and get to TRUST you. When they reach the latter stage, they are committed to you and to you alone. That means they are ready for enrollment.

But to get to enrollment, the “KNOW” stage typically has to run through the “LIKE” stage first. Rarely does a magazine ad result in a phone call that says, “I saw your ad and we want to enroll our 5 children.” While exceptions exist, the norm is for those parents of those 5 kids to see your advertising efforts and then pursue a relationship with you. Here’s what that path might look like:

  • After the phone call, the family starts to receive regular communication via email. This is not just adding them to the “newsletter” list. This is a series of emails that are best if they are autogenerated in a series where you have a chance to build your case for your school.
  • The parents receive other forms of communication like a formal letter from the Head of School, hand-written cards from PTO, principals and parents. They may also receive a card in the mail with a Polaroid photo (yes they have made a comeback) of the student standing alongside his student tour guide during the recent tour or Open House.
  • The family gets connected via Instagram and Facebook where they see regular evidence such as “Why I Love My School” videos from students. As well, they will watch parent testimonials and regularly hear in their newsfeed from the key administrators as they speak about the core values of the school and share student and institutional successes.

These are just 3 easy ways to develop the path for a parent to move from KNOWING YOU (awareness) to LIKING YOU (affinity). This is a very commonly overlooked path. Schools assume the parent is ready to take the large leap across the pond from awareness to commitment. That rarely happens.

If you want to shore up your marketing system to ensure more parents KNOW, LIKE and ultimately TRUST you, we can help. Click the image below and read about our “9 Steps to Marketing Your School” where you will also learn how to start the conversation with us about assisting your school.

9 Steps to Marketing Your School


Inauguration, New Administration & Ideas to Showcase Your Head of School

Inauguration, New Administration & Ideas to Showcase Your Head of School

It’s a historic moment in our country. The inauguration of a new President and a new cabinet. A new administration takes over.

Use this moment to showcase your school’s leadership.

The two most important reasons to do this is worth noting:

  1. REMIND – It is always helpful (and even necessary) to remind your current families of who the administration is at your school. Depending on the size of your school, this is more important. If you are 200 students, perhaps you have more interaction with the Headmaster in the hallways than if your school has 1500 students. For the larger schools, parents typically interact more with teachers, coaches and the principals. If you have administrators over development, enrollment management and curriculum, these are key executives that often go unseen by your current families. Especially important for the Head of School is to be visible on social media, via a blog, Twitter, Instagram or even using Facebook Live to communicate to families. 
  2. INFORM – While you may be very familiar with the face and voice of your school’s president, remember that your prospective families are not. Keep a list of important facts about the HOS’s experience, educational background, expertise, successes, and some of his/her personal traits and share them often. Have a social media calendar that puts a spot each month to feature some aspect of your school’s administration. They are the front-line voice and face for new families.

Now let’s explore some brainstorm ideas on how to showcase your administration (especially the key visible players such as Headmaster, Principals and Coaches).

  • VIDEO – Whether you are using Facebook Live, Periscope, YouTube or Instagram video, put your administration out there for people to see! If your administrator is “good on camera” (comfortable and a great communicator), do creative and funny things as well as informative sessions (although keep them brief). If they are not necessarily the best in front of a camera (and some of us are not), use video editing to play a lot of b-roll video so the audience is hearing the administrator but looking at other pictures of your school. Recording presentations or webinars is one way to achieve this if going LIVE terrifies you!
  • BLOG – I am still a proponent of a Head of School having a written blog. This is not a place to write 2000 word essays on her educational philosophy. It is a place to share brief stories of student success, institutional success, inspirational stories or personal illustrations that remind/inform families of his/her background. You can write philosophical posts, but keep them brief and break them up into a series of shorter posts with a lot of bullet points and pictures to improve the likelihood of someone reading them.
  • AUDIO – President FDR is famous for his “Fireside Chats”. These audio messages provided the President an opportunity to speak directly into the homes of families. Using audio recording and publishing tools like Soundcloud or Podbean (I use both for some random audio messages and for our monthly school marketing podcast), you can publish a 5-, 10-, 20-, or even 30-minute audio message that consistently puts your voice into the minds of your new and current families. Again, use these to do parent/student/alumni interviews or speak to student and institutional successes.

This communication strategy is critical when I help schools install a customized marketing system for their school. If you would like to learn more about my “9 Steps to Marketing Your School” program, signup for this FREE on-demand presentation.

9 Steps to Marketing Your School