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!

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School Marketing - 9 Steps

Randy Vaughn

Eclipse 2017: Creative Ideas for Your School

Eclipse 2017: Creative Ideas for Your School

On Monday, August 21, much of the United States will have a view of the next solar eclipse, varying on where you live (here in Texas, we are going to see 75%-85% I think).

I do have past clients along the TOTALITY pathway. St. Joseph Christian School north of Kansas City is selling T-shirts that blend the eclipse and their school logo together (here’s a link to their Facebook page about the shirts). Another school is having an eclipse-related outdoor party for the kids celebrating this unique event of this school year.

In terms of marketing, I look at special events like this with an angle of doing something different than everyone else. Most schools will be in fall session and if they are, they will likely take a few minutes out of their day and go outside to view the eclipse through the special required safety goggles or through the pinhole projectors best used for young kids who may not yet be trusted to keep their goggles on when looking at the eclipse!

But if you are a private school in a competitive marketplace, you have to think out of the box! Your question should be, when approaching an event everyone around you is also celebrating or recognizing, is this: “how we do it differently?” In addition, on any special day, the local news media is looking for ways that different people in their community recognize the day. In some ways, this is one of your target audiences: the media. And the point, of course, is to use their mass reach to reach masses of people, some of whom are your ideal audience.

To get your creative juices going this week, here is a random list of ideas you can do to celebrate the 2017 Solar Eclipse:

  • View the “Planning Your Eclipse Party” on NASA’s website – get lots of practical hands-on learning activities to use with your students, watch animations and videos describing the celestial phenomenon, etc.
  • Get up there – whether or not you actually get on your school’s roof or not, the idea is to create the feeling of getting closer to the sky. Host a brief dance party so you can legitimately share with all your students your amazing ability to lip sync Bonnie Tyler’s 1983 classic, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” (just don’t show them the creepy video 🙂
  • Make a video – speaking of Bonnie Tyler’s song, perhaps you can grab some creative students or staff and do a parody of that video with words about the 2017 eclipse. As crazy as it sounds, that’s the stuff that goes viral on social media! Here’s a humorous video parodying the Bonnie Tyler video itself (it’s been viewed over 3 million times!)
  • Monday “Night” Lights – for a short while, some of you will be experiencing varying degrees of darkness, so turn on the football field lights and have some fun! Most field days are reserved for the spring, but there’s no rule in an exceptional year that you can have some fun outdoors for a few minutes “under the lights”.
  • Monday “Night” Lights (Part 2) – while it may not fit your normal weekly schedule, have an early outdoor pep rally for your upcoming football or fall sports. Have a coaches 3-on-3 football game and let the kids pick the side they are cheering for.
  • Band formation – this is beyond my ability, but perhaps you have a band director or creative thinker who can organize a moving “human eclipse” with your students. Capturing this with a drone camera would certainly offer some viral video that your parents and news media would love to get their hands on!
  • Viewing party – put the word out on social media that you would like to invite the entire community to your sports stadium to watch the eclipse. In some towns, your stadium may be one of the largest outdoor venues, so use it strategically and treat guests like honor guests!
  • Eclipse Eats – you can go crazy with food ideas with an eclipse theme:  Moon pie, Eclipse brand gum and Sun chips are easy to pick up at your local store and pass out to students in goodie bags or to take around to various churches, fire and police stations and other community offices. Or you can have a bake off with a fun contest with creative eclipse pancakes, eclipse cookies (sugar cookies and Oreo cookies), etc. The sky’s the limit (pun intended!)

You can do any one of these things and have some fun and possibly create some intentional publicity and buzz about your school . . . or you can just do whatever one else is doing.

What will it be for you?

I like to help schools with ideas like this when I coach them one-on-one – if I can help your school, reach out and let’s talk. Click here to complete a brief contact form and then we can schedule our free 30-minute phone consultation.

WATCH:

Back to School Marketing – Social Media & FDOS – Part 2 of 2 (School Marketing Podcast #87)

Back to School Marketing - Part 2 of 2 - Social Media and FDOS

Click to download MP3

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Back to School Marketing – Campus Improvements – Part 1 of 2 (School Marketing Podcast #86)

Back to School Marketing - Part 1 of 2 - Campus Improvements

Click to download MP3

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Father’s Day: Summer School Marketing Ideas around Dad

Father's Day: Summer Marketing Ideas around Dad

SInce Father’s Day happens in the U.S. in the summer month of June, it often gets overlooked in terms of marketing schools. But there are so many things you can do . . . and SHOULD be doing. Most notably, summertime often leaves you with a very slow drip of content because there are no students on campus. So why not take advantage of a high-emotion holiday and create some marketing around good ol’ Dad!  Here are few ideas to get your creative juices flowin’!

Here are few ideas to get your creative juices flowin’!

  • NO MORE TIES: if you are doing a building campaign, invite students and alumni to “buy a brick” in honor/memory of their Dad, Grandfather or special Father-Figure in their life.
  • DONUTS WITH DAD: just about every school has a “Donuts with Dad” day during the school year – but what about the Saturday of Father’s Day weekend? Use this as a promotional event open to the community. Have a lot of crazy games (host a donut-eating contest, create a miniature golf course around campus, play donut ring toss, create Guinness book of world’s records donut tower, etc.) and get your current school dads involved in hosting the event. Maybe invite a funny but invitational speaker or a fun Dad-band (instead of “boy band”) that would make the event a lot of fun. You get a reason to invite people on to your campus during the summer months
  • ANIMA-ZING DAD: inexpensive tools like Animoto give you a Father’s Day video template where you just plug in a few pictures and . . . voila! Here’s an example from Christian School in Clearwater, FL on their Facebook page from 2016.
  • MEMOREASY: one of the easiest productions is to invite students to do a small clip of themselves answer a few basic questions like, “What’s your favorite thing to do with your Dad?”, “What’s the funniest memory you have with your Dad?” or “What’s the one piece of advice you always hear your Dad saying?” Then put these into a simple movie using iMovie or Windows MovieMaker. You can add some fun by including funny questions like, “What’s the grossest thing your Dad likes to eat?” or “When you are on vacation, what’s the one thing Dad says in the car that drives everyone crazy?” Since most students are out of school in June, invite students to text in their videos. Offer an incentive to get them to participate (free dress day, spirit wear coupon, parking pass, etc.) Here’s a great example of hearing kids talking about their dads.
  • COMPOSITION CONTEST: get extra creative and invite students to compose original songs, poems or other dramatic presentations about their fathers, the role of Dads, or a song that honors influential men in their lives. Ask for submissions and then assign some judges or ask social media to rate the performances. You might be surprised with what kind of hidden talent there is out there – and some possible video content that could go viral!
  • HE-LARIOUS: have fun with dads on video by asking them to do funny things. Have students compose a text message completely from emojis and ask dads to interpret it. Or even better, ask dads to act out emojis. It’s really funny stuff!
  • LEGA-SEE: wouldn’t it be cool for prospective parents to see a legacy of dads at your school? It shows great continuity and how your school continues to attract generation after generation. Perhaps you have a son, his dad, a grandfather and even a great-grandfather talking about their favorite memories (it would be cool to have pictures and video of each generation of man speaking, let’s say, about your school’s great basketball program). Dick’s Sporting Goods did a nice multi-generational tribute to Father’s Day.
  • DADS-SPEAK: a great way to feature the male leadership at your school is to feature them on video. Ask them to share advice they received from their fathers. Ask them to tell stories of influential men. Not every male figure will be great on video, but it might be a chance for prospective families to hear of the depth and maturity of men on your campus. In the media, strong males are often depicted as mean and uncaring. Or TV portrays them as bumbling idiots who cannot manage their household with strength. Showcase your dads who also lead your school! Here’s a Cheerios commercial that went viral all about #howtodad.

If you also need help this summer with knowing how to market your school, we can help!

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FREE 30-MInute Phone Consultation with Randy Vaughn, Christian School Marketing Consultant