Your school's prospective families are getting information about you in the same way that most people get information these days – from the internet.
Traditional marketing methods like print advertisements and direct mail aren’t as reliable as they used to be, and it's difficult to measure a return on investment from these campaigns. A healthy mix of traditional and online marketing techniques will go a long way toward ensuring your school's ongoing success.
After all, the web has become a dominant factor in parents’ decision-making process – from initial searches to review sites to referrals to social media, parents are taking their cues from what they learn online.
As marketing giant HubSpot says, schools need to engage applicants online with educational content, parent references, and open communication channels prior to the application process. Failing to do this in today’s competitive marketplace puts your school at a disadvantage, since other facilities are already using the opportunities that an online presence provides.
In this three-part series, we’ll provide some tips and techniques on how to effectively market your school.
First, you’ll need to commit to the marketing process. Most analysts will tell you that 2-10% of your operating budget should be dedicated to marketing if you want to see a significant return. This investment can take many forms, including hiring a dedicated staff person for marketing, bringing in consultants, and funding advertising and marketing campaigns, but we’ll get more into that in future posts.
Next, you’ll need to establish what your marketing message is. That starts with the actual ideas you want to communicate to your audience, such as what your school stands for, what makes your school great, etc.
You'll also need to define how your school will be represented visually, which includes your logo, school colors, and other branding elements. Your marketing message should be clearly defined and remain consistent across whatever marketing channels you invest in.
Finally, you’ll need to establish what your goals are, and how you’ll measure them. Schools that engage in marketing are typically trying to increase their “interest indicators,” such as inquiries, applicants, and website visits, with the expectation that these indicators will lead to increased enrollment. And since we mentioned website visits…
Your School's Website is a Parent's First Impression
If all of this online stuff is new to you, there’s a good chance that your school needs an updated website. Families that are looking for information on your school are going to get to your website eventually, and as an official representation of your school, they shouldn’t be disappointed with what they find.
To provide a good first impression, your new website needs to be modern, mobile-friendly and professional, with high-quality photographs and videos that show off your school. The site should cater to new parents who are seeking information about what your school can offer their family.
This information should be easy to find and establish that you and your organization are an authority – in other words, that you know what you’re doing. Everything on your website should highlight what makes your school special – this is your time to shine!
Professional Tip: Giving your website a makeover is also a good time to do the same for your school’s physical presence. For example, if your main waiting space is full of old couches and ‘90s-era magazines, invest in some improvements, like new magazine subscriptions and a tablet or computer registration kiosk. Also, once things are cleaned up, you’ll have a great backdrop for new, professionally-shot photos and videos for your new website.
Of course, these first steps are only the beginning. In future posts, we'll talk about building your online presence with marketing, and what professional marketing options can do for your school.