Private and independent schools have a lot to offer enrollees and the community at large. Oftentimes their biggest problem is making sure that both groups know why their school is special and different from other schools in the area.
In the marketing world, these differentiators are known as the Unique Value Proposition (UVP), a clear statement that describes the benefit of your offer, how you solve customer needs, and what distinguishes you from the competition.
Understanding your school’s UVP is essential to an effective marketing campaign. But before you begin marketing your school’s unique value, you have to be sure that you know just what it is.
Start with Why
If you’re not sure what makes your school unique, try taking a step back and examining why you do things the way that you do.
In the TED Talk below, author Simon Sinek provides a framework for this analysis, which he calls “The Golden Circle.” Sinek says that by starting with “why” before moving to “how” and “what” will ground your decisions and clarify your vision, which makes choosing a marketing path much easier:
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
Starting with “why” can also help you identify the motivating factors for stakeholders like teachers, parents, students and staff. If you understand why parents choose your school, why teachers work hard, and why students succeed in your environment, you’ll have a great base to build your marketing campaign on.
4 Unique Value Marketing Methods
1) Use what you have.
Your school’s greatest marketing assets are already in place. They are in your classrooms, your back to school nights, your hallways and your parking lots.
Who are they? Your current students and their parents.
It’s easy to forget about your existing population when you’re trying to boost enrollment, but maintaining good relationships with your current families is the best way to create positive word-of-mouth and expand your school’s profile.
Your community should be aware of how special your school is and feel like they are part of something great. Keeping them informed and making sure they are fans of what you’re up to is an important tactic in your marketing strategy.
Some schools actively recruit this population for marketing by creating an ambassador program. If students, alumni and parents are willing to represent and advocate for your school in their larger community, if would be foolish not to put their enthusiasm to constructive use.
Finally, your student information system is another key resource in marketing your school. It should make communication between stakeholders easier and provide a place to begin your marketing program and track results.
2) Make a long-term and short-term marketing plan.
Identifying what your school has to offer is important, but figuring out what to do with that information is a crucial step in successful marketing.
You’ll want to create a long-term strategy for raising your school’s profile and effectively reaching prospective families. If you have an internal marketing team or are working with an agency, make sure that school leadership understands what their plans are and what a successful result will look like. From there, it should be simple to develop short-term guides for individual goals and campaigns.
3) Be easy to find.
Schools used to connect with prospective families through traditional advertisements like Yellow Pages ads, signs, and notices posted in the church bulletin.
While these channels can still be beneficial, would-be enrollees are just as likely to find you online through social media or review websites.
Building your online presence will take some work, but you can start by registering with national and regional independent school associations like the Association of Christian Schools International (ACSI), the National Catholic Education Association (NCEA) and the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS), as well as creating social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Schools should also claim and monitor their pages on Yelp, Private School Review, and GreatSchools, and set up a proper Google business listing. This way, if someone searches for your school through these channels they will at least land on the right page and have an opportunity to find out more.
4) Invest in your brand.
Your brand should be an extension of your value proposition – it’s uniquely yours, and your audience needs to know about it. These tips from Enrollment Catalyst will help you keep your branding efforts on track, including:
- Have just one logo – don’t use different logos for different school programs
- Stick to one tagline that sums up the main message of your school
- Maintain consistent brand elements, including colors and design elements
- Develop your school’s brand with professional help – don’t rely on a parent or an amateur “friend of a friend” designer
- Use high-quality photos for official purposes
When preparing marketing materials, including advertising and communications, be sure that your branding is clearly and consistently included.