Help! My Superintendent Wants Ideas to Market Our Schools
The enrollment landscape isn’t what it was five years ago. The competition for enrollment marketing has expanded far beyond the traditional boundaries of local charter schools, private schools, or neighboring public schools. Schools now find themselves in a digital age where they not only compete with their geographical neighbors but also contend with online schools and homeschool coops that can be located anywhere within the state.
Against a backdrop of declining public school enrollments and a surge in charter and nonpublic school admissions, school districts need to reevaluate and revamp their marketing strategies. In this blog, we’ll explore seven strategies to help schools market effectively to the families they serve.
6 Strategies to Effectively Market Your School
#1 Messaging Strategy
What do you want your school to be known for? Your messaging impacts how teachers, staff, families, students, and even the community talk about your school. This is why it’s important that your messages are consistent, cohesive, and clear. Your educational vision and values should serve as the cornerstone for shaping your key messages, as they encapsulate the culture and experience students encounter every day as they walk through your doors.
Superintendents play a crucial role in this process, as they can set forth a clear vision and objectives that guide educational decisions and underpin marketing efforts. These objectives should highlight the district’s unique strengths and qualities, which should be reflected in the key messages, taglines, and values projected across all communication channels. In doing so, the messaging strategy can effectively communicate the goals of the district, resonate with the target audience, and establish a distinctive identity that leaves a lasting impression.
#2 Audience Targeting
When you target the audiences that are interested in a product or service—in this case, families making education decisions for their children—you will be more successful in your marketing efforts. Identifying your audience and developing a persona allows you to tailor your messaging and approach to meet their specific preferences. This, in turn, enhances the relevance of your content and campaigns, making it more likely that your message will resonate with potential students and their families.
To effectively identify your target audience, you’ll have to learn everything you can about the families who enroll in your school. You may need to use data to determine their demographics, priorities, habits, and behaviors. For instance, you may find the answers to the following questions: What is their age? What are their hopes and dreams for their children? Which social media channel do they use? When are they typically on their devices? Once you have the answers to these questions, you can create a marketing campaign that directly targets the audience you’re trying to reach.
For example, if your goal is to get more families to enroll in kindergarten, there is no reason to have advertisements reach families with only high school students. Instead, you’ll want to reach families who have preschool-aged children and younger.
“Most preschool parents start their research by age 3 when they’re looking for housing, “says Janet Swiecichowski, Vice President of CEL and Public Relations Strategist. “The earlier you can give them a positive experience with the school, the earlier you will get them hooked.” With this in mind, you’ll likely find that your target audience is Millennial parents in their late-20s to late-30s, possibly early-40s. Now, you can create a marketing strategy that effectively targets this demographic — such as mobile advertising on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook.
#3 Storytelling & Website Strategy
Your school’s website serves as the first digital impression for many families, often long before they physically set foot in the school. Hence, ensuring your website is not only visually appealing but also mobile-friendly is essential. Accessibility can significantly impact user experience as families increasingly rely on mobile devices for information. Moreover, your website should be optimized to feed into a well-crafted search engine strategy. This ensures that when families search for relevant information about your school, they can easily find it, further enhancing your online visibility.
However, a functional website is only part of the equation. Families frequently explore your school’s online presence, including your social media pages and online reviews. The content shared on these platforms should reflect your school’s identity, values, and success stories. Leveraging storytelling techniques to highlight the achievements of students and staff. Showcase unique programs and share heartwarming anecdotes to create an emotional connection that goes beyond mere information dissemination. Feature people, not buildings in your images.
By consistently weaving an engaging narrative into your online presence and website, schools can leave a lasting impression and inspire trust among families who are seeking the best educational experience for their children.
#4 Relational Strategy
A relational strategy is instrumental for schools to foster trust and connection within their communities. With consistent communication and active engagement in the community, schools can create an environment where families and stakeholders feel heard, valued, and well-informed. This builds a sense of belonging and strengthens the bonds between the school and its community, ultimately contributing to a more positive and supportive educational experience for its students.
Families naturally want to be confident in the people (teachers, principals and district leaders) who will have such a profound impact on their child’s education and development. Face-to-face events, personal phone calls, and community outreach are marketing strategies that build relational trust.
Superintendents and school leaders play a pivotal role in these efforts by actively engaging with the community through attending community meetings, hosting town halls, and participating in local events. Building strong relationships with families, community leaders, and local organizations strengthens the district’s reputation while ensuring that the school remains a trusted and integral part of the community.
#5 Advertising Strategy
Developing an effective advertising strategy for schools is a multifaceted task, demanding careful consideration of available resources and the most impactful channels. To begin, allocating resources to marketing efforts strategically is pivotal. Superintendents and cabinet members can collaborate closely with their finance teams to ensure that marketing initiatives receive the necessary funding and resources. This not only enables schools to stay competitive but also elevates their visibility in the local community.
When it comes to selecting the right advertising channels, a combination of digital and traditional methods can yield excellent results. From harnessing the power of digital platforms to utilizing outdoor signage, schools can create a comprehensive marketing mix that reaches a broad spectrum of potential students and their families. This may include any of the following:
- Google search and display ads
- Organic social media
- Paid social media campaigns
- Local news stories
- Town signs
- Direct mail
- Lawn signs
Each of these channels offers a unique opportunity to connect with the community and showcase the value and opportunities offered by the educational institution. By carefully crafting and implementing a balanced strategy, schools can effectively promote themselves and attract the right audience, thereby ensuring their continued growth and success.
#6 Customer Service Strategy
Establishing an effective customer service strategy for schools is essential for building and maintaining a positive reputation and fostering long-term relationships with families. While a well-crafted marketing strategy can attract new students and their families, customer service plays a pivotal role in welcoming visitors and retaining existing families. A strong customer service strategy for your school may include the following:
- Simple ways for families to contact you with feedback, questions, and concerns
- An accessible website that makes it easy for families to access student information
- A reliable communication system that regularly updates families on school activities, opportunities, student progress, and school news
- Streamlined communication when sudden changes to the school schedule occur
- Training for teachers and school staff on customer service skills
To make a good first impression, customer service needs to be prioritized from the first point of contact. If a prospective family calls your school to ask a question and is pushed off to look on the website for the answer, that’s a negative first impression. Schools that excel in customer service understand the importance of making every inquiry, whether it comes through a phone call, email, or in-person visit, feel valued and appreciated.
By ensuring that prospective families receive prompt, informative, and courteous responses, you not only meet their immediate needs but also set the stage for a positive and lasting relationship. This will help your school stand out among the competition.
Published on: October 28, 2023