My last post talked about how good schools conduct their marketing. They have strong organizational management, they value and use data, they also know their customer and they have a marketing message which addresses customer needs. These are strong foundational things that allow them to be much more effective in their tactics. The strategy tells you the what and the why – the tactics help you to understand how.
So, let’s talk about how good schools market:
These programs are written down with clear goals and are evaluated yearly to understand how to improve them for the next year. Different schools will have different programs depending upon their type: (charter, parochial, private), grade level and specific demographic, but good management is universal.
- They understand the potential sources of students and they have appropriate programs in place to reach them. If you are a Catholic school, do you have a specific, written, parish outreach program? If you are a charter school, do you have a door to door canvasing program? Do all of you have your feeder schools identified and a plan to establish pipelines?
- They don’t rely on hope and goodwill for their word of mouth. They actively measure their parent satisfaction levels. They provide talking points to parents. They let parents know what happens in every grade to allow for word of mouth past the parent’s own personal experience. They have a parent ambassador program to help prospective parents hear from existing parents about the school. I previously wrote about maximizing word of mouth in this article.
- They understand that word of mouth extends into the digital realm. They actively encourage parents to leave positive reviews online. They frequently check to see the quality and tonality of reviews. They use parent and student quotes in their marketing materials.
- They conduct a post-mortem after each marketing event. How did it go? Did you hit your goals? Was the tactic poor or was it your execution? How do we do better? It is ok and you should try new things and be creative, but measuring your effectiveness is key.
Don’t be the school that conducts tons of tours and shadow days and hopes that the parent calls you back. Follow up!
The best schools:
- Recognize that the follow up is critical to “closing the deal.” Are you thanking the parents for coming to your open house? Are you calling to answer any questions that they forgot to ask? Is the potential teacher for their child reaching out and saying I would love to have Johnny in my class next year? It is the little things that can often close the deal
- They nurture parents through the buying cycle. When a parent goes to your website, is there a way for them to get more information without calling or visiting you? In this day and age, you have to give parents an option to get information without making the commitment of picking up the phone or (god forbid) visiting the school first. A potential parent may not be ready to do that, but they will readily give up their email to get more info about the school. If you don’t have the ability to send them follow up emails about the school get that.
Constantly look for ways to improve their marketing
Your marketing approach will constantly evolve as you learn more about your customers and the effectiveness of your approach. The best schools approach this with a desire to improve every year. This would include:
- Attending professional development to understand marketing better. These programs do exist for schools. Charter school associations like the Institute for Quality Education or the Missouri Public Charter School Association run these. At the National Catholic Educators Conference, there were a number of marketing sessions and professional groups like the Indiana Non-Public Educators Association also put these on. The information and training is out there – you just need to get it. I have been fortunate to be able to run training programs for many groups. If you can’t find one, call me and we can talk about running one for you.
- If they can’t do it, they hire someone who can. You can’t not do marketing. If you don’t have the time or the training to do it, you hire someone who can help you. I have worked with many clients who tell me that they can execute, but they just need help in putting together a strategic plan. That is ok. Recognize what you can do and outsource other parts to trained consultants. You wouldn’t not have a website just because you don’t understand programming? You pay an expert to do that. Marketing strategy is the same thing.
I am sure that there are other things that top schools do. But, these are the fundamentals that if you do them and do them right, you will be successful.