How do you stack up? Highlights from the InspirED Private School Marcom Survey


Liza and Rob Norman are the principals of Turnaround Marketing Communications and the authors of a wonderful resource for schools called The InspirED website.  If you are not following them, I would suggest you do so.  Though the content is geared primarily to independent private schools, there is a wealth of information about school marketing that parochial and charter schools can adapt to your own situation.

They recently completed their 2017 Marcom (Marketing Communication) survey and it is full of great information about how other schools are responding to the increasingly competitive marketplace for students.  This survey represents 200 private schools and 70% of the respondents were identified as Director of Marketing or Admissions.  To download the report, go here.

One of the things that I always tell my clients is that data is good, but data within context is even better.  This report is a wonderful source of information for how other schools are addressing their marketing challenges.  As you read the report, it will be interesting to see how you and your school compare to your peers.

A few highlights that I thought were very interesting:

Digital ToolsThere is a skill gap between the tools necessary to reach our customer and our ability to use them.

We all know that to reach the Millennial customer, you must be in the digital space.  Social media and inbound marketing has become the best and sometimes only way to reach our target customer.  When asked what skill or tactic respondents felt that they wanted to improve, it was generally in digital execution tactics:

  • 41% SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
  • 40% Key words
  • 30% Videography
  • 26% Crisis Management
  • 22% Email Marketing

Coming from the Fortune 500 marketing side, I can appreciate this.  Marketing technology has changed so much over the past few years, that it is very difficult to keep up.  The great thing is even though the channels are getting more complex, many more resources are also popping up to help us do our jobs.  Yoast is an excellent tool for SEO, Google has many tutorials on key word advertising and the email marketing programs like Mailchimp and Constant Contact are making it much easier for novices to get started.

Mobile responsive websiteThese schools understand the importance of an updated and responsive website

  • 63% of schools say their website is less than 2 years old
  • 85% have a mobile responsive website
  • 21% have a virtual tour on their website

Having just helped a client through a website upgrade, I know that this is a challenging process.  One of the things that we did that will pay off in the end is creating a written site map with expiration dates of content.  Think of this as a blueprint and a list of when to change or update things.  It is a lot easier to create this when you are redoing your website than to go back and recreate it.

It should go without saying that you should have a mobile responsive website.  With most traffic on the internet being through a mobile device, if your site is not responsive, you are providing a poor customer experience.

And if you don’t have video – you are missing out on the best way to engage your audience.

DataThere is an increasing appreciation of the importance of tracking enrollment data

  • 10% claimed they do it very well
  • 21% do it well
  • 48% could do better
  • 21% Not well at all

In business school, we had a saying that if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.  Tracking data needs to be within your DNA.  Only by knowing how you are doing can you get better.

Word of Mouth is still the king as a referral channel

No surprise to anyone that these schools reported that word of mouth is still their most effective channel.

  • 96% said that Word of Mouth is highly or somewhat effective.

But interesting, schools are recognizing that “traditional outbound” marketing is becoming less effective:

  • Only 6.6% of respondents felt that Direct Mail was very effective
  • Only 3% felt that Print ads were very effective

Like it or not, we have shifted to a digital world.  “Traditional media” is not the way to reach your customer.  Other industries are way ahead of us.  In 2014, P&G who is one of the largest advertisers in the world shifted the majority of its marketing budget to digital.  If you are not leveraging the digital channel, you are falling behind.Handwritten welcome

However, even in this day of sophisticated digital campaigns, a personal touch still is important.  Almost 26% of the respondents felt that a personal welcome email from a teacher, coach or administrator was very effective.  Remember when your mom taught you to write thank you notes?  It still works.

I hope you get a chance to read the report.  It is really worth reading the whole thing and following the InspirED blog.

If you are struggling to improve your marketing, or if you want to move into these channels, but lack the skill or most probably the time, give me a call.  I would be happy to get on the phone with you and share ideas.

Nick LeRoy is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board.  Bright Minds Marketing provides marketing and recruitment consulting to private, Catholic and charter schools.  For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve your marketing, visit us at, send an email to or call us at 317-361-5255.

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