When is the best time to hire a school marketing consultant?

“We should have hired you two years ago”


I recently met with a school that I have been talking to for a while.  In fact, this school was one of the first ones I spoke to when I started helping schools with marketing and recruitment strategies.  When the board chair told me that he regretted not hiring me two years ago, I could completely understand. Taking that first step to hire a school marketing consultant to assist in your enrollment can be daunting.  The most frequent comment that I hear from my clients is that they needed outside expertise in their marketing months or years before I came in to help.

Each school and each situation is somewhat unique, but from what I’ve seen, schools generally look to an outside consultant in one of these situations:


1. They don’t know what they don’t know

This category of schools has recognized that they don’t know how to do a marketing analysis or how to create a plan and that paying for professional advice to develop a plan is a prudent investment.  They will learn over time how to make their marketing system work for them, but they need someone to point them in the right direction.  For these customers, the full market plan development is a good option for them because it gives them a step by step plan, based in actual data that they can execute.


2.  They are trending down and don’t know what the problem is

This is the most common type of customer that calls me.  They are not yet in crisis mode, but they have looked at their enrollment trends and realize that it is heading in the wrong direction.  A lot of times they have not had the time or knowledge to really dig into their data or their customer perceptions to understand why they are not attracting as many students as in past years.  For a lot of these customers, they are often too close to the situation to clearly see the problem.  An outside consultant offers that perspective and can back up the client’s gut feeling with good, quantifiable data.  For customers who fall into this category, I have done many marketing audits where we look at their data and perform parent and stakeholder focus groups to point them toward the solution.  Many of them go on to hire me for a full market plan, but even if they don’t, the audit gives them critical insights.


3.  They want to go from good to great

These are schools who have a good system in place, but they know that they have gaps or areas of opportunity. They may want guidance on a new digital strategy or realize that one part of their marketing funnel is broken and they need to fix it.  For a lot of these schools, we do abbreviated engagements like a secret shopper or a marketing material audit.  No matter how good you think your marketing is, it is very helpful to have an outside expert review your programs and offer guidance.


4. They are hiring for a certain expertise or capability

This group of schools already has a strong and effective marketing plan, but have determined that they either lack a certain skill set or there are advantages in using an outside firm.  I worked with a chain of 16 schools that had consistently filled their campuses.  Their VP of marketing recognized however, that they didn’t have strong customer personas or a good segmentation strategy built.  Over the course of ten focus groups of existing and former customers, we built a full segmentation strategy that they used to shape their communications.  That was a fun project.   Another customer that I recently worked with understood that their low participation rate in their parent satisfaction survey was because they were doing it in house.  By using an outside firm, they increased their response rate from 35% to 60% and received a lot of pointed feedback that allowed them to make changes to the school.  Customers had been less than forthcoming in the past because the school had run it themselves and people were afraid to be honest.

Marketing, just like effective teaching or administration, is a skill.  If you don’t have people on your staff who have been trained or have expertise in this skill, then bringing in an outside firm can often pay significant benefits with a deeper understanding of your current challenges and customer perceptions.  Ultimately, marketing pays for itself with higher enrollment and a more satisfied parent (customer base).

Let me know how I can help.  I am always available for a phone call if you want to talk about your challenges.  There is no charge for the first hour of a phone consultation.


About Nick LeRoy and Bright Minds Marketing

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  www.brightmindsmarketing.com, send an email to nick@brightmindsmarketing.com or call us at 317-361-5255.

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