As a school marketing consultant, I have had the opportunity to work with dozens of schools who recognized that they need to improve their marketing. The questions I’m asked most often is: What is the silver bullet that will improve my enrollment numbers? Unfortunately, there is not a single home-run idea that will guarantee full enrollment. A successful school enrollment plan is about doing a number of small things consistently over time. The schools that I have seen that are successful in their marketing all do these five things right:
1.) They recognize the importance of marketing, and they make it a priority.
The schools that I have seen that do this right have a dedicated person who oversees their marketing. This is not a principal that does it in her free time (because there isn’t any), but rather somebody whose sole job is to ensure constant enrollment. They have a written marketing plan that they execute consistently over the year and they have a dedicated budget. If your marketing is done right, it is an investment in bringing in more students and ultimately more revenue that you can deploy into the classroom experience.
2.) They know their customer.
These schools have gone through the process of building customer personas for their school. I have covered this in a previous blog post which I encourage you to read, but once you have your personas built, you now know the best channel and message to use that will resonate with your potential parents. For example, I worked with a school in Baton Rouge, Louisiana that primarily attracted people from the neighborhood where moms were primarily the decision makers. We purchased shopping cart advertising in the 10 grocery stores within an 8-mile radius of the school. This allowed us to have a constant message in front of our target market with a low-cost investment
These schools also regularly survey their parents to judge satisfaction levels. It is a lot easier (and cheaper) to keep an existing parent than to attract a new one, so understanding how your parents feel about your school allows you to make the improvements to your school to satisfy your current base. Good surveys also allow you to identify issues that a large group of your parents have, rather than just the one parent that is constantly in your office complaining about something.
3.) They use data to shape and inform their marketing.
Schools will spend a lot of time pouring over academic data. Using the same method of analyzing data can inform the right marketing efforts. There are simple things that you can gather like:
• How did parents hear about you?
• Why did they choose you over your competition?
• What percentage of your leads ultimately tour the school?
• What percentage of your parents who tour, ultimately enroll?
• What is your cost to acquire a student and is that different based upon how they heard about you?
If you just spend a little bit of time analyzing your data, you can make much better decisions.
4.) They deliver their message in a way that customers understand.
When you talk to your parents about your innovative curriculum, are you using academic jargon? Is your website at a reading level that your parents can understand? The average American reads at a 6th grade level. As educators, you make sure that the books your students use are grade level appropriate. Have you run a Flesch-Kincaid test on your website to make sure that your parents understand your school? Most common word processing programs can do this for you.
5.) They have spent the time to understand their enrollment experience from the eyes of their customer.
When was the last time that you tried to Google your school without using the name of the school? How easy is it for a parent who doesn’t know you to find you? When you pull up your school’s website on a mobile device, how is the experience? In 2014, mobile passed desktop as the preferred means of accessing the internet. If your website is not mobile optimized, you are giving them a bad experience.
How easy is it to find enrollment information on your website? Is there a clear description of what makes you different? Unique? Do you give parents the opportunity to request information or do you force them to call you for more information?
When was the last time you had a mystery shopper analysis of your tour? Is your tour engaging? Does it answer all of a parent’s questions? Are you too close to it to really see the gaps?
Running a good school marketing program can be challenging. But the schools that are successful are the ones who have implemented these 5 simple things. Let me know if I can help you implement a strong marketing program at your school.
Nick LeRoy, MBA, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 317-361-5255