In this era of increasing competition and school choice, the role of the principal is changing. Unfortunately, it is no longer enough to have a strong educational environment for your school. Principals are increasingly being placed in the role of chief marketing officer of the school. But most principals lack the training to craft marketing programs for their schools. In my job as a marketing consultant for schools, I see many principals struggling with this part of their job.
But knowing how to market your school will continue to be important as competition continues to increase. Here are the ten student
enrollment tips that I think are most important for a principal or anyone involved in admission at a K-12 school needs to understand.
This is a common mistake made not just by people in the education space. Marketing is about understanding; understanding the environment,
understanding what your customers look like and want, and ultimately communicating to them in a fashion that resonates with them and causes
them to enroll in your school. What channel you select to communicate to your customer (advertising) will be much more effective if you
understand your customer and where they actually are seeking information.
Developing a good marketing plan takes time and should be regarded as investing in the future health of your school. Making the investment
when you are strong is going to be a lot easier than when you are scrambling with lower enrollment and fewer resources.
There is no “recruiting season”. You may be spending more time in the winter months promoting your school, but that doesn’t mean that you
should ignore your marketing efforts for the rest of the year. A constant presence and awareness with your prospects will make it much
easier to drive action when it is time for your open house or to entice them to request a school tour.
Data is going to guide you and tell you what you need to do in your marketing and recruiting, but only if you collect it and analyze it. I
have seen administrators pour over complex cuts of data when it comes to standardized tests, but don’t even gather fundamental information
when it comes to marketing like what percentage of people who came to your open house enrolled. It can be cumbersome to gather data, but
once you have it, it is so critical to analyze it to understand why your enrollment might be slipping. You can read more about the
importance of analyzing school enrollment data in this article.
You need to actually write out a marketing plan. Understanding your data should allow you to understand where your students are coming from
and where there are available students. Having a year-long school marketing plan
will allow you to build a well thought out and executable market strategy. But remember that a marketing plan is a living document.
As you try things and see the success of different marketing tactics, update the plan so you are constantly learning how to get better.
In order to effectively compete in a more competitive school environment, it is becoming more important to offer parents and students an
experience that is unique to your school. Have you done a competitive
of the other schools around you? What can they get at your school that they couldn’t get somewhere else? Is your uniqueness something that
truly resonates with a customer’s need or aspiration? Is your unique aspect understandable by the customer?
In this increasingly competitive market, parents have choices on where to send their child to school. Do you truly understand your
customer? Are you regularly surveying
your customers to understand their satisfaction levels? Have you done focus groups to understand their unmet needs? Parents will send
their children to a school that they feel is the best fit for their students. The only way to understand if that is your school is to ask
your parents, and the best way to do it is conducting a satisfaction
Word of mouth is going to be your prime source of student referrals. But word of mouth marketing is not doing anything and hoping parents
are saying good things about your school. Word of mouth is the best marketing program, but it does take work. Don’t just hope that parents
are saying good things, actively work to ensure that they are. For a more in-depth look at word
of mouth marketing, read this article.
Your potential customer will almost always go to your website first. Is your website enticing to a potential new customer? Is it easy for
prospective parents to find information about your school? Are you monitoring the types of online reviews that parents are leaving on sites
like www.greatschools.org? Your website is your digital “curb appeal.” Make sure that it is
enticing for potential parents. Strong school digital marketing strategy can help you with it.
Remember that most traffic on the internet is now conducted via a mobile application. If your website is not mobile enabled, not only will
you be pushed down in the rankings by the search engines, but you are giving a poor experience to customers who are trying to learn about
your school via their mobile device.
Little things can matter as customers are making the decision on which school is right for their child(ren). If the customer expresses an
interest in your arts program during the school tour, are you having the art teacher conduct a follow-up call after the tour? Are
you sending thank you notes to people who attended your open house?
Little things like this can often tip the scales towards your school and they generally don’t cost any money. It just takes a
little bit of extra work.
Having a good marketing program is critical as more and more schools are competing for students. This no longer can be something that you
just think about during Catholic Schools Week / School Choice Week or during the winter months. This needs to be part of your DNA and a
developed strength of your school. Hopefully, these simple student enrollment tips will attract more students to 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 enrollment and recruitment consulting to private, Catholic and charter schools. For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve its’ student enrollment, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call us at 317-361-5255.
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