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Like a hungry student on pizza day, school marketing can eat up a lot of time. There are only so many hours during the day, and with
announcements, meetings, prospective family tours, and student events, working on your school marketing can get lost in the shuffle, or
worse, de-prioritized until you are in crisis.
Yet if you never promote your school, eventually there won’t be anything to announce or anyone to meet with. To maintain – not to mention
increase – enrollment, dedicating time to school marketing is a must.
Fortunately, this doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. To maximize your school marketing efficiency, there are a few best practices you can take.
“Winging it” and “marketing success” are two phrases that have never shaken hands. To establish the most efficient path from your current state to marketing success, you need to develop a written, comprehensive plan that lays the groundwork and keeps you on track. You can break this plan into four stages.
“Doing better” or “enrolling more students” aren’t really goals as much as they are ideas. A real marketing plan is built upon specific, quantifiable goals like “Increasing kindergarten enrollment by 4 kids” or “Improving newsletter readership by 40%.” Making goals quantifiable allows you to precisely track and measure your success. It also helps you maintain focus in the face of vagaries and changing goal posts.
You should take a page out of the corporate world and make these SMART Goals. A SMART Goals is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.
With a list of quantifiable goals in tow, it’s time to determine their importance and urgency. If you could conceivably accomplish goal A in one year and goal B in three years, perhaps goal A should take priority. If goal C is more time-sensitive than goal D, maybe goal C should be allotted more resources. Sometimes a goal might just be too large or daunting to accurately prioritize. In these cases, try breaking those goals into smaller goals. Is increasing enrollment by 30% too difficult? Start by increasing inquiries by X amount, or improving open house attendance by Y amount.
With your goals established and prioritized, you can now develop strategies to meet them. How can you increase open house attendance? How about a push to all of your current families, or a series of boosted Facebook posts, or both! To increase enrollment inquiries, you might combine community outreach efforts with a series of digital pay-per-click ads to reach cold leads, and create email templates for warm leads.
To execute these strategies, you need to determine the budget, time, talent, and tools needed for each. If one of your marketing initiatives is to distribute school calendars to the community, research how much it will cost, how long it will take, what skills it will require, who has those skills, and what tools they will need. And if making calendars requires graphic design expertise, can you use someone in-house, a parent who has graphic design skills, or will you have to go to a third party? And if you have someone in-house, do they have editing software? And what’s your printing budget? All of these questions need to be accounted for.
If you have questions about how to develop a marketing plan, or just prefer to outsource this project to an expert, Bright Minds Marketing can help.
Executing these marketing strategies manually is a one way trip to inefficiency. To save you significant time while improving results, use marketing automation tools like HubSpot or Enquiry Tracker to track the status of all of your prospective families, set up reminder tasks to follow up with families, and perform other labor-heavy tasks in seconds. Hubspot is an incredibly powerful tool, but one of the best things about it is that you can get a ton of functionality out of it with just the free version. I’ve been using Hubspot for years and it’s boosted my efficiency ten-fold. Enquiry Tracker is designed specifically for schools, and my clients who use them, rave about how much they love it.
Email automation tools are also essential. If your school is on the smaller side, Constant Contact is an easy-to-use email marketing app that offers a plethora of email templates, helps you collect email addresses, and tracks opens, clicks, and shares. Or, if you are investing in Hubspot or Enquiry Tracker - both of them have integrated email into their platform.
And let’s not forget Social Media aggregators. Browser-based apps like Hootsuite centralize platforms like Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, wordpress.com, and Foursquare onto a single dashboard. With Hootsuite, you can schedule posts across all of the different social media platforms, create customized URLs to track clicks and connect RSS (blog) feeds. This allows you to easily cover all of your social media channels with just one tool. There are a few other social media aggregators like Buffer or MeetEdgar, and most of them offer a free trial so you can determine which one you like prior to purchase.
If you find that you like different tools for different tasks, Zapier is a great way to tie them all together. The robust app lets each of your tools talk to each other and automates hours of tedious data input. For example, say you enter all new prospective families into Hubspot, but you use Constant Contact for your email. By setting up a “zap” you can instantly place that family’s information into your email database. Zapier is all about helping you save time, which no school marketer has much of. Plus, like all of the tools mentioned here, there is a lot of functionality with the free version.
Part of being efficient in your school marketing is knowing when to call in reinforcements. In-house marketing teams can be expensive and asking staff members to double as graphics designers or social media managers can stretch them to thin.
To outsource some of this work, first consider any potential parent volunteers whom you can tap. If you don’t have this information, start identifying these skills as soon as a new family signs up. Modifying your enrollment form to inquire about parental skills or job experience is an easy way to develop a school “talent pool.” I talked about the changes you need to make to your enrollment form in this article.
If your parents are all tapped out, you can contract freelancers through freelance marketplaces like Fiverr or Upwork, which house thousands of experts offering an array of marketing services. While freelancers on Upwork bid for projects, you can purchase services from Fiverr freelancers directly.
Whether you’re looking for an SEO specialist to help prospective families find you more easily on Google or a digital ad specialist who will create and optimize Facebook ads for your school, freelancers on Fiverr generally offer their services starting at a $5 level.
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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