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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 enrollment 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.

 
When should you look to independent school marketing consultants to help you strategize and give you an outsiders perspective? When you’re first starting out? When you’ve hit a plateau? Or should you wait for your enrollment to be dropping?

 
There is no single answer to these questions. Each school and each situation is unique. But from what I’ve seen, schools generally look to independent school marketing consultants when they are in crisis, which is usually means after several lost years of sub-par enrollment.

 
Would your school benefit from a marketing consultant? If your enrollment isn’t where you want it to be, then the answer is probably yes. Let’s take a look at several situations I routinely see in my own role as a school marketing consultant, by playing a game I like to call “You might need a school marketing consultant if…”

 

You Might Need a School Marketing Consultant If… You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know

 This category of schools has recognized that they don’t know how or don’t have the time 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 a school marketing consultant to point them in the right direction.  For these schools, 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.

 

You Might Need a School Marketing Consultant If… Your Enrollment Is Trending Down and You Don’t Know Why

 This is the most common type of school 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 schools, they are often too close to the situation to clearly see the problem.  An independent school marketing consultant offers that perspective and can back up the client’s gut feeling with good, quantifiable data.  For schools 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.

 

You Might Need a School Marketing Consultant If… You 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 independent school marketing consultant review your programs and offer guidance.

 

You Might Need a School Marketing Consultant If… You Need a Specific Marketing 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 school 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 independent school marketing consultant, 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.  Families 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 expert 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).

 
 

I am always available for a phone call if you want to talk about your challenges.


Lets Chat!

Nick LeRoy

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 nick@brightmindsmarketing.com or call us at 317-361-5255.

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