Expert Marketing Strategies for Independent Schools
August 24, 2016
Interested in increased admissions and involvement at your school? Here are free marketing tips from our independent school marketing pro, Leslie June.
1. CREATE Content TO ATTRACT POTENTIAL NEW FAMILIES
On the internet today there are commonly two kinds of marketing: outbound and inbound:
|Reaching out to your potential customers through platforms such as direct mail, email marketing, TV and print advertisements
||Techniques to bring clients come to you, often through interesting and original content
Inbound marketing is currently the most favored marketing technique, and it works incredibly well.
We like to keep three things in mind when creating any inbound marketing campaign:
- Custom - It is important that your content is completely original, whether it be a blog, Facebook post, or an email. Avoid excessively sharing content from other sources, and never resort to posting trendy clickbait. Make sure the majority of your content is created by you or your marketing agency.
- Comprehensive - Your content needs to be not only relevant but also appealing to your audience and their lifestyle.
- Consistent - Content creation needs to be occurring on a predictable, routine schedule in order for it to be effective. For example, if you have an important event coming up at the school, remind families and alumni of the event at least 3 months in advance so that they can arrange their travel plans. If you have a school dance, soccer tournament, or science fair, be sure to share articles and photos from these events no later than 4 days after the event happened. You don't have to go overboard with sharing, though - not every event needs to be shared, and you should never sacrifice quality in favor of quantity.
2. High-Quality Videos & Photography
High-quality images are essential for your website and marketing practices as they illustrate campus life far better than text. With video, you can easily share narratives of your students growing into hardworking, successful professionals.
It is also important to hire (or seek a volunteer from within your community) a professional photographer at any event you have. Candids from events that include current students, teachers, parents, staff, and alumni have incredible value: they not only add real faces and personalities to your website, but they also have the potential to expand your audience if families share these photos with friends on social media.
3. Content That Moves - Videos & GIFs
Videos are crucial for private school websites because they illustrate the most accurate, engaging portrait of your campus.
Many businesses can promote their company or products perfectly through photography alone because there isn't such a great need to share their company culture. However, with an independent school, the culture is what potential families need to see before they feel secure in enrolling their child. Boarding schools require video even more: they need to show potential families what their child's future home looks like.
Illustrating campus life, school culture, the local environment, and activities will help families feel more comfortable leaving their children in your care. Facebook and other social media platforms now autoplay videos. Add captions to any videos you plan on sharing to to social sites, that way users won't even have to turn on their sound to fully enjoy your video.
4. Social Media
Social media is essential in reaching families. With social media you can:
- Share your "lighter" posts, such as highlights from a swim meet, that way you can save more critical information for emails and never overwhelm parents with excessive content
- Highlight students' hard work and successes, giving families a sense of community and pride in your school
- Reach alumni and keep graduate classes connected with private Facebook groups
Have you seen the new Facebook Live feature? Facebook’s latest tool lets you live-stream events. Log in to your school's Facebook page during a pep rally, presentation, or guest speaker and start live-streaming to reach your followers in real time. People love videos, and this is an easy and effective way to reach your audience.
5. Email Marketing
With email marketing platforms such as Constant Contact and MailChimp, it’s easy to set up regularly scheduled and effective email marketing platforms. Email marketing for current families is especially important because it provides information directly to constituents. Not all of your Facebook posts will reach families as Facebook restricts your organic reach. Emailing directly ensures they won't miss an upcoming event. Again, reaching out regularly makes them feel connected and prevents them from feeling like you only contact them for donations and during fundraisers. Thus, email is a privilege - and you should never abuse it: email only your most important, time-sensitive information, consolidate information into one email rather than sending multipule for each topic, and always avoid sending too many emails... or else you will lose subscribers!
6. Direct Mail
How often have you heard someone (or perhaps yourself) complain about how many emails they receive on a daily basis? Here’s how direct mail stands out:
- Since information is commonly shared digitally, the feeling of only interacting with a screen can put distance in your constituent relationships
- Direct mail allows you to add a personal touch, resulting in increased trust and stronger relationships - these can be as simple as addressing the recipient by name, or adding photos, stickers, or a business card from the department's sender
- Quality printed materials add a level of professionalism that cannot be achieved online
- There is no spam filter on direct mail
- Once your direct mail makes it into someone's home, it is literally sitting at the dinner table with your prospective or current family
For families that are already enrolled in your school, printed materials are important because it is a tangible object - something they can hang on the fridge or add to a calendar.
7. Tell Your Story & Set Yourself Apart From the Competition
All of the content you create gives you an opportunity to stand out from your competitors. What makes your school the best choice for someone's child? Are you a single-gender boarding school? Are you the first to have a nationally-ranked choir? Emphasize what makes your school unique:
- Share testimonials from students, staff, parents, teachers, or alumni
- Highlight successful students and alumni. You can also interview them and ask how their experience at your school made a difference
- Be a local resource: provide a page with local events or favorite nearby businesses. This will help new families learn about your school's location while also expanding awareness of your school
8. Fundraising Effectively
Fundraising is important for independent schools, but it’s also important that it is done right. If you're having trouble connecting with donors, try hosting an event - it is a much friendlier approach to fundraising compared to cold-calling. Some events that work well for fundraising include:
- 5k Races
These events can also help build community, and you can run nearly all of these events with volunteers, such as parents, who generally love being involved in their kids' schools. It’s important to note that the most effective fundraising campaigns are those that are held only 1-2 times a year. This allows you more preparation time (especially important if it’s run by volunteers) and it also prevents your school from sounding needy.
CASE STUDY: fundraising Challenge against a rival school
One school decided to change up their typical end-of-the-year fundraising efforts by running a competition with their rival school. A separate, "neutral" website of the two opposing schools handled donations and also instantly displayed the latest money raised in thermometers. Instead of requesting donations, the schools were instead able to ask for help "beating our rival school" making it easier to share the fundraising efforts on social platforms without pushing away members of the community. Since constituents were motivated to beat their opponent, awareness of the fundraiser grew and so did the funds raised in that quarter.
9. Hire a Marketing STUDIO
At Bitcookie we have redesigned and rebuilt independent school websites, improved google rankings with Search Engine Optimization (SEO), produced custom digital and print materials, and provided results: read our case study on how we helped one boarding school increase their applicants by boosting annual application page views by 1062%.
We know that running a school is more than a full-time job. It takes passion and dedication to perfectly manage all the aspects of a well-respected school. Marketing is incredibly time-consuming, which is why a marketing and web design studio might be the best fit for your school. To learn more about how we can help your school, give us a call!