Marketing is usually a word used by for-profit businesses and shunned by educators. Most of us don’t enjoy being “marketed” to, so we don’t like the thought of having to market ourselves when we have dedicated our lives to one of service and feel we should be exempt from all that nasty marketing/sales stuff.
However, we would be wrong.
Marketing ourselves and our expertise is actually something we each do every day. We do it with our supervisors, our students, our spouses, and our peers. We certainly don’t call it marketing, but if we don’t present ourselves well, we risk having people form opinions about us that might not be the ones we would choose. So, we hope to guide their opinions through our words and our actions. That is what marketing our schools is all about—guiding perceptions. So, here is why we must get on board and learn to market our schools effectively:
Making Your Case
Schools are under tremendous financial and political pressure. Costs are rising and resources are declining. Public perception about education in the U.S. is often quite dismal, arguably quite unfairly. If the only message being broadcast about our schools is by the media, who is usually on the search for the most sensational story it can publish, we have no hope of being represented fairly or kindly. We must take this bull by the horns, or we are sure to become impaled in the struggle for reputation. Just a few of the areas where effective marketing has a huge impact are:
- Student enrollment
- Funding increases (taxes, tuition, fund raising)
- Quality teacher recruitment
- Parent engagement and support
- Student performance
- Staff morale
- Student spirit
- Building trust and confidence
Time and Money Well Spent
You might be thinking that you simply don’t have any time to invest in marketing efforts. Your staff is already maxed out with responsibilities. But, whether you realize it or not, you are already spending a lot of time and effort (which equates to money) on marketing activities. Whenever a parent calls and talks to a staff member, or when someone visits your website or attends a back-to-school event or receives a newsletter sent home in a backpack, there is a marketing cost involved. What is important is to make these efforts worthwhile and effective.
Marketing = Focused and Deliberate Communication
So, how do you do it right? It can be quite complex, so for starters, let’s review one of the most affordable and effective marketing and communication resources you have—your website. In conjunction with your social media efforts, your website is the single most important channel available (managed effectively, of course). Studies show that a majority of parents researching schools first visited the school’s website. The most successful school websites were not always the flashiest or the most technologically advanced, but they were the ones that consistently reinforced their key messages with evidence in the form of articles and stories that backed up their claims. These sites also provided easy access to parents and prospective staff about how to get more information. Here are a few critical elements to a good marketing website:
- Use key messages to differentiate your school.
- Use stories and articles to share your school’s successes and reinforce your key messages.
- Provide necessary contact information and resources to get needed answers to questions.
- Provide online forms to make registration or application simple and quick.
- Share school background and history that reinforce your school’s key messages and goals.
- Include an up-to-date calendar of events and activities.
- Create a marketing area of the website that is focused on answering the questions about why your school might be the best choice for their child (targeting your educational strengths).
- Include testimonials from alumni, students, parents, staff, and administrators to build trust that you do, indeed, deliver on your promises.
- Assure that your website is error free, intuitive, easy to navigate, and current.
- Did we mention keeping it current? Well, if you missed it, here it is again because if it isn’t, then parents won’t return again, and you’ll have done more harm than good.
Between your website and your social media (working in concert with one another) you can create and maintain an amazing marketing and communication platform. It will be one you can control, and it will become the primary resource for information to all of your shareholders—even the local media.
Let School Webmasters help you make it happen—easily and affordably. Put our expert staff to work on your behalf, and begin to garner the benefits of effective marketing communication.