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. We may 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, fundraising)
- Quality teacher recruitment
- Parent engagement and support
- Student performance
- Staff morale
- Student spirit
- 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 school 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 of a good school 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 the 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, accessible, mobile-friendly, 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.
But, there is one more effort you need to implement for today’s digital parent.
Using Inbound Marketing for your School
In addition to implementing effective and transparent communication using your website and social media platforms, including inbound marketing in your school marketing efforts (also called digital marketing or content marketing). Unlike expensive and interruptive methods like advertisements, billboards, or radio and TV ads (or outbound marketing), use marketing methods that work in today’s digital age.
Parents, the decision-makers for where their students enroll, don’t like being sold to and don’t trust a sales pitch any more than you do. What is their decision-making process? It is likely the same one you use. They Google it! They go online and research the available options. They look at reviews and testimonials. Like you, parents of school-age students live in an age of easy-access information. The Internet has allowed us all to get the information we want when we need it. And we want it on our terms and at our convenience. Whether you are looking for students to fill those empty desks or need to recruit quality staff to teach and support those students, address the needs of your targeted customers.
To develop the kind of trust and respect that will help your school become the school of choice, you must provide the information potential customers can actually use when they need it. That includes affordable and effective marketing methods like content marketing, local search engine optimization (SEO), blogging, social media ads, opt-in emails and nurturing campaigns, pay-per-click (PPC), and digital marketing.
Basically, content or inbound marketing for schools means creating informative and useful content that helps parents make the best choice for their child (or staff the right choice for their careers). Sharing honest subject matter expertise for free on the topics they need will build trust and confidence. It means pulling the ideal customers in when they are looking for what you offer. It involves earning their attention organically and not bugging or begging.
Let School Webmasters help you make this happen—easily and affordably with one of our school marketing services. Put our expert staff to work on your behalf, and begin to garner the benefits of effective marketing communication.
However, if you are more of the DIY type and want to implement school marketing using only your in-house resources, we also provide a year-long course in the form of a Marketing Your School calendar/toolkit that includes 50 weeks of marketing strategies. Anyone, regardless of their previous marketing experience, can implement these ideas one day at a time. Visit Marketing Your School to learn more about this resource for schools.
For more information on marketing your school, check our these articles (or just give us a call at 888.750-4556 or get more information on our inbound marketing services):
- Inbound Marketing for Schools, Part 1
- Inbound Marketing for School, Part 2
- 3 Proven Pillars of an Effective Marketing Plan
- School Branding: How to Stand Out From the Crowd
- What Private Schools Do Right that Public Schools Suck At
- Does Your School Website Help You Become a School of Choice?
- Using Testimonials to Increase Enrollment
Jim Leedy, Director of Business Development