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Developing an Effective School Marketing Strategy
Steps to Developing an Effective School Marketing Strategy
Schools rely on an effective ‘School marketing strategy‘ to attract students, staff, and resources. But with so many marketing channels and options available, it can be difficult to know where to start.
In this guide from The School Agency, we’ll walk you through the steps of developing an effective marketing strategy for your school. By the end, you’ll have a clear plan to increase visibility and engagement with your target audience.
1. Perform a SWOT Analysis as part of your School Marketing Strategy
A SWOT (meaning strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis is a tool that businesses (and schools) can use to identify the things they’re best and worst at. It’s a great starting point for any marketing strategy because it allows you to focus your efforts on the areas that will have the biggest impact.
To do a SWOT analysis, simply brainstorm a list of your school’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Then, try to group them into categories. For example:
- Strengths: Academic support, extracurriculars, high college acceptance rate, and high student satisfaction scores.
- Weaknesses: Isolated location, high employee turnover, and low enrollment.
- Opportunities: New construction projects, recent grant funding, and increasing demand for private education.
- Threats: Declining enrollments, negative publicity, and increased competition.
Having a clear picture of your school’s strengths and weaknesses will help you develop targeted marketing strategies that address your most pressing needs.
2. Identify Your Value Proposition
Your school’s value proposition is the unique combination of features and benefits that make it attractive to your target market. In other words, it’s what makes your school stand out from the competition.
Coming up with a value proposition is easy once you’ve gotten the SWOT analysis in hand. Simply put, your value proposition should encapsulate your school’s strengths.
If your main strengths are your high levels of academic support and high college acceptance rate, then your value proposition might be something like, “Empowering students to succeed in the world beyond [school name] with excellent academic support and guidance.”
3. Set Goals as part of your School Marketing Strategy
Now that you know what makes your school special, it’s time to set some goals for your marketing strategy. These goals should be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART). Otherwise, it’s hard to hold yourself accountable and measure success.
A school might build a marketing strategy around all kinds of goals, but some common ones include:
- Increasing Enrollment (e.g., “Increase enrollment by 5% in the coming year”)
- Improving Student Retention (e.g., “Decrease the number of students who leave before graduation by 2% in the next two years”)
- Generating More Positive Press (e.g., “Secure 3 positive media placements per month”)
- Building Brand Awareness (e.g., “Increase brand awareness among parents of high school students by 10% in the next six months”)
4. Do Your Target Market Research
As an established school, you hopefully have a pretty sound understanding of your target market already. But if you’re starting a new school or looking to expand your reach, it’s important to do your research as part of your school marketing strategy.
There are a few key questions you’ll want to answer as part of your target market research:
- Who are your ideal students? Consider factors like age, gender, location, interests, and needs.
- Who are your ideal parents? Consider factors like age, income, location, and ideals.
- What are the main reasons why parents choose your school? Consider things like your school’s values, curriculum, and extracurricular offerings.
- What are the main reasons why parents don’t choose your school? Consider things like your school’s location, cost, and reputation.
- What are the main concerns of parents who are considering private education? Consider things like affordability, admissions, and inclusivity.
5. Develop Your Messaging
Once you have a deep understanding of your target market, it’s time to start thinking about your messaging. This is the language you’ll use to communicate with your market, and it should be carefully crafted to appeal to their needs and concerns.
Some things to keep in mind as you develop your messaging:
- Be clear and concise. Keep your language simple and easy to understand. Avoid jargon, technical terms, and long-winded sentences.
- Be empathetic. Put yourself in your target market’s shoes and consider what they might want or need to hear.
- Tell a story. Use narratives and anecdotes to bring your school’s message to life.
- Build on your foundation. Put your SWOT analysis and value proposition to good use by building your messaging from there.
6. Choose Your Marketing Channels
Now that you know what you want to say (your messaging), it’s time to decide how you’re going to say it (your marketing channels). There are a lot of different marketing channels out there, and the ones you choose will depend on your school’s unique needs and goals and how your ideal parents like to communicate.
Some common marketing channels used by schools include:
- Website: Your website is often the first point of contact between your school and a prospective student or parent. Make sure it’s up-to-date, visually appealing, informative, and easy to navigate.
- Paid Search: Paid search, also known as search engine marketing (SEM), is a great way to get your school’s website in front of parents who are actively searching for private school options.
- Organic Search: Organic search, also known as search engine optimization (SEO), is all about making your school’s website and content more visible in organic (non-paid) search results an essential longer term investment as part of your school marketing strategy.
- Social Media: Platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are great for building relationships with your target market. Use them to share news, stories, photos, and other timely content as part of your school marketing strategy.
- Paid Social Media: In addition to organic social media, you can also use paid social media ads to reach even more parents.
- Email: Email can be used for everything from sending out a weekly newsletter to inviting parents to an open house. Just make sure you’re not overdoing it—nobody likes an inbox full of spam!
Direct Mail: Sometimes a physical piece of mail can make a big impression. Direct mail can be used for things like postcards, flyers, and brochures.
7. Create Compelling Content
No matter what marketing channels you choose, the key to success is always going to be creating compelling content. This is the stuff that will actually go out into the world and reach your target market, so it’s important that it’s well-written, visually appealing, and aligned with your school’s messaging.
Some tips for creating great content:
- Hire a professional copywriter. A good writer will be able to capture your school’s unique voice and craft messages that resonate with your target market.
- Invest in quality visuals. People are more likely to engage with content that is easy on the eyes. Work with professional designers and photographers to create visuals that are both attractive and on-brand as part of your school marketing strategy.
- Involve your school community. Get parents, students, and staff involved in creating content. They can provide valuable insights into what prospective families are looking for.
- Make it shareable. The more shareable your content is, the more likely it is to reach new parents. Make sure your content is easy to share by including social media buttons and other sharing tools.
When in Doubt, Work with an Agency
Marketing schools is a complex process that involves many moving pieces. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, there’s no shame in working with a marketing agency that specializes in education.
Working with an agency can be a big investment, but it’s often worth it—especially if you’re trying to reach many parents, or you’re marketing a complex product like a boarding school.
At The School Agency, we’ve worked with everything from small private schools to large international boarding schools, and we’re always happy to chat about your specific needs and goals. Reach out today to schedule a consultation call.
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