How to Talk So Prospective Parents Listen: Storytelling in School Marketing

Posted by Ralph Cochran on Sep 19, 2017 3:10:00 PM

A new school year brings about fresh faces, fresh curriculum ideas, and hopefully a fresh approach to your school's marketing strategy.

If you're finding that the fancy graphics and impressive statistics you've stacked up in your arsenal aren't bringing in the enrollment results you're hoping for, then it's time to take your marketing to  new and more effective level - by using a technique that's old as time itself: storytelling.

Let me aptly begin by telling a story. I often visit schools as an undercover secret shopper. Whether the school is my client or a competitor, I learn the most about the way they operate when I catch them off guard. I visited one particular school as a walk-in and had to wait for quite some time before anyone could attend to me. Amazingly they were not ready for a potential parent to walk in their front door. Eventually the Head of School came by and asked me to his office. He was kind and asked a few questions about my family. He then proceeded to tell me tons of details about the school. He talked about their great curriculum, the excellent programs, the high test scores and their amazing athletics. This went on for around 20 minutes until I suggested that I needed to go. I asked a few questions, thanked the Head of School and left.

Throughout the interview, he seemed nervous and unsure of what to say or how to connect with me as a prospective parent.  Sadly, this is a common experience for me as school admissions staff and leadership like to tell lots of facts and data, listen poorly, ask closed ended questions, and don't connect with me acting as a prospect. 

Reenrollment (and admissions) season will be upon us before you know it, so with that in mind, now is the time to build a suppy of narratives that will help you connect with families who are considering whether to invest in an education your school. Read on for some fresh ideas to help you approach marketing from a new, effective perspective this year.

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Topics: private school marketing, content marketing, admissions

Making Sweet Music: What Exactly Does an Agency DO for School Admissions?

Posted by Ralph Cochran on Sep 12, 2017 3:00:00 PM

The school year is moving into full swing. Your offices and classrooms are humming along with the symphonies of copiers and coffee machines, lectures and laughter, beepers and bells, composing the soundtrack of a bustling school as students, teachers, and parents buzz in and out. In the midst of this cacophony, there is the ever-drumming beat of enrollment needs underscoring all you do - after all, you need students in order to function, and the clock is already ticking to start drawing them in for next year.

If you're finding it a struggle to nail down your admissions marketing strategy - or to find the time and resources to implement it well - you may already be considering working with an agency to get the ball rolling. This is no small decision, because it's no small investment. That's why we know many of our clients wonder before hiring us: "What exactly does our school get for our money?"

Well, just as you've got that aforementioned symphony serenading your busy school days and heralding a top-notch education experience for your students, the business of school marketing can likewise be akin to an orchestra. And we at Schola consider ourselves the composer and conductor.

You see, there is a myriad of pieces that work together in harmony to create a well-thought and well-executed school marketing strategy. Each has an important role in the final product, which is made richer by the unique contributions of every aspect.

Your job is to educate, and you do it well. You don't need to have the expertise of a marketing executive, PR professional, and web developer - you need to run a great school. But if the right people don't even know about you, then your work is all for naught and your mission can't be fulfilled.

Similarly, the instrumentalists in an orchestra don't need to know how to write the music. They need to play their piece with skill and precision and passion. But without a sheet of music and a conductor, the music will likely be a hot mess - or it may not even get started at all!

The role of an inbound marketing agency serves to cue and conduct the various pieces that get your message out to your future enrolled families so that the plan runs smoothly, just like a well-played concert. We write the music and set the symphony in motion, then keep our hands, ears, and eyes on each player in order to ensure they are coming in at the right time and pace.

Let's take a look at the various "instruments" in an inbound campaign for schools that your agency's retainer will likely cover:

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Topics: inbound marketing, School marketing, admissions

Don't Miss It: How to Tell If A Prospective Parent is Ready to Enroll NOW

Posted by Sue Carback on Sep 5, 2017 4:16:27 PM

Those working in school admissions know that the buying cycle for school enrollment is incredibly long. The typical parent begins checking out school options 9-12 months in advance of the school year. This means that marketing and admissions professionals need to be prepared with content that continues to nurture prospects for several months while they come to a decision.

However, the opposite can happen, and a parent could show up in your office one morning and want to enroll their child on the spot. Sometimes trigger events such as a sudden move to a new community or dissatisfaction with the current school calls for an immediate desire to enroll.

No matter the extreme, admission directors have to accurately read the cards and be prepared to respond to various scenarios.

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Topics: admissions

Stop Enrollment Leaks: The 3 Funnels of School Admissions Marketing

Posted by Ralph Cochran on Aug 29, 2017 3:49:05 PM

Yes, we know school just started and you're in the throes of back-to-school brouhaha and all that goes along with it. But as your offices and hallways settle into a state of normalcy over the coming days, your administrative and school admissions staff will once again hearken to the ever-present knock of school marketing needs on your door. We've said it before: next year's enrollment and admissions marketing activities begin on this year's first day of school. So, what steps are you taking to set your 2018-2019 enrollment numbers up for success?

If you have a solid handle on your parent personas, it's time to understand the various steps they go through in their journey to becoming enrolled families (and, then, consistently re-enrolled families). Here's a visual for you: did you know that everyone who enrolls in your school has cascaded through a series of marketing funnels? As thrilling as that sounds, keeping this visual in mind can help you manage your school marketing efforts.

We have identified three marketing funnels that each family travels through on their way to enrollment. If your school is going to effective at gathering prospects, converting them into applicants, and convincing them to enroll, you absolutely must make sure you are meeting their needs along each step of the way. Otherwise, there will be a leak in your funnel where students will trickle - or gush - out, to your school's detriment.

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Topics: enrollment growth, School marketing, admissions

Counting the Cost: Can Your School Do Inbound Marketing In-House?

Posted by Kylee Bowman on Aug 22, 2017 3:34:39 PM

If you've spent any amount of time reading our blog, or even networking with other school administrators, you probably have heard about the concept of inbound marketing by now. You know, the idea that the traditional means of advertising are falling by the wayside with today's audiences (ie, parents of little ones) in favor of non-intrusive online engagement.

Like blogs. Webinars. Videos. Social media posts. And a great website to boot.

And as a non-profit private school who strives to be an exceptional steward of your resources (and keep tuition low), you might rejoice in this new wave of marketing, because it's way less expensive than running radio, television, or print ads. And, it doesn't sound too hard, right? Anyone can write a blog or post on Facebook (just look at the millions of bloggers and social media users out there).

Maybe you and your team can execute your school's content marketing in-house with the people you already have, right?

Possibly. But, as with so many big decisions, you must make sure you count the cost before taking it on.

Yes, of course, we are a marketing agency that specializes in doing inbound marketing for schools, universities, and ministries, so we are understandably biased toward the decision to hire an agency to manage these activities. But there is a reason we exist, and why we're passionate about helping schools like you achieve your enrollment goals through inbound: because to do it right takes an immense amount of time. And just as many schools are tight on money, we know that their staff is likewise pretty short on time, too.

Time is just the tip of the iceberg. Running an inbound marketing campaign requires expertise beyond knowing how to hit "publish" on an eloquent post or show-stopping video. Let's take a moment here to look at exactly what is involved in inbound marketing so that your team can have all the tools you need to decide whether you've got the resources to do it yourselves.

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Topics: inbound marketing, School marketing