Kicking off our deeper dive into our Seven New Year’s Resolution for Private Schools, the first order of business we’re taking a look at today is your overall marketing execution.
As we said earlier, if the Christmas season is the gangbusters time for retail, then January and February comprise the busiest season for private school traffic.
A quick look on Google Trends reveals that “private school” related keyword searches peak in the first two months of the year (with August following in second place for all of those procrastinating parents). This is the prime time when parents in your area are exploring education options for their children. All the schools in your area are starting to promote their open houses, banners are out touting “Now Enrolling for 2018/2019!” messages, and with the new year rolling out, everyone is thinking of fresh beginnings.
The question is, are you showing up where it matters most so parents can include your school in their consideration? When they Google “private schools in ABC County,” does your website pop up near the top of their search? When they’re on social media engaging with friends, do they see your news and links peppered throughout their news feed? And when they are searching for solutions to their parenting and schooling concerns, do they find your resources helpful and accessible?
If the answer to any of these questions is “no,” then you are missing your greatest window of opportunity to bring in new applicants this year.
The good news is that unlike television, radio, and print ads, quality online content marketing can be produced and disseminated with significantly less lead time. Provided you have a solid message, rich content, and a well-informed inbound marketing strategy, an effective online marketing campaign can be implemented and begin drawing in new, measurable leads within a couple of weeks or even days.
Here’s one more feather in the hat for online content marketing: it builds trust with your audiences in ways that traditional advertising simply cannot. How? By offering not only valuable and values-aligned resources for parents, but also by giving a more complete picture of who you are and what you stand for. You are not merely creating awareness of your school, or simply rattling off a tagline about why you’re great. You are offering a nourishing morsel of yourself for these families to digest, and even an extended hand of friendship - an invaluable connection that happens even before they make their first phone call or visit.
How do you turn a new leaf over in your 2018 school admissions marketing execution? Here are some simple practices to implement.
Develop a piece of premium content that you can offer online visitors...in exchange for their email address and other pertinent information, of course. Brainstorm with administrators, parents, and teachers of a heart-hitting topic that will grab your target parents (usually parents of early-elementary children) and that leaders from your school can offer insight or advice on in a way that reveals your school’s values, culture, and excellence.
This content can come in the form of an ebook, webinar, or both, and can be produced in-house by people within your community who have expertise or are well-spoken on the topic at hand (think: kindergarten and preschool teachers to discuss how to get your child ready for kindergarten, youth pastors for discussing developing healthy relationship habits, or someone with a psychology background to share on developmentally-appropriate discipline strategies).
The key is to zero in on a topic that will not only give you an opportunity to showcase who you are, but more importantly, will meet parents where they are - in the midst of their concerns and their hopes for their kids - and grab them by the hand to support and encourage them.
As we mentioned earlier, today’s audience requires you to build trust with them, not just show off to them. If that’s an important factor in marketing trivial products like vacuum cleaners (it is!), how much more crucial is it when it comes to marketing a school - a massive financial, time, and emotional family investment?
Premium content will not only help parents feel like you’re in their corner; it will also help them take that next (albeit baby) step toward developing a relationship with you, by giving you their contact information.
What good is a premium content offer if no one sees it? Local parents - potential families for your school - are Googling every day.
They’re searching for products, directions, advice...and for schools.
Does your school show up near the top of the list?Your website, content, and landing pages must be search engine optimized to reach the wide audience you need this year. The basics to remember in order to make this happen?
Discuss with a team of employees and parents what topics your school wants to rank for, then use Google Trends to nail down keywords associated with that topic that will help your school show up where it matters. Read more practical tips here.
Focus your efforts on proving to search engines where you’re located, so that your school shows up in local listings and ends up reaching more of the right families who are looking for a school in your area. You can help this along by placing listings in legitimate, respected local directories, linking to local popular sites and organizations (and giving them reasons to link back to you, too), and making sure your school’s location is featured prominently in your website’s USP (unique selling proposition, essentially the primary headline for your website). Get more local SEO tips here.
Keep Website Content fresh
Keep your website fresh and relevant with regular updates and new content. Google’s algorithms favor (and recognize) sites that have frequent updates and new content, and they will crawl your site your more often when you post more often.
Along a similar vein, your freshness appeal is enhanced when you have recent, public, positive reviews. Encourage your current happy families to post reviews of your school on sites like Greatschools.org, privateschoolreview.com, Facebook, and Google Maps, so that parents searching for schools in your area will see plenty of gold stars next to your name.
3. Advertise Online
Advertise online, and, more specifically, on social media.
Look, we’re not saying that ALL traditional advertising should be thrown out the window, but online avenues are less expensive, more targeted, interactive, mobile-friendly, and efficient.
I am expressly recommending that your private school advertise on Facebook, especially in January, February, and March.
Why Facebook? Of course it’s the largest social media platform, with a massive concentration of young moms (yep, the very people you want to reach).
But beyond that, Facebook makes it so easy to put your ad right in front of the viewers that are most likely to enroll in your school, so that you’re not paying for views that won’t go anywhere. Not only will your school be seen by hundreds of fresh eyes, but they will be precisely the eyes that you designed your message for.
How can Facebook do this? Through their “Lookalike Audience” tool, which allows businesses to upload a list of contacts (say, your current parents), from which Facebook will find a batch of people in your area who fit the same general demographic profile (including age, interests, family size and more) to show your ad. If that isn’t a recipe for recruiting happy, enrolled families, I don’t know what is.
Now, what should you advertise on Facebook? Not your upcoming internal events (as delightful as your school play will probably be). And not just the name and tagline of your school. Go back to that keyword research you conducted and the premium content you created, and produce ads that answer the burning questions on parents’ hearts.
Give them a reason to click - be it an content download, a compelling question, a heartstring-tugging testimonial, or a time-sensitive offer. Show them why you belong not only on their newsfeed, but as an integral part of their family’s life.
Yes, Facebook has recently announced a substantial overhaul to its news feed algorithm, shifting away from allowing businesses' posts to show up on personal news feeds alongside friends and family members' posts, but this change doesn't apply to advertising (sponsored posts), which as of now will still appear on individual news feeds.
By employing these three inbound marketing principles in the first quarter of the year, you will set your private school up for a rewarding enrollment season, thanks to your efforts to create trust and build more meaningful relationships with potential families before they even enter your doors.