Ahhh, summer break.
For your school, it has likely either just begun or it’s peeking right around the corner, mere days away.
It’s a time for you and your tireless, tedious marketing efforts to kick back, close your eyes, and bask in the summer sunlight with a drink in your hand until August, right? Vacation vibes only for the next few months!
(Hold on a moment while we gather our composure from our laughter over here.)
Well, now that’s over with...no, your school marketing plan can’t take a summer vacation. If it does, your enrollment numbers will likewise take a hiatus. And that’s something that your private school probably can’t afford.
Summer is still an active season for school admissions (think of all those families who found the school year so busy they didn’t take the time to complete the process, the ones who are still weighing their options and haven’t yet decided, and the ones who are planning ahead for next year). With that in mind, your private school marketing activities need to keep forging ahead at nearly full throttle.
Here are five things your private school can do this summer to make the most of the season's marketing opportunities.
1. Keep Blogging
Your school blog should most definitely not take a summer siesta. Keep those posts coming for your loyal subscribers, current families, social media followers, and casual web searchers, because if you stay out of sight, you fall out of mind.
Your website works 24/7 to attract prospective parents from local internet searches, but if it gets stale and tired, it can’t do its job well. Regular, relevant blog posts keep your site fresh, fueling it with content that will engage and draw parents to get to know your school.
A couple of tips to make this happen:
Plan out your editorial calendar.Instead of flying by the seat of your pants and just writing about whatever strikes your fancy whenever the fancy strikes, recruit your team of writers and decide on topics ahead of time to cover the summer months, so that no one is caught unawares with nothing to write about for a few weeks at a time.
Match your content to the season.Consider what is on families’ minds this summer and write simple posts accordingly. Some suggestions:
- Ways to Prevent Summer Learning Loss
- Summer Travel Tips for Families
- Summer Boredom Busters
- Ways to Make Family Memories Over the Summer
- Back-to-School Preparation and Planning
Recycle and repurpose.If your school has been blogging for a while, look back over some of your most popular past posts and refresh them for a new life on your summer blog.
2) Evaluate Your Personas
Summer is prime time for reflection for your private school. Take some time to think strategically about your school marketing strategy and determine where your course needs to shift in direction. The first place to look is in your target Parent Personas.
Get together with your admissions team to evaluate what kinds of parents are enrolling at your school. What is drawing them to apply? What are their major concerns for their child’s education? What are their family’s priorities? What are their primary demographics (location, income, age, etc.)?
Once you’ve adequately answered these questions and more about who is coming to your school, you can take that information and fine-tune your target audience profile. You may find some new revelations or shifts in trends regarding what is drawing parents to apply to your school, or even an opportunity to reach a new group of parents that you haven’t yet considered.
No matter how impressive your marketing messages and materials are, your marketing strategy will fall flat if it doesn’t speak to the heart of mission-appropriate families who are most likely to benefit from your school community. A good school marketing strategy starts with a firm handle on your Parent Personas. Summer is a perfect time to establish that handle.
3) Follow Up on Your Leads
Often, late spring brings an eruption of admissions activity. Combined with the myriad of issues and activities that the end of school year brings, and there’s a chance that many of them may have fallen by the wayside.
Comb through your database of prospects from this year - new website contacts and subscribers, phone and email contacts, school visits, open house attendees, etc. Make a personal phone call to each of them to touch base. Consider also offering a limited time “summer special” to encourage action for those that might be on the fence (for example, an coupon for $20 off your application fee if you submit by June 30).
If you feel like your school staff (most likely the Head of School or Admissions Director) has perhaps exhausted your communication opportunities with some of these prospects (maybe you’ve done a bang-up job keeping in touch with them over the school year), now is a great time to mobilize some Parent Ambassadors to make those contacts. Ask some parents who have children in the grades that your prospective families are considering to give them a friendly call or email checking in, offering to answer questions, and chat about the school. Some of these prospects may find it easier to be more open with another parent, and many will appreciate the new connection.
4) Refresh and Revamp Your Word of Mouth Marketing
Speaking of parent ambassadors, now is the time to get your Word of Mouth Marketing strategy in order. Have your plan in place for next year (complete with necessary materials ordered and campaigns planned for sharing), with some key parents at the ready to hit the ground running. Over the summer months, comb through your list of current parents and consider some exceptionally “satisfied customers” that might serve well as ambassadors for your school. These are parents who are your biggest cheerleaders, the ones who voice their support for your school and who you consider to be friends and champions of your mission.
Give these parents a call or drop them an email to see if they might be willing to serve on a select team that is dedicated to intentionally spreading your school’s message to their spheres of influence. Set a schedule and plan a kickoff meeting for when the school year starts so that this team will know what’s coming and be ready to go once September rolls around.
5) Host an Event
Maybe you already have some social events planned for your school community over the summer - play dates, ice cream socials, nights out at the ballpark, etc. If you do, consider inviting your prospective parents, as well as encouraging your current families to invite their friends. Give out postcards or flyers to local churches (especially those with congregants that attend your school) inviting their families to join you as well. It’s a fun, relaxed time for parents to get to know not only your school leaders, but also your families - the ones that make up the heart of your school. Their children will play with your students, the parents will chat and (hopefully) make some new friends, and they’ll walk away with some meaningful connections to your school and new reasons to consider applying!
If you don’t already have this type of event planned, it’s not too late to add one to your calendar. Keep it simple! You may even consider doing something on a smaller scale for your younger student market, like a free community story or craft time. A small investment can go a long way! Buy t-shirts and supplies for a tie-dye day, get your science teacher to have some STEM or nature science experiments, or simply read a classic children’s story and plan a craft to accompany it. Parents are often looking for fun, free things to keep their little ones entertained over the summer, so seize the opportunity to reach your market and make some new friends in the process!
Just planning and hosting an event doesn't necessarily get the right people to come to it, though! Make sure you promote your event adequately through social media (Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest), and give electronic and printed materials to your Word of Mouth team to help you spread the news.
Many schools have had success with summer day camp programs that are open to the public and hosted at the school, for activities like arts, sports, cooking, science, theater, and more (depending on the interest and availability of your faculty and school community members who would be leading these camps). While it's probably too late in the game to add something like this to your 2018 summer calendar, it's something to think about for next year to help you extend your reach in the community. These events provide a popular opportunity for your current families to invite their friends to your school in a "non-salesy" way.
Focus on the Youth Pastors
Additionally, summer is a prime time to build your relationships with local churches - particularly youth pastors - and the right event can be a perfect avenue to do just that! Consider planning a program that will attract and HELP these youth pastors, who are often looking for fun and enriching activities to do with the kids in their church. For example, how about a multi-youth-group kickball or dodgeball tournament that engages several churches in your area?
Now, to promote this type of program, you have to go deeper than simply asking the church secretary to post an announcement in the bulletin (a request to which they will probably say no). You must reach out to the youth pastors personally to invite them and have a conversation with them on how you can help serve their needs. Listen to them, and show them you can be a partner for them in shepherding their students by hearing their concerns and helping come up with ways you can support their program. Then, give them something about which they can get excited, and then enjoy building a mutually beneficial relationship with these crucial family influencers in your area.
We hope these ideas have rekindled your school marketing fire and provided ample fuel to get you through these summer months. September may seem like a long way off, but it will be here before we know it. Make sure you’ve set your private school up for success in the next school year by taking applying these marking strategies for school enrollment now to maintain maximum marketing momentum!