Between graphic design, video hosting, email nurturing, enrollment management and beyond, inbound marketing for schools requires many moving parts and a full range of tech savvy.
Does your school have the tools you need to make the process smooth and simple for your staff and families?
Considering that the vast majority of your prospective families will research you online before they even contact you, and most of them are more than adept at using technology for their daily tasks and interactions, you absolutely must ensure your online content presents your school as relevant and fresh. If you cannot show your ability to connect with families and students via the online world, you’ll likely lose many parents before they even give you a chance for a personal visit.
We often get requests from our clients for software, programs, and online platforms that can help them manage communication, enrollment, and more. And truly, in our years of providing inbound and enrollment marketing strategies for schools, we’ve gotten our hands in plenty of products that have worked well (and a few that haven’t) to take care of business.
So, if you’re looking for new solutions that can help your school office work smarter next school year, consider trying out some of these during the summer to see what works, so you’re ready to implement when the school year starts!
Nine Tech Solutions for Private School Administration and Marketing
This online platform has plenty to offer in its freeware version, allowing you to create stunning and fresh graphics using their drag and drop online tools. With templates for every major social media platform, printed materials, graphs and infographics, and more, you can create professional-looking materials simply and without having to purchase expensive design software. They do have a subscription plan to get premium benefits, with special pricing for teachers and a free subscription for non-profits, so it’s a fantastic option for private schools!
If you’ve got no one on your team with an eye for graphic design (or the time to do it), DesignPickle.com will provide you with your own freelance designer who will do pretty much any graphic project you send his or her way for one flat monthly rate. It’s cheaper than hiring your own graphic designer, and with a money-back guarantee it’s also pretty risk free.
3. Sprout Video
We’ve said it before: video must be a key part of your school marketing strategy. But it can be tricky to find the right tools to host and share your videos. Sprout Video allows you to create professional-looking video websites (with secure sign-ins to keep your premium content safe and only in the hands of the right people), SEO, marketing help, and performance analytics to help your videos work hard for your school. Basic plans begin at $59.99 a month.
Another user-friendly and useful video-hosting site is Wistia, which provides a responsive, embeddable player for your website and email campaigns. With 360 playback capabilities, comprehensive analytics and SEO help, it’s a popular option for many schools looking to use professional videos to help website visitors get to know their culture. They have a free option that provides all their standard features and allows you to host up three videos, with Wistia branding that appears on your video player; the $99 per month Pro Plan gets you 10 included videos (and 25 cents for each additional), and no Wistia branding on the player.
Yes, you can simply host all of your videos on YouTube for free, but you may find some benefits in using a video hosting site like Wistia or Sprout. For example, these videos often load faster for visitors, are more mobile responsive when embedded, generally look nicer on your website and provide tracking, analytics, and search engine optimization that YouTube can’t offer. If you’re hoping to use video to increase traffic and lead conversions on your own website, you’ll want to use a video hosting site like one of these listed above.
That’s not to say that there’s no place for YouTube in your tech toolbox; it just serves a different purpose, one that focuses much more on social engagement within the YouTube website.
Basically the industry gold standard in email marketing, Constant Contact provides you customizable, clean, and professional email templates to engage with your contacts (with no coding experience required). They offer an image library at your disposal, plus storage for your own images as well as tracking, reporting and contact management. Cost depends on how many emails are in your lists (the lowest tier goes up to 500 contacts), and there is also an “Email Plus” plan that offers increased capabilities. Nonprofits receive a 20%-30% discount on prepaid plans.
6. Mail Chimp
Though the name may sound silly, Mail Chimp can be a seriously helpful tool to create great-looking emails. It may be a bit cheaper than Constant Contact, but that doesn’t mean that its features and usability are lacking in any way. In fact, there are some areas where Mail Chimp bests Constant Contact in their offerings. They even have a free plan for up to 2,000 contacts and 12,000 emails per month (that number represents each email sent to each contact). This article provides a helpful review and comparison of both Mail Chimp and Constant Contact, if you’re interested in seeing which one might serve your school best.
Whatever you do, please do not just send your marketing emails straight from your school email address/client. Not only will it increase your risks of being flagged as a spammer, but your emails will look messier and you won’t be able to track their performance or know how your leads are responding to your emails. A reputable email marketing product like Constant Contact or Mail Chimp can package your deliveries so that your emails aren’t flagged as spammer, and their templates are designed to be mobile responsive and keep the same clean look across multiple email clients, assuring you that the email your prospective families open looks the same as it did when you created it on your screen.
Internal communication & file management
Google’s menu of apps provide cloud-based, shareable documents, spreadsheets, presentations and more that are in a format familiar to anyone who has used Microsoft Office. Get a Gmail account, shareable calendar, and pretty much everything you need so that your administrators and faculty can keep each other in the know. Using G Suite, someone can create a document (say, the agenda for Grandparents’ Day or a retention spreadsheet) and allow others on the team access to edit and comment as needed, without having to deal with email attachments. Plans start at $5 per user per month.
Less cumbersome and more immediate than sending group emails, Slack is a team messaging app that allows you collaborate, share ideas, and get everyone on the same page. Create different channels that various employees or volunteers are included on, allowing task-specific conversations among those who are involved. Don’t allow your team to get stuck in a winding mess of reply-all emails or unrelated tangents; Slack allows threads for side conversations, and the ability for users to add or delete themselves from channels as needed. There is a free plan that may be more than enough for your staff, with Standard and Plus plans for $6.67 and $12.50 per user, per month, respectively.
Complete Inbound Management, CRM, Website Hosting, and More
We can’t say enough about Hubspot’s irreplaceable role in inbound marketing management. It’s a one-stop shop for nearly everything you need to manage your contacts, campaigns, and website. Send professional looking emails, schedule and manage social media posts, host a fully-optimized blog, create your user friendly website, design your compelling calls to action and more, all within the framework of their organized workflows that allow you to manage your leads according to how they found you, where they are in the buyer’s journey, which parent persona they best fit into, and how engaged they are with your school. They are the go-to resource on all things inbound. We wrote a blog post about this last year, so check it out here for more details on why Hubspot is an invaluable tool for your private school.
Summer is a great time to evaluate what worked and what didn't for your school this past year. Take this time now to make sure you keep your communications tools fresh and relevant, so that you can maximize your time and resources to reach more families once school starts back up again!