"How did you hear about our school?"
It's a question every admissions staff or head of school asks prospective parents (Right? At least, we hope you are!). But sometimes it seems you get conflicting or incomplete responses. How can you know for sure what's actually working to bring prospective parents through your doors?
So here's the scenario: You receive a phone call from an interested parent (we'll call her Sarah). On that phone call, you ask her how she heard about your school. She replies that she heard an ad on the radio.
Then, at their tour visit, her husband (let's call him Sam) tells you that he heard about your school from his pastor, while Sarah mentions that she first saw you online. Wait, you remember, I thought she said radio before. So, what's the truth? When and where did this family ACTUALLY learn about your school?
You see, when Sarah and Sam first felt those nagging feelings of concern about their kids' education, Sarah began by Googling "XYZ County Christian schools." She also texted a few of her friends that she knows who send their kids to private school. Sam mentioned it during a men's prayer meeting at his church, where he heard a few different recommendations from his friends and church leaders.
When Sarah searched for school options online, your school was second on the search results list. After checking out your competition (who was first), she visited your website, perused your "vital statistics" and tuition information, and then moved on. Thanks to her searching habits and time spent on your website, an ad from your school occasionally pops up on her Facebook feed.
While driving with her kids a week or two later, she hears one of your radio spots advertising an upcoming open house, and it sparks her memory. So, she gives you a call to get more information. The next time she sees your ad on Facebook - this one linking to a webinar - she clicks on it, views your webinar on essentials for kindergarten readiness (and, in so doing, provides her contact information). After reading your next blog a few days later on family devotions, Sarah clicks the link to sign up for a private tour.
So, Sarah DID hear about you on the radio. And on Facebook. And through word of mouth. And through Google. Each of these avenues worked together in harmony to create the symphony your admissions team loves best: the influx of parents requesting a tour.
Truth is, a parent's journey through your school doors is rarely linear. Over the weeks and even months prior their visit, they have zigged and zagged through a litany of research and discovery. From word-of-mouth to traditional advertisements to online ads and more, each time a parent sees or hears your school's name counts as a time you have touched them, reached them, and (hopefully) placed another building block onto their positive perception of your school.
So, how does inbound marketing (strategic online content) play an important role in this mix? Glad you asked:
1) It meets parents where they already are.
Today's young parent hates to be "sold." They disdain interruptions and obtrusive advertisements. One thing they do like: getting the information themselves online. By using inbound marketing strategies, your school shows up front and center just where they are looking for you. Employing solid keyword strategies and keeping your website up to date with fresh, relevant content helps ensure that your school pops up at or near the top of prospective parents' online searches. It just makes you easier to find online, which is where most young parents do their searching and shopping.
Check out the graphic below from global firm Teleperformance, which illustrates the shift in the buying process for today's consumer.
2) It reinforces the messages you are sending out elsewhere.
Maybe you have a radio ad running, or a print ad in a local publication. By employing consistent verbiage and images that "hit home" for parents looking for solid Christian education options, you can position your school firmly in their minds as a premier choice. In keeping your brand and messages constant across all of your marketing avenues, you become more recognizable. Your articles and web pages expand on your ads' marketing messages, which are anchored by your tagline, which should convey your personality and
3) It gets personal, in a really good way.
A good inbound marketing strategy can not only allow you to hone in on precisely the audience you want to reach (parents age 25-35 in a 10-mile radius perhaps), but it also allows you to provide them perfectly tailored messages that tell your school's story, reveal your school's culture, and zero in on the precise concerns and hopes these parents have. While traditional advertisements can allow you to cast a wide net, it's likely that a majority of the eyes or ears that you're paying for with that ad don't belong to people who you are really trying to reach.
By truly knowing your target market, recognizing how your school can solve their "pain points," and then creating web content (blogs, website pages, webinars, e-newsletters, etc.) that addresses their needs, you are reaching your potential families on a personal level. They may have seen or heard your ad elsewhere a time or two, but they will get to know you far better through inbound marketing than any traditional advertisement. Your story will resonate with them each time they encounter your school's brand - whether on the radio, in print, or online. Because you've done your research and offer them real solutions, they know that you "get" them.
Working together for the common good.
Statistics vary, but most experts agree that it takes many "touches" before a customer will make a purchase (especially a substantial one like private schooling). Some say customers need to receive your message six to eight times, others argue it could be up to 12-18 touches; either way, the main idea is clear: most parents need to see or interact with your school many times before they even schedule a visit. One print ad, two radio ads, or even a few online banner ads aren't going to cut it.
While good content marketing takes time, it is easily one of the most cost-effective ways to reach customers - in your case, parents who are considering their family's schooling options. By creating a website, blog, and other corresponding online resources (like e-books and webinars), you are cementing a bond with your prospective families that will hopefully last for years to come.
Are you wondering if your school website is doing it's good by attracting and engaging prospective parents? Register to join our live webinar on August 9th at 1 pm. We'll be evaluating school websites live with a panal of experts! Click the image to get registered.