Parents agonize over where to send their kids to school. This is especially true if they are spending $10k plus on the price of admission to a private institution. Some private schools seem to get marketing, some don’t. While education is something most people are apt to spend money on, the current economic climate makes building marketing competency a real need for schools.
Though I have never run a private school and never will here is a short list of things I would do marketing wise if I did (let’s assume I already knew what my brand was about, had “my story” straight and had figured out what my enrolment targets were…I know big assumptions, but this post is about tactics):
- Hire a full-time, in-house Marketing Director or VP. Many schools work with agencies and obviously need to continue to, however, you need in-house expertise to manage the agency relationship. The in-house talent must be paid at a rate where strategic thought is part of the deal. It must be about more than simply planning ad buys in the local paper. The presence of a real Marketing Director or VP on the senior team of schools is not a given – it should be.
- Setup an Ambassador program where past and current, parents, students and teachers became involved in community outreach – whether this be generating leads for other staff to close, being around at “open houses” or participating in other info sessions.
- Hire someone who knows about SEO to see how well the school’s website measures up. If you don’t show up easily in Google you’re done. Nuff said.
- Make sure the website is a living breathing entity. This means, student/teacher/parent blogs and regular postings by the Head of the School. My alma mater employs a group blog that works really nicely. It also means constantly creating and deploying new content. Why not give 10 people flip cams for two weeks and tell them to shoot “life at your school” from whatever their perspective is and eventually post edited clips on your Youtube channel. The content you generate is going to be authentic and really neat. Schools do great things and thus have amazing stories to tell so content generation should not be a problem.
- Setup a school-specific social network for students, teachers and parents on Ning. Ideas re its educational application can be found here – there are a number of cool uses.
- Find out what social networks alumni hang out on and create a presence.
- Start conducting a regular podcast and/or webinar series to build credibility as a thought leader. This is a lower cost alternative to hosting speaker series and or conferences on site, though these more traditional methods could be employed. The content of podcasts/webinar would vary but should definitely focus on some of the broader trends in education: are there new approaches to teaching those with different learning styles?; how competitive is the landscape for students looking to go to top colleges?; are there experts that could be interviewed? The folks at Teachers Teaching Teachers are onto something with their content production, but there’s space for others to create value methinks.
- Publish a “By the numbers” report and house it on the website. This very innovative tool is used by schools Canada. It essentially provides constituents with a perspective on the health and performance of a school through defined key performance indicators. It is a great way of letting people know how you measure up and that you are a transparent organization.
I am sure there’s lots more that could be done. Do you have ideas?