Enrollment at independent schools will continue to be a challenge for a number of years – the economy, falling demographics, rising tuitions, and families “life-style” choices are a few of the factors that will make enrolling new students difficult. Even if your private school has seen increased enrollment over the last few years doesn’t mean that trend will continue.
School’s have historically been very slow to change their ways with anything – including their marketing efforts. Increasingly though, the traditional way of doing things is not working anymore and schools need to change before they have to. In order to help schools with concrete examples I offer 5 things to stop doing with your school’s marketing.
1. Direct Mail
I work from the assumption that direct mail can work to raise a school’s name recognition if a school has the money and time to “saturate” their market with consistent direct mail pieces. I would also argue that most schools don’t have the money or time that is needed to achieve success with direct mail. As a result, stop using direct mail in your marketing efforts.
Last spring we conducted a test with a direct mail piece announcing our spring open house by including a tracking URL to determine our success. We were also very conscious of asking each family who attended our open house if they had received, or seen, our direct mail piece. The results were abysmal! Out of thousands of direct mail pieces we sent we only received three clicks on our tracking URL (and none of those families even attended the open house) and only one family that attended the open house mentioned they had seen our direct mail piece (…and that family didn’t even apply.)
Direct mail is too time consuming and expensive for schools to continue to use I hope that you will consider the possibility of funneling that money to other marketing efforts.
2. Print Advertising Without Measurement
While I’m a huge proponent of inbound marketing, I still believe that there our places where print advertising can be effective. We have determined that our local community newspaper and a local free parent magazine are two such places to advertise. We believe this because we have measured the effectiveness of the ads we place in those publications and continue to hear from prospective families that they have seen our school in those pages.
How many schools continue to utilize print advertisement without measuring the effectiveness of those ads?
If you are not measuring the effectiveness of your print ads please stop – stop utilizing them or start measuring.
3. Being Afraid of Inbound Marketing (…and Social Media!)
Traditional, or outbound marketing, as it relates to independent schools, is the act of finding families. Inbound marketing is the act of helping families find you! I’ve talked alot about inbound marketing and we’ve had success utilizing it at my school. If you do nothing else, please learn more about inbound marketing by reading this book: Inbound Marketing: Get Found Using Google, Social Media, and Blogs.
You owe it to yourself to learn more about inbound marketing!
4. Not Measuring All Of Your Marketing Efforts
In item #2, I mention the importance of measuring the effectiveness of your print advertisement. I now challenge you to begin to measure the effectiveness of all of your marketing efforts. Whether you use radio ads, direct mail, print ads, online ads, blogging, etc…, you should be attempting to measure how those marketing channels work for your school.
If you can’t measure a certain marketing channel’s effectiveness than you should start. If you can’t figure out a way to measure a channels effectiveness than I would argue that you should stop utilizing that channel and funnel that money to another channel.
5. Travel for Travel’s Sake
This suggestion is geared more for boarding schools but could be applicable to day schools as well. How many of you have visited a school or attended a school fair only to not speak to anyone? Has that happened to you numerous times at the same event for a couple of years now?
Why are you going back? Stop travel for travel’s sake. Is the event an effective marketing tool for your school or do you continue to make the trip because you like the destination?
Be honest with yourself!
Marketing dollars at schools are becoming more and more strained and just because you like traveling to a certain area of the country doesn’t mean that your effort is helping your school.
Now it’s your turn. What things would you suggest a person to stop doing with a school’s marketing efforts. I would love to hear your input and feedback by posting your thoughts in the comments section below.