School marketers must operate in a state of accountability as we navigate marketing priorities, knowing the expectations placed on our department. Every dollar in our marketing budget has to count as we move forward with our strategies. Without a cohesive marketing plan, our team would be in perpetual chaos and our outcomes murky.
When everyone in our marketing department understands our strategic marketing plan, we will execute more effectively and deliver what’s expected.
To see your marketing efforts pay off, you need a working strategic marketing plan. You need buy-in at every level and a plan that is connected and in alignment with all stakeholders.
Often, school marketers lack effective, collaborative processes and the ability to track results. Without a working, engaging plan, schools may experience serious consequences, such as misallocation of limited marketing resources, the inability to change direction and lack of accountability.
In order to create a coordinated, robust plan in alignment with organizational goals and key performance indicators (KPIs), your marketing plan needs to be actionable and trackable. Your organization’s strategic plan will inform marketing tactical decisions. There are many options to consider, such as social media, content, inbound, outbound, direct mail, event, SEO. With so many options, it’s hard to know where to begin. Taking the time to develop a documented marketing strategy will ensure your marketing has defined objectives, a schedule, and a budget for resource allocation needed to execute.
Here are 7 tips to help you create a workable strategic marketing plan for your school.
Collect and use your own first-party data
First-party data is information your school collects through your own sources, not third-party vendors. Common sources of first-party data include:
- Feedback forms
- Anecdotal information
- Information in your CRM
- Analytics from social media and your website
For marketers, this type of information is very valuable, especially as a basis for forming your marketing strategies. It can provide demographic information, website visits, behavior and interactions, download history, time spent on website, and much more.
Another benefit of collecting and storing your first-party data is that it makes it easier to be transparent and keep your data secure, helping to maintain parents’ trust.
Map out your prospective parents’ touchpoints
First, schools must get a clear picture of the parent enrollment journey. Since each audience may require a different approach, you should determine the experience of newly enrolled families as well as ones who’ve been enrolled longer. You may need to allocate staff time to interview parents, create roadmaps and a plan for implementation.
While developing a framework for mapping parent enrollment journeys is beyond the scope of this post, here is a generalized list to consider.
- Create content that helps potential and existing parents
- Answer questions they have before applying
- Remove friction from the enrollment process
- Shorten time to application once a potential parent starts engaging with your online presence
- Ensure support is proactive and responsive
The key is to focus on the enrollments you want to see. Many schools do not fully understand the experience parents have. Gaining a better understanding of their journey between discovering your school and signing up can help you adapt to their changing behaviors and sustain future enrollment processes.
Invest in future audience segments
A good marketing plan requires a hard look at market segment dynamics. Usually, most schools are investing in segments in which they already exist. By keeping a close eye on them, you can easily identify audience segments that are potentially ready to expand into your school market. This allows you to build expertise in outreach to those groups and keeps your school well-positioned.
Turn your blog into a library of resources
Every department of your school should have a way to share content ideas. This can give you insight into parent and student issues, and help you create content that is relevant and helpful.
Content can take many forms:
- Social media
- Blog posts
- Event coverage
Types of content may be varied, but one thing is sure, in time, it will bring you warm leads to nurture.
Think of your blog as a resource library, as opposed to publishing a printed publication. A publication is short-lived, whereas resourceful, evergreen content lives on your blog forever. It typically ranks higher in search engines and can weather any trend because it’s always helpful.
Optimize your channels
Choosing your channels isn’t a one-time activity. It’s a good idea to revisit your channels and make adjustments accordingly. A good place to start is with a social media audit.
Analyze if new channels are fit for your school.
For example, are your parents active in Facebook Messenger? If you think they are, test it and see what results materialize.
- How well is each channel performing?
If you aren’t seeing the results you expect, consider revising your strategy or focus you attention on other channels that are doing well.
Look at what channels are delivering the best quality inquiries.
Is organic search only driving traffic, but no one is filling out inquiry forms?
Automate select processes
As your school grows, your workflows will become more complex. Savvy school marketers use automation to help nurture prospective families using a personalized strategy. They assess the validity of using automation for:
Marketing automation can keep families' information and help build trust with them. Using a chatbot or email automation, you can reach enrolled and prospective families (depending on the type of communication) at once – with a personalized touch, of course.
Managing multiple channels is hard. Campaigns require long-term planning, resourcing and budgeting. Schools can lessen the burden by using automation.
For example, automation programs enable you to segment your audiences and send information to individuals based on interest. You can capture parent information, where they landed and browsed on your website, and then educate them until they’re ready to fill out an inquiry form or application.
Self-service in the education sector may seem like a new concept, but many families will benefit from and use online resources. Many parents will be interested in answering their questions or resolving concerns through automated resources. FAQs, resource libraries, and online communities are examples.
Schools that understand and proactively manage automation will sustain long-term advantage as more and more parents flock to instant communication.
Create more long-term partnerships
When schools partner with faith-based and community organizations, students and their families receive tremendous support. There has been growth across the country in intentional efforts to forge meaningful partnerships with community entities.
Community partnerships can complement academic curriculum, support student and family transitions, reinforce concepts taught in school and provide families with an alternative entry point into your school enrollment process.
Furthermore, community partnerships work to improve the community image of your school through exhibitions and performances to help “shine the light” on the impact your school has on students and their families.
Community partnerships can also help recruit families who are a good fit for your school’s mission.
Even partnerships with small organizations can be helpful if they open up new avenues for recruitment.
Schools, both large and small, are feeling the impact of changes happening in technology and marketing practices. Your marketing strategy needs to be designed to make it easier to adapt to these changes as well as increase enrollments for your school.
By using the tips in this post, you can improve the return-on-investment (ROI) of your school in your marketing efforts. Enthusiasm and flexibility will help you form an actionable strategy so you can see the results you expect from your marketing campaigns.