Without question, the COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on education. Schools have been forced to build relationships with families when their world has capsized. As we all know, COVID-19 upended classrooms across the country while the pandemic’s devastating effects were being felt in our nation’s economy, healthcare, and sadly, loss of life. In response, educators, staff, and school leaders have made extraordinary commitments to address the needs of students and families in the face of unprecedented stay-at-home orders. Parents, families, and caregivers have done the same, supporting their students while responding to unexpected changes in their own lives.
As a result of the pandemic and the many changes schools must implement, school marketing has undergone a transformation. Successful school marketers have shifted their strategies and tactics away from a brand-centric approach to a family-centric helpful marketing approach. This philosophy is based on empathy and seeks to let families know the school sees them as people first. This new (or maybe not new to you) approach to marketing uses helpful and educational content to drive inquiries, engagement, and retention. The philosophy is based on the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. As marketers, we know when we share our humanity with others, they are more likely to respond.
More than ever, helpful marketing is good marketing. The idea is to focus on educational content relevant for your audience. Helpful, educational and empathetic tones are what is currently resonating with most people. When you’re helpful, good things happen. Given the choice of two schools, most people will choose the one they feel is the most helpful, even if tuition is higher. This is especially true of women, who make a lot of the purchasing decisions these days and play a bigger role in influencing their partners.
What can independent schools do to strengthen their relationships with parents today? Here are nine key strategies to consider when marketing in today’s pandemic-impacted world.
Humanize your school
Let parents know your school understands the dire circumstances at play and cares about more than getting them to enroll in your school. Spell out the steps you are taking to help children and their families transition back to school, including how social distancing, masks and extra stress can create anxiety and fear in children. Talk about what your school is doing to help children adjust, make friends and thrive.
Educate parents on how to interact with your school
Be sure there isn’t any confusion about how COVID-19 has changed the way students and families can interact with your school, and how your school will keep them informed. Utilize technology to make it easier for parents to stay in touch and informed about what’s going on. Focus on the emerging habits of parents’ new normal and strategize about how you can best fit into their daily lives now and in the future.
Schools today can’t ignore social media. As you build momentum, you’ll find publishing on social media gets easier over time. You can use social media to answer questions and engage with potential families using private messaging.
Utilize video marketing
One of the most effective ways schools can market is to use video marketing. The better you are at this and the more value you provide, the quicker you will boost your visibility. Today, YouTube is the second largest search engine behind Google. Whenever someone wants to learn something visually, they often head there. You have probably done it yourself countless times. Need video marketing topic ideas? Check out this article: 36 Video Topics That Will Generate More Views and Engagement for Your School
Keep up with your blogging schedule
You need to blog effectively to be successful in content marketing. Blogging is an important aspect of school marketing today. Through blogging, you can communicate with potential families, answer their most pressing questions and help them see how they would be a good fit with your school.
In order to be successful with your school blog, you will need to research topics and keywords. Here are 6 Steps to Research Better Keywords for Your School Blog.
Blogging consistently is key to increasing traffic. Be sure to provide relevant information on a regular basis so your readers – and the search engines – recognize you are a reliable source of information. Blogging consistently will result in more website traffic and a higher rank in Google’s search engine results. An editorial calendar can help make a tremendous difference in your marketing process.
Understand search engine optimization (SEO)
SEO is an area of marketing I’m incredibly passionate about. But SEO is one of those areas of marketing that can be intimidating. Yes, SEO can be intimidating, but it can also be powerful when you learn to leverage it. When you learn SEO the right way, the sky is truly the limit. Learn more: SEO Coach DIY Software
Leverage community partnerships
Schools that communicate with their external communities increase the likelihood of school success. Independent schools can leverage community partnerships to increase awareness of the educational and support services your school offers. You will want to identify key allies, communicate and build partnerships with these organizations and maintain these partnerships in a way that is mutually beneficial.
Effective outreach strategies focus on enhancing your relationships with community members. Devise a strategy to engage the community in supporting your mission and enhancing general awareness of your school.
Offer a great lead magnet
So much of successful marketing really does come down to creating a great lead magnet. The right lead magnet presented to the right audience can have explosive results. The best way to do this is to identify what your parent base really wants to learn about and address that in your lead magnet. Want some ideas for a valuable lead magnet? Click here and scroll down to “Offer an incentive to encourage website visitors to sign up on your email list”.
Take advantage of Facebook Ads with retargeting
Facebook Ads are one of the most powerful tactics for marketing these days. The targeting within Facebook is phenomenal and will help you easily reach a very specific audience. But the trick to getting great results from Facebook Ads isn’t just about getting click-throughs to your landing page – it’s also about focusing on retargeting. Retargeting uses a pixel (a small snippet of code) on your website. Pixels track who comes to your site and then you can build custom audiences around that information. For example, if you attract people to your website with a free lead magnet, “A Comprehensive Guide to Choosing a Private School for Your Child”, you can then market to people who have already shown an interest in private schools in your area because they visited your lead magnet download page.
Use email marketing automation
Part of a good inquiry funnel is going to be an email marketing sequence. An email marketing sequence is a series of emails that is sent to subscribers once they sign up for your list. Use your email sequence to build a relationship with the subscriber. Be authentic and transparent. And help them understand the next step in the enrollment journey.
Use email responses and clicks to segment your list. For example, if someone clicks on “ways to get your child ready for kindergarten” you can add them to your Kindergarten Email Segment. Then, you can send them targeted information related to Kindergarten.
When you send email broadcasts, split test. You never really know what’s going to resonate the most with your audience until you test. This will help you understand what your audience responds to better and make you a more helpful school marketer.
Knowing how to persuade parents to take the next step in the enrollment journey is still essential to school marketing. But persuasion can take different forms today.
It’s not manipulating families into filling out inquiry forms when they’re really not interested. In today’s environment, you have to work harder to persuade prospective parents to consider your messages. Many families are in economic straits, facing health crises, under stress from home or work life, or have too many other concerns weighing on their minds.
This means you will have to find new ways to persuade parents to investigate what your school has to offer their student. Ask yourself: “How does my marketing help prospective parents achieve their own goals and objectives as it relates to parenting a school-age child?” That is the essence of helpful marketing.
What are your thoughts on the concept of a helpful marketing strategy in a pandemic-impacted world? Please share your thoughts with the rest of the school marketing community below…