10 Tips for Effective School Marketing
1) Brag a Little!
Share your school's unique advantages with parents up front! Is your school centrally located in the community? Is your school committed to keeping student resources and equipment on the cutting edge of technology? Those benefits can set you apart from other schools and help convince parents you have something special to offer their child. Begin by making a list of “bragging rights” (the most impressive aspects of your school), then work backward by thinking of ways to promote these points. For example, if you have an exceptional art program, why not make student art projects the focal point of your entryway? A student mural would be a great way to accentuate and advertise such a unique benefit point to visitors.
2) Address Concerns!
What are the key educational concerns of parents in your area? Academic excellence? School safety? Class size? Credentialing? Your qualifications in these areas will be the main reason parents choose your school over other private and public institutions. Since school violence and bullying are obvious concerns today, why not address the subjects head on—instead of allowing it to be whispered about and worried over. Host a parent safety night at the beginning of each school year so these issues can be discussed in an open forum and parents can be invited to be a part of the emergency procedures your students will be learning. Events where parents can communicate concerns and staff can answer questions are invaluable occasions for attracting new families. Welcoming prospective families shows just how open and accessible your school truly is.
3) Say It Well!
Does your school have a mission and vision statement? Does every staff member know and have a heart for these statements? Your mission and vision should illustrate the passion of your school and be purposefully concise in order to be easily understood by both students and parents. Once you have identified your critical benefit points, make sure you and your staff can articulate them clearly.
A mission and vision statement can become prophetic—the more one reads and understands it, the more focused one can be in living out the words. Post the statement on the wall of the office and in the front hall. Include it in advertisements and on the bottom of your letterhead. Above all else, make sure every decision and action taken by your school is filtered through the words of your mission and vision statement. These key messages will become part of who you are as a school and help build your reputation
4) Say It Often!
Communicate often with your community and let the people around you know the great things you’re doing, not just during your enrollment drive. Frequency in your message—through a variety of communication methods—is the most important strategy toward becoming the first name that comes to mind when Christian education is mentioned in your community. If your school wins something like the state spelling bee, for example, why not send out press releases about this victory to local television stations, radio stations, community publications, and Christian publications? Include this good news in your monthly newsletter, on your Web site, and as a voice message on your telecommunications system. In addition, print a banner to display outside your school. It will not only make students proud of their academic success, it also communicates to passersby that your school is active and doing well—thereby increasing your chances of reaching new families.
5) Get Ready, Company’s Here!
The quality of your facility is under scrutiny, especially since parents are typically paying extra for their children to attend a private school. Parents need visible proof their money is being well spent. Ideally, your facility should have a clean, welcoming, professional look. Make sure your main office—the place a parent’s visit usually begins—is neat and orderly, since this sets the tone for the rest of their experience with your school. The children’s area should be cheerful and inviting, with obvious attention to cleanliness and safety. Fresh paint once a year (especially in the bathrooms) and regularly cleaned carpets are trademarks of an inviting facility. However, proper signage is also vital, especially if you are meeting in a church building. Parents should be able to enter the school and immediately find the classrooms, office, and bathrooms. If your facility is organized, friendly, and inviting, parents will assume your school is too.
6) Schedule Tours!
A tour is typically the first opportunity new parents have to interact with your school and students and can also be the most influential factor in selecting your school. So don’t leave this important and strategic marketing opportunity to chance! By scheduling regular tour times, you can make sure the best parts of your school are ready to showcase. You may have a really great playground, but it is clearly not as dynamic if you can’t pass by when kids are playing on the equipment and interacting with one another. Try to feature a variety of classroom activities including academics, creativity, and technology. Finally, make sure there is a comfortable place available for you and your visitors to sit and discuss the school’s benefits after the tour. Giving parents your undivided attention and a little hospitality can be the foundation for a positive ongoing relationship.
7) Leave Your Mark!
Presenting yourself properly and with excellence is one key to winning the trust of incoming parents. A well-planned and executed school identity is one facet of being awarded this trust. From business cards to memos, pamphlets to logos, your school’s written communication—both internally and externally—is important to attracting new parents.
Make well-designed handouts available (on quality paper stock) which clearly explain your history, educational philosophy, admissions policy, staff and administration bios, etc. Everything that leaves your office or is used in the office should contain your logo and contact information (don’t forget your Web address!) as well as any slogan or tagline your school utilizes. A great logo might include your school’s mascot, a geographical landmark near the school, or an artistic representation of your school’s name.
Even though you may send out specific communications to prospective families, remember: God works in mysterious ways. Any document that has your school’s name on it can be a point of entry for a new student. For example, a woman visiting a new friend’s home for coffee might notice a child’s report card hanging on the refrigerator. The woman may first be impressed by the personal comments of the teacher, showing how much time and energy is being invested into the student. Then she notices your logo on the report card and decides to contact the school about enrolling her own child. The outcome of such a situation could be entirely different if the report card looks dated, doesn’t contain your logo, or isn’t built to be an informative tool of communication.
In today’s technologically savvy world, a Web site is an essential promotional tool, as well as a great way to build community within your school. In many circumstances— especially with new families moving into the community—a Web site is the first place a parent will begin their search for quality educational institutions. Your Web site should accurately reflect your school’s demographics and facility and be informative enough for parents to assess if a visit is worth their time. Contact information should be prominent, and the site should be up to date in information, technology, and style. Avoid long download times that frustrate visitors and remember: Less is more. You are better off having a clean and classically designed one-page site with a simple photo and contact information, than a flashy, complicated site that is difficult to maneuver and contains broken links. An ideal Web site might have staff profiles, a list of extracurricular activities, a list of educational programs and accreditations, as well of lots of photos of your school in action. (Note: Please be cautious about the use of students’ names and photos on your site. There may be Internet users who do not have pure intentions.)
9) Campaign for Enrollment!
To boost enrollment, it is vital to execute a strategic marketing campaign that will raise public interest. Your fall enrollment campaign should begin in March or April and should include multiple approaches to get the word out (see tip #7). A direct mail postcard campaign is a wonderful way to personally invite families in your community to learn more about your school. The postcards should have an “offer” (free tour, gift, information booklet, etc.) and have an easy way for someone to respond. But don’t worry about including all your information on that one card. The point is not to generate an enrollment from the card, but to get a qualified contact. To compliment the direct mail campaign, place a banner in front of your building, ads in your local parent’s magazines, and start a referral campaign with incentives for existing families.
10) Keep ‘em Talking!
The best form of advertising and promotion is word of mouth. Give parents and students a school they can be proud of. They will be your best marketers when they believe in what you are doing. This is where the excellence of your reputation and Christian values will make you shine. Make sure to gather any positive comments you get from parents and students and include these testimonies in ads, fliers, and on your Web site. Case studies of students who have improved grades or behavior are an invaluable way to prove the impact your school can have in a child’s life. Keep these studies in a binder in the front office with photos and examples of each child’s work. These are the tangible results new parents need to make an informed decision to enroll their child in your school.
For additional ideas and help in strategizing a personalized outreach plan, please call us at 1-800-991-6011. Our outreach specialists will be glad to guide you through the fine points of crafting a campaign to draw new families into the open arms of your Christian school this fall. Call today!
Outreach, Inc. is the leading provider of church communication tools and has helped thousands of churches and Christian schools reach their communities for Christ. Visit us at www.Outreach.com.