4 online marketing opportunities that schools often overlook

We get it—marketing your school is probably the last thing on your mind. You’re a busy administrator tackling dozens of other priorities before 8am even rolls around each weekday morning. What’s more, you probably already have a strong community of families and students in your school. So why pay much attention to marketing?

In the end, marketing matters a lot—but it tends to get short shrift because of so many other competing priorities. The good news is that you don’t need to hire a full-time marketer for your school to take advantage of the benefits of marketing.

We’ll show you how to up your school’s marketing game in this blog post—with a few quick tips on tactics that schools often overlook. These will help you retain your currently enrolled students and families and get your school noticed by new families as well. Read on!

1. Your niche

There are 34,576  private schools in the U.S., accounting for fully 25% of all schools. Given this big number, how can you compete and get the attention of families and students? By focusing on your unique corner of the marketplace—your niche. Here, we’re talking about what makes your school different—and better—than other schools serving a specific population.

Figuring out your niche is really where you can outshine the larger, more established private schools in your area. Your school staff can then become the experts at catering to your niche market and speak clearly and directly to parents and students in ways they understand and appreciate.

So, where to start in clarifying your niche? Here are some examples of common private school niches:

  • Classrooms with highly integrated and advanced technology
  • A character-building curriculum focused on producing excellent citizens
  • A faith-based education
  • Stellar academics
  • An international focus with foreign language immersion
  • A unique teaching approach or special curriculum (such as Classical Education)
  • Small classroom sizes and individualized attention
  • Unique extracurricular activities

2. A user-friendly website centered on students and families

Nowadays a website is likely where parents will first learn about your school. It’s also where many of the families currently enrolled in your school go to access timely information on enrollment, courses and extra-curricular activities. Too often, private school websites are outdated and not user-friendly. For optimal marketing, make sure your website does the following:

  • Is user-friendly: Here’s the big question—what are most parents or students looking for when they visit your website? List the top three or four items and then objectively evaluate your website to determine whether it’s easy and intuitive to access them. Then make sure your site is easy to navigate so that parents can find the information they’re looking for quickly.
  • Is mobile-friendly: 63% of visits to websites in 2017 came through smartphones or tablets, compared to only 37% on desktop or laptop computers. Does your website have a responsive design for mobile devices? Chances are, many parents and students are viewing your site this way, so getting it right is crucial.
  • Is tidy: Check for broken links and outdated information. Reevaluate the images on your website to make sure that each fits well with the content, and check for pages with too much or too little information. And be sure to keep your content simple and easy to read.

For more information, check out these fantastic five tips for creating an awesome school website.

3. Video content

Video can be one of the most effective (but often overlooked) ways for your school to reach its audience. And while you may not have considered video content due to its perceived high cost, the good news is you don’t need to purchase expensive equipment to make a professional-looking video. Truth is, an outstanding camera is right in your pocket—your iPhone or other smartphone device.

Here are some ideas to easily add informative and highly engaging videos to your website—and showcase what makes your school stand apart from the competition in your particular niche:

  • Interview a student or family to get a testimony about your school.
  • Create a video that shows families how to make private education work financially, including financial aid, tax credit programs, scholarships, and more.
  • Interview faculty about the courses they’re teaching, and make sure to show how your school’s approach successfully prepares students for the future.
  • Upload fun videos from extra-curricular activities, field trips, and sporting events to show the well-rounded education your school offers.
  • Show students and faculty doing service projects in the local community.
  • Do a video tour of the school’s facilities and campus grounds.
  • Capture the excitement of graduation and give a quick overview of the colleges and universities grads will be attending.
  • Post videos of local news stories involving your school, including interviews with students, teachers, and administrators.

When it comes to videos the key is to make sure each is short and engaging—with an emotional connection that shows both parents and students alike that you understand their hopes, aspirations, concerns, and frustrations.     

4. Paid ads

Paid search ads are hugely complex, and you might need to contract with an online marketing company to get it right. Even so, many private schools overlook this option, so with a bit of learning and elbow grease (and a small budget) you could make some inroads.

One of the keys for school administrators to understand is that paid search should be just one component of a comprehensive marketing plan. It’s also important to know the difference between outbound and inbound paid search. For example, outbound searches involve generic keywords and high impressions, click-through rates, and costs—resulting in low conversions. In contrast, inbound searches involve targeted keywords, high click-through rates, and low impressions and costs—delivering high conversion rates.

Other pitfalls for online searches that you should keep in mind include:  

  • Campaigns are complex and involve high learning curves.
  • Campaigns require continual investment and can become expensive.
  • People tend to avoid online advertising.

Bonus tips: Be consistent and measure your results

We’ve all seen it: A Facebook page that hasn’t been updated in over a year. A YouTube channel with videos dating to 2015 and earlier. Website copy with broken links. These types of dated marketing materials actually do more harm than good. Have a strategy in place for promoting your school online and refreshing content on a regular basis—and stick to it.

Finally, always measure your results to see which approaches or platforms are most effective. A common misstep is to try several marketing tactics without controlling variables or evaluating results. Just doing something isn’t enough—you need to know that your efforts are effective and push your school toward its marketing goals.

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Content marketer, author, and homeschool graduate. Co-founder of Transcript Maker, the high school transcript app.

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