Digital Marketing Fundamentals for Independent Schools

Private Schools Marketing

Independent schools in North America are fiercely competitive. With more than 34,000 schools in the United States and 2,000 in Canada, staying ahead of the competition requires a unique approach to marketing.

Because of the importance and high price of independent education, parents and older students will often spend months researching the subject. This elongates the customer journey, giving private schools an opportunity to develop a more diverse digital marketing strategy.

At a glance:

  • Pay more attention to the middle of the customer journey: Enjoy lower expenses, fewer competitors
  • Streamline your approach: Get the right data and insights from marketing campaign results
  • Employ omnichannel marketing: Take full advantage of all available channels to maximize your reach

Let's take a closer look at some key fundamentals that can help you build a successful independent school marketing strategy.

Pay more attention to the middle of the customer journey

It’s certain that for private and independent schools, the awareness stage of the customer journey is extremely important. Parents spend weeks at the awareness stage researching "best private schools near me." Spending a big chunk of your marketing budget on this stage is excellent for lead generation.

Unfortunately, however, all your competitors are doing exactly the same thing, which leads to fierce competition at the awareness stage. Awareness stage tactics are generally more expensive than middle-of-the-journey tactics and involve spending a formidable amount on paid advertising. Further, this investment is nearly useless without a strong digital marketing push down the road.

By paying more attention to the middle of the customer journey, you can improve your conversion rates and ensure a higher marketing ROI (Return On Investment).

Your marketing tactics at this middle stage may involve:

  • Creating strong content to educate the audience about your school and independent education
  • Optimizing your lead magnets to collect contact details for further conversion tactics
  • Interacting with potential clients/parents on social media and building your email list
  • Powering up email content and CTAs (Calls To Action) to educate, nurture and convert leads
  • Adjusting SEO (Search Engine Optimization) efforts by answering specific questions that audiences at this stage might have
  • Creating videos to educate potential clients and drive conversions

In the middle of the journey, you can take advantage of retargeting tools to keep bringing prospects back to your website. While retargeting involves paid search expenses, it's usually much more efficient than initial lead generation tactics because your audience is already interested, so leads are “warm” and more likely to convert.

Streamline your approach to data collection and analysis

The success of your digital marketing efforts is directly dependent on your data collection and analysis tactics. The wrong data could force you to alter a successful marketing course while the right data could help you avoid damage inflicted by misplaced marketing tactics.

Improve data collection tactics

Even the fastest marketing strategies, like PPC (Pay Per Click) marketing, take a while to start showing results. Many schools lack a proper understanding of how long it takes to notice visible outcomes. They might switch strategies and cut financing without giving certain tactics a chance to start working effectively.

Focus on the right metrics

While many independent schools monitor their marketing results closely, they aren't necessarily focusing on the right metrics and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). If your reports emphasize traffic, impressions, and click-through rates, these are among the least helpful insights.

Your reports should describe applications, admissions inquiries, admission phone calls, and other metrics related specifically to the results or outcomes of your marketing efforts.

Think of it as a baseball game. If your team is keeping score the entire game and the other team is just counting hits and strikeouts, who has a better chance of actually winning the game?

By singling out the right metrics and analyzing them in a timely manner, you can make the right decisions about adjusting your marketing campaigns to optimize results and get the data that’s most aligned with your goals.

Employ Omnichannel Marketing

When it comes to making an important buying decision, parents and older students are likely to use a variety of channels for their research. To move your audiences down the sales funnel and achieve the desired conversions, your private school must communicate with your users across as many channels as possible.

A complex target audience

Independent schools have a complex target audience that consists of several generational demographics, from Gen Xers to Gen Zers with Millennials in between. These generations tend to use different research tactics and channels, which makes omnichannel marketing a must.

Channels you need to explore:

  • Email marketing
  • PPC
  • Social Media Marketing (Facebook, Instagram, TikTok)
  • SEO

Independent schools don't need to choose which channel to use. You should use as many channels as your budget allows.

Down the road, you'll need to tweak your marketing tactics according to the needs of each target audience segment at each stage of the customer journey. That's when omnichannel presence will start paying off.

Better conversion opportunities

Besides being able to reach as many potential clients/parents as possible and move them down the sales funnel, omnichannel marketing gives you the following benefits:

  • More analysis opportunities for collecting data from as many touchpoints as possible
  • Improved client experience from communication across various channels
  • Opportunity to establish yourself as an authority by offering value and consistency across all channels
  • Wider presence and visibility with a cumulative effect that can lead to brand loyalty

An omnichannel marketing strategy has an especially high ROI for private schools. Having such a wide presence not only allows you to attract enrollments for the current year but also serves as a foundation for a long-term comprehensive marketing strategy.


Here's what we’ve learned:

  • The middle of the customer journey deserves more attention and support in order to drive conversions without hurting the budget.
  • Singling out the right metrics can improve your decision-making process, adjust your campaign in a timely manner and maximize your marketing ROI.
  • To reach all target audience segments and increase marketing ROI, private schools need to use as many marketing channels as possible.

While digital marketing is a powerful weapon in any private school's arsenal, it requires a unique approach to stay ahead of the competition. To make sure your digital marketing campaign gives you the results you want, it's imperative you adapt your efforts to your target audience's actions. By investing more in the middle of the customer journey, wielding the right data, and employing an omnichannel strategy, your efforts will pay off significantly.

The value of data is growing exponentially. With the right approach to its collection, management, and analysis, it's nearly impossible not to stay ahead of the competition in private education.

Learn more about private school marketing.

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