They say there’s no “I” in team… but what if the team is only you? Marketing teams (and budgets) at private and independent schools are often small or under-resourced.
According to our 2021 State of Independent School Marketing Survey, 29% of all private and independent schools – and more than 50% of schools with less than 300 students – have a single person responsible for marketing. The most common? 60% of private elementary schools and 31% of day schools report having a one-person marketing department.
If you’re juggling marketing strategy and implementation on your own, that’s trying to do a lot. Here are some key tips to help maximize the impact of your marketing dollars (and your time).
1. Focus on Objectives
Start every project and every season with clear, measurable objectives (and make sure you can track your success). Marketers have hundreds of potential projects in front of them at any given time, and most of them are great ideas – but when you’re able to identify the ones that will help you achieve your goals, decisions become much easier. For example, if your school wants to see more middle school applicants, or wants to focus on retention, or wants to attract more students for your equestrian program, you can say yes to only those ideas that will help you achieve these objectives – and everything else can go on a “future ideas” list.
If you need help defining success, see our Top Marketing Priorities for Private Schools.
2. Scale Your Plan
If you can’t do it all this year, build it into your two or three year plan and work toward it. Most campaigns can last and be optimized over three years – so you might be able to spend on new creative and a photoshoot in year one, then add video in year two.
3. Test Your Ideas
It’s often easier to “sell” a test vs. adding a brand new budget line – or to get a new idea off the ground with some baby steps. For example, instead of taking on big marketing expansion to try Google ads for the first time this year, outline a plan to try Google ads for six weeks to promote open house registrations, then measure the results with relevant Google analytics. If you’re able to prove ROI, it will be easier to justify and prioritize a larger plan.
4. Ask for Help
Just because you’re in charge of the email newsletter doesn’t mean you need to create ALL the content. Think about regular ways to get others involved (with an emphasis on regular, because it will benefit you most to be able to rinse and repeat when something is working well). You might be able to assign one section to your athletics director, another to your student council president, or a column to the head of your PTA. You might even have talented student photographers who would volunteer to gain great experience and portfolio samples.
5. Leverage Free Platforms
Don’t underestimate the power of viral marketing. If your school posts on social media – whether it’s Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter or YouTube – create school-specific #hashtags and encourage your staff and students to like, tag and share your content with their networks. Chances are, their contacts will be in the appropriate target market for your school.
Still unsure about using social media for private and independent school marketing? Find out more about choosing the right mix of social media for your school.
6. Maximize Your Content
When you’re planning your content calendar for the year, be strategic (and creative)! Create cornerstone pieces of content that can be broken down, repurposed or even cross-posted.
One well-crafted reel could be posted to both TikTok and Instagram
One blog post about 5 Reasons to Choose a Private School could be broken down into a series of five social media posts
A campus tour video created for your website could be cut into several smaller videos that each showcase one special campus highlight – and then used across your social platform
7. Make Automation Your Friend
Look for opportunities to automate time-consuming tasks where you can. For example, many email marketing platforms allow for automated workflows (think: thank you and reminder emails for parents who sign up for an open house, and separate follow-ups for those who attend and those who miss the event). The content can still be customized to meet the needs of each group, and you can invite them to reach out for more information – but automation can save hours before & after each event and allow you to focus on everything else on your list.
8. Keep Thinking Big
It can get discouraging to say no all the time – or to feel like you’re treading water without making a lot of progress. Make sure you create space for big picture “someday” ideas. Write them down and come back to them often. This can help keep your spirits high and your head in the game for the long term… and you never know when there will be an opportunity to slide one in and try it out.
9. Outsource the Heavy Lifting
It’s a shameless plug, we know, but working with an outside agency (especially one that specializes in your industry, like Metric) can be a smart move – even for schools with smaller marketing budgets. We have specialized experts in all areas of marketing so you don’t need to look for a marketing unicorn who can do it all. (Here’s a hint: unicorns don’t exist.) And our account executives work hard to become an extension of your team – so there's always an extra person in your court.
At Metric Marketing, we develop measurable and practical strategies to help private and independent schools like yours to make the most of your marketing efforts. We'd love to discuss your private school's marketing requirements with you. Contact us today to speak with our marketing professionals or sign up to receive more marketing tips in your inbox.