Whether you’re building a digital marketing strategy from scratch or trying to optimize what you’re already doing, it can be difficult to make decisions about where to invest.
In our industry study with NAIS conducted last year, we heard a lot of questions about this - so we thought we’d take some time to answer some of the most common ones here!
Q: What types of paid advertising do we see schools use effectively ?
A: Before choosing your paid advertising tactics, it pays to step back and develop an advertising strategy that’s unique to your school, brand, audience and market. This process usually requires a marketing professional to take the lead.
The most important thing is to choose the channels where your target audiences spend their time (and remember, for middle years and high school recruitment, potential students are your audience too.) The ideal mix varies from school to school—and at different stages in the customer journey—but we’ve seen effective mixes that involve paid social media advertising, Google search, and Google responsive display.
Q: Is it better to use a mix of all digital marketing channels, or focus on one or two channels?
A: The best way to identify which tactics to use is to start with a campaign strategy that has clearly defined objectives and measurable outcomes. The discovery that happens during the customer journey mapping phase will also shed light on where your audiences are looking for answers, and the content they wish to see along the way. With this knowledge, you can prioritize your channels (and content) according to the different roles they play in driving those outcomes.
Remember, your marketing channels function as an ecosystem. Every channel/ad doesn’t have the same job, and no single channel/ad ever works by itself in a vacuum.
Q: How do I decide which ad to run, and at what time?
A: Every channel/ad doesn’t have the same job, and no single channel/ad ever works by itself in a vacuum. At Metric, we use customer journeys to guide decision making.
By evaluating where families drop off along the customer journey - rather than looking at a single channel or tactic - we can evaluate and respond to the marketing ecosystem as a whole, rather than looking at a single tactic and wondering whether it’s doing the job itself.
Q: Which online platforms and channels should we be using?
A: The short (and probably annoying) answer is: it depends!
You need to start by defining your target audiences (prospective parents, students, community, etc.) and find out where they are spending their time online. These channels will form the foundation of your marketing efforts. You can find information on this using analytics platforms (like Google Analytics), accessing research about your target audience trends, and even sending out surveys.
Don’t forget to consider platforms that are new or emerging. They might not be showing up prominently yet - but that could change, and there’s often a benefit to being early. Be sure to analyze these opportunities and decide if they make sense for your school or your brand. You’ll also want to be sure that you can reliably produce relevant, quality content for the platform.
These decisions should be regular and ongoing, as loyalty (or disloyalty) to media channels changes over time and new platforms emerge.
Q: What digital channel works best to increase my school’s word of mouth advertising?
A: Word of mouth in the digital age relies on content that’s easy to share, which makes social media your best opportunity for word of mouth advertising.
“Push” strategies involve your school publishing shareable content like contests, news, and events. Many of the schools we work with are creating success on Instagram these days - but there’s a strategic place for older platforms like Facebook and newer ones like TikTok. You can check your analytics to see what kinds of content your audiences are engaging with and what they are most likely to share with their networks.
You can also use “pull” techniques to garner online reviews from your followers. These reviews function as credible, shareable word of mouth testimonials, and have the added benefit of boosting your credibility with algorithms.
Q: If we could only choose two types of paid digital advertising channels for a school which would they be?
A: Whatever channels you choose, you want to make sure you can cover most of the customer journey with them.
At the awareness phase, display tactics on Google and social media can help you attract new audiences, while strategic retargeting (via search engine and social networks) can help you move audiences from familiarity through to conversion.
Read more FAQs about digital marketing for schools here.
We are pleased to offer the full report on the 2021 NAIS State of Independent School Marketing Survey. To request a free PDF of the full report, please click here.