If there’s one thing we’ve collectively learned over the last couple of years, it’s that change is inevitable - and that it sometimes yields even better results than we could have imagined. In our 2021 State of Private School Marketing Survey (in partnership with NAIS), we gained insight into private and independent schools across North America and the changes they made to their marketing processes during the pandemic.
Here are four lessons private school marketers have learned - that are here to stay.
Lesson 1: Make sure your website works for you
While campuses were closed or forced to limit visitors - and families were taking precautions - many prospective parents relied on school websites for most of their early research. 59% of our respondents reported increased website visitors over the past year.
There are a few ways that you can make sure your website is up the task:
Audit your most frequently visited pages and ensure they are clear and full of rich information for prospective parents.
Follow your user paths and make sure they are finding what they need.
Investigate your high-bounce pages and take the opportunity to improve the content there or add links so you can keep interested visitors on the site.
Update your website frequently in places where it makes sense (like a new & events page or a blog). This helps your SEO rankings and also shows that there’s a lot happening on campus - and that you are on top of it all.
Make it a habit to visit websites of your competitors or aspirational schools and identify new ways to present information that’s engaging, helpful, and a great representation of your brand.
Capitalize on your increased traffic and turn casual researchers into solid prospects by capturing their email addresses through inquiry, registration, or sign-up forms - and keep the conversation going offline.
Lesson 2: Invest in digital marketing
62% of our respondents allocated more than half of their budget to digital marketing - and found it very effective. These schools generated more leads during the pandemic, leading to higher enrollment numbers after the pandemic.
Digital marketing works hard at every stage of the customer journey - but it’s important to match the right platforms to the right audiences and adjust your messaging accordingly.
Some of the digital marketing channels that the schools in our survey used included:
Social media such as Instagram and Facebook
Paid advertisements on Google
If you're struggling to maximize your digital marketing methods to generate leads, here are a few things you can try:
Don’t be afraid to try new things. Finding an ideal digital marketing mix requires frequent testing and evaluation. Go in with a strategy, but be prepared to make adjustments throughout your recruitment season to maximize your overall ROI.
Be omnipresent. Instead of putting all your eggs in one social media platform, use at least three to maximize your audience reach. The most effective platforms for most school target audiences today are Instagram, Facebook and TikTok.
Leverage what social media does best. Post fun behind-the-scenes videos such as children playing or participating in a fun classroom activity to give audiences a real sense of what a ‘day in the life’ on your campus is really like.
Lesson 3: Lean into virtual events
Since most parents couldn't visit private and independent schools due to Covid restrictions, they could only get the general feel of a school through a virtual open house or tour. These tours became increasingly popular and 60% of our respondents reported benefiting from them.
No matter the future path through this pandemic, it’s likely that virtual events are here to stay - as least as an option. Here’s why:
Online events are convenient for families who aren't local or who are too busy to visit your school.
Offering an online option keeps your events accessible for families who would otherwise require extra support to plan a visit - whether financial, physical, or psychological.
Virtual events are inexpensive and they don't take up much time once they are created.
They build interest. Parents and guardians in the consideration stage of your customer journey process are more likely to get enticed by a virtual tour than a simple blog post or tour through your website.
Virtual events can help you reach a wider audience. For example, since videos are highly shareable on social media, posting a virtual tour video increases your chances of attracting new leads when they come across your video.
If recording and posting virtual tours of your school are unfamiliar grounds, these four tips will help you make your first online tour a success:
Sell the experience. Make your video as authentic and friendly as you can. Highlight your school's unique facilities and let viewers see your students having fun using the facilities. You could also feature a few staff members to humanize your video and offer a real look at what life at your school is like.
Add a CTA (call to action). At the end of the video, include a clear call to action that will guide the viewers to the following action. A great example is asking them to subscribe to your email list, request an information package, or book a meeting with your admissions team.
Promote it on social media. Your customers are on various social platforms, so reach them where they are. Make your tour videos shareable and post them on all social platforms.
Follow up. Automate your workflows to send follow-up emails to your subscriber list after they've watched your virtual tour video.
Lesson 4: Email marketing is your secret weapon
Personal one-on-one interactions are critical, but electronic communication can really enhance the conversations you are able to start - and move forward - with prospective families. Leveraging the full capabilities of your email marketing tools can help you reach more parents more often, and likely with less work - thanks to the magic of a well-planned and well-executed email automation strategy.
Here are a few ways you can add automation into your email marketing:
Create a workflow to follow up and say thank you to parents who attend your open house - online or in person.
Create a separate workflow for parents who registered for an event but did not attend, linking them to relevant information (or the on-demand virtual event) and inviting them to book an appointment with your admissions team to learn more.
Build out a drip campaign that stays in touch with prospective families on a regular basis, offering key information and reminders about resources and upcoming deadlines or events - until they enrol.
Implement a workflow for accepted students while they wait for their first day - building interest and anticipation, answering FAQs, reinforcing loyalty, and even encouraging referrals.
Take these four vital lessons from the pandemic and use them to direct your marketing campaigns well into the future. 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.