Marketing When Your Seats are Full

Private Schools Marketing

We sometimes hear from schools who feel they can take their foot off the gas and stop investing in marketing when their school is full (usually defined as having no spots open for next fall, with waitlists for key entry point grades). 

While that idea might sound logical at first, we want schools to know that it’s always a good practice to maintain your school’s marketing efforts, even if your admissions goals have been met.

Here’s why:

  • Growing your application pool allows your admissions team to select better and better candidates who are the best fit for your school and your admissions goals. 

  • Staying in the market helps your current families continue to feel great about their choice and builds loyalty. 

  • Being visible and consistent with your brand and your message out in the community helps you maintain your position as a school of choice. It also allows you to control your own messaging/reputation instead of letting others decide who you are. 

  • Your absence in the market creates space for your competitors to own a greater share of voice – and therefore competing awareness among shared potential families.

  • You can focus on other projects that will ultimately improve your brand and help you reach new goals.

Learn more: Digital Marketing Fundamentals for Private Schools

We think about these ‘full seats’ seasons as investment seasons. This doesn’t necessarily mean a financial investment – but rather a chance for you to focus on the projects, priorities, and ideas that will set you up for success now and in the future and continue to position your school as a first choice for right fit families.

So let’s talk about how to ‘invest’ during these seasons. We always recommend keeping your digital and traditional ads in market in (at least) a basic, best-practice form – but you may be able to redirect a portion of this spending into other projects, or (even better) you can use your success to ask for more. Your team may also find they have a little bit more time to invest in other marketing ideas. 

These seasons are precious, and we don’t want you to waste the opportunity. Our private and independent school marketing experts offer these seven tips for consideration (and action). 

1. Invest in secondary audiences

In tougher admissions seasons, we tend to focus on primary audiences: the families who are obvious right fits for the school today. Right now, you have the luxury of looking up and looking around to see which families you might want to market to next in order to improve the health of your funnel. 

These audiences might include:

  • More diverse families

  • Families in new geos or neighborhoods

  • Newly admitted families – to maintain your position as their school of choice

  • Current families – to grow and build loyalty and confidence in their choice

  • Families with special interests that match your school’s strengths or priorities  (i.e. science, music, athletics)

  • Families who’ve been in your admissions pool for a while (with 2-4 year olds)

2. Invest in testing

Now is a great time to A/B test so you can really refine and optimize your marketing efforts. To start, take a look at the ads, emails, or other marketing efforts that performed best for you last year and test your ideas to improve them.  What you learn today can be applied to your next big campaign.

3. Invest in ‘wish list’ projects

Think about the things you keep meaning to do but always seem to run out of time or resources to complete – like updating your photo & video library, updating your email template design, or adding SMS to your open houses.

4. Invest in longer-term projects

Think about the things that require a larger budget, a more multidisciplinary team, a more complicated approval process, or a longer timeline – like re-imagining your admissions events, creating and executing an email marketing and automation strategy, adding SMS to your open house check-ins and subsequent communications workflows, etc. 

If it’s been more than two or three years since you refreshed your creative campaign concept for recruitment, now is the time to start working towards a new one – beginning with research and strategy.

5. Invest in Planning Strategic Goals

When your enrollment numbers are strong, there’s an opportunity to really focus on making sure your marketing strategy is aligned with your strategic planning goals. 

A strategic plan for schools typically involves more than just filling seats; it's about creating a vision for how your school can enrich its community. When your marketing strategies align with this vision, it can lead to a more effective and impactful approach that supports:

  • DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) objectives. If we don't change the ways we're bringing families into our admissions pipeline, we can't change the families that come in.

  • Enrollment planning, aligned with campus planning and capital projects. Too many schools focus on their current capacity until construction commences or new buildings are acquired. These scenarios can result in significant challenges for the admissions team, necessitating a multi-year approach to achieving these ambitious goals.

  • Community building. This is a prime opportunity to revisit and reinforce your foundational marketing elements, such as brand, messaging, and core positioning. By collaborating with faculty, current families, and alumni in addition to utilizing all communication platforms, you can foster a community that perfectly aligns with your school's values.

Learn more: Doing More With Your Email Data

6. Invest in what’s next

Start thinking about what’s next for your school’s marketing team. This might be the right time to start laying the foundation of your new campaign, updating your brand guide, and doing some meaningful market research (think: surveys, focus groups, and research projects).

7. Invest in something new

Try something new – like that TikTok advertising you’ve been thinking about, the really great idea you had for a virtual open house video, or the piece of gated content you’ve dreamed about creating as a lead magnet for admissions.

8. Invest in your marketing future

Now that you have the data (and the waitlists) to prove that your ROI in marketing is paying off, think about how to keep that good thing going. Use your success to justify larger investments in marketing projects to your board or your head of school. (Need help with this? We’d love to show you our proprietary marketing ROI calculator for private and independent schools.)

Learn more: How to Turn Your Head of School into a Marketing Champion

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 use the form below to sign up and receive more marketing tips in your inbox.


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