What sets your school apart from the (free) competition? If you’re asking parents to pay tuition and choose your institution over the public system, you need to be able to prove your value. Here are six ways you can make sure your school stands out.
When it comes to marketing, the first step is knowing your customer. The second is recognizing your competition. At Metric Marketing, many of our current education-sector clients aren't just competing against other private and independent schools – they’re also competing against well-regarded public schools, charter schools, magnet programs and virtual campuses.
The key to differentiating your school from the competition is to understand and clearly communicate your Unique Value Proposition (UVP). After all, if you’re asking parents to pay tuition, it’s critical to clearly identify why they should make such a decision.
But what do parents value about private education? What can you offer that public schools in your area simply cannot? To prove your worth to parents, you need to focus on your differentiators. Don’t just talk about WHAT you offer, but about HOW and WHY you offer what you do – because sometimes, that’s a differentiator in itself.
What makes your school location unique? Do you have access to great ski hills? Serene grounds and a picturesque landscape? Ocean views? Is your day school along most parents’ commute? Or are you conveniently located near a major center, so kids can live on campus during the week and return home for the weekends? Does your school offer an expansive landscape and outdoor learning spaces that allow students to spend time outdoors during the day?
Many families move to areas with better schools intending to send their kids to the public system, but paying tuition at a private or independent school might be a better investment and make more financial sense than moving. With many parents working demanding careers, traveling and staying long hours, the location of your campus, or the features your campus can provide over local schools, may be a key factor in their decision.
These days, magnet programs or charter schools offer specialized programming that can definitely compete with private and independent institutions. Other public schools offer compelling programs or experiences, like a state championship-winning football team, extensive AP offerings or an IB program. What sets your school apart from the rest and makes it worth the investment?
Do you have an equestrian or athletics program that can’t be found in the public system? Do you instill religious or cultural values that parents want their kids to have? Are you affiliated with a cutting-edge technology program? Target your marketing to reach families who are interested in exactly what your school has to offer. This is where explaining WHY you do what you do can make a huge impact!
Another angle that might resonate with families is your school’s before and after school programming – or your on-site extracurricular options. These options can help simplify family life and appeal to busy parents.
We take it for granted that parents care about academic excellence. But how much better are your students performing compared to those in the public system? If you can use statistics to offer proof of value and show how many of your students are being accepted into Ivy League schools or how their SAT scores compare to the average, you can present a solid case for return on investment. Also, if you have accomplished or highly-regarded faculty, feature them in your marketing communications campaigns. Parents will feel a sense of security to know their children will learn from and be inspired by the brightest and best.
Does your school have a good reputation? Do you have a rich history with famous alumni? Exceptional test scores or professional performance? A very selective arts or music program that only accepts the best of the best? If your school’s achievements or quality are top notch, focus on those attributes to create the perception of value for potential applicants. This is where brand recognition plays into marketing–with uniforms, crests, stickers and merchandise that parents and students will be proud to display.
However, this is where it is important to understand what your target audiences are looking for. Make sure that prestige is something you think your families are looking for. Consider the reputation of your school as it compares to other possible private schools in your area, and how you’d like to be regarded comparatively.
Public schools are sometimes hesitant to allow parents and grandparents on campus, for a variety of reasons – or may offer only limited ways to get involved in the day to day of your child’s education. This has been more true than ever during the past few pandemic years – but it’s a trend we’re seeing continue today. Highlighting HOW your school includes families will build trust among parents in a “pulling back the curtain” way that many crave.
Consider how parents’ attitudes or priorities may have changed over the generations. We’ve unpacked here are our tips for Marketing Your Private School to Millennial Parents.
One marketing tool that is readily available to private and independent schools is testimonials – from current students, families, faculty, and alum. Leveraging testimonials in your marketing and admissions touchpoints is a powerful way to communicate your differentiators in a more authentic – and more believable – way. Even if it's a quick quote from an email a parent sent, little bits here and there to break up the “salesy” copy in marketing materials can go a long way.
For larger campaigns with bigger budgets, video projects can be helpful in this regard. Interviewing a parent (such as a “course-correction” family who did make the switch from public education) or a student who transferred from a public school, where they can speak to what they had before vs. what they're experiencing now, can make an emotional impact. For example, a quote like this makes students and parents want to be involved with your school:
“At my old school, I never felt like my teachers got to know me. After coming to _____, I feel like I can go to my English teacher to chat about anything from my math homework to our upcoming theater performance. I couldn’t do that before.”
To learn more about promoting awareness and positioning your school, read our article about Top Marketing Priorities for Private Schools. Then, see how your marketing efforts compare to other private and independent schools by requesting a copy of our 2021 NAIS State of Independent School Marketing Survey report. Finally, take a few minutes to think about your UVP and jot down some ideas for future marketing campaigns. The results will be worth it.
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.