Turn Your Head of School Into a Marketing Champion

Private Schools Marketing

How to Turn Your Head of School Into a Marketing Champion

The way your Head of School views marketing can play a large role in determining your department budget and the support you receive from leadership. If you find yourself continuously fighting to justify your budget and prove the value of your efforts, you can take heart in knowing you’re not alone. 

In the 2021 NAIS State of Independent School Marketing Survey, we review some challenges that school marketing departments face in getting their Head of School (HOS) on-board with marketing, and best practices you can use to turn your HOS into a true marketing champion (spoiler alert: it’s all about the data).


In 2021, we asked private and independent schools from across North America how important marketing was to their Head of School. Here’s what they told us.

Based on your experience, how important is marketing in the eyes of your Head of School?

52% Very Important

35% Important

13% Somewhat Important

These numbers varied greatly depending on a number of factors, including each school’s size, structure, nature (day vs. boarding) and even the grades they serve. You can find these breakdowns and more in the full NAIS survey report.

It will come as no surprise that schools with supportive Heads were more likely to have larger marketing budgets, with over half budgeting more than $85,000 per year. By contrast, those whose leadership views marketing as only “somewhat important” were the least likely to receive that much funding, with less than one in four budgeting over $85,000.

So, how can all schools get their HOS on board? The answer lies in reporting the right data.


Chances are, if a Head of School is not concerned with marketing, one of two things is happening: either the school already has a long wait list comprised of right-fit families, or Marketing efforts are being confused with Admissions efforts. 


The key to helping your HOS understand the differences between Marketing and Admissions success is presenting them with data that separates the marketing funnel from the admissions funnel. 

Whereas Admissions focuses on enrolling the qualified leads who apply, it’s Marketing’s job to get those leads “through the door” to begin with. 

Rather than reporting on the performance of individual marketing tactics, it helps to present data that encompasses the entire journey a family takes into a conversion (e.g., registering for an open house, attending an information session, starting the application process). The decision-making journey—from touching your brand for the first time, to applying for your school—is long and well researched. By mapping out all of the components that work together to move a lead down the Marketing funnel, you can help your HOS understand the crucial role marketing plays in attracting and shepherding right-fit families to enroll. (Google refers to this as “attribution modeling.”)

Data points from Google Analytics, strategic email marketing and your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software can help you map the path from MQL (marketing qualified lead) to SQL (sales qualified lead), to enrollment. 


Simplified return on investment (ROI) reporting—that is, data that outlines “spending $X will generate returns between Y and Z”—is an efficient method to communicate results to your Head of School. 

It can be helpful to break this down even further, by identifying your cost-per-conversion and comparing this number with the number of conversions you expect to achieve, the total cost of marketing to achieve these conversions, and the total revenue those conversions will generate for your school. 


A final piece of the marketing budget puzzle is: boards. Of all the schools surveyed, 25% say they do not report directly to their boards, which often have partial or final say in how the marketing budget is allocated. However, one-third say they would be able to present more often if they had access to better reporting. 

Arming yourself with the right data and getting your Head of School’s support can help you defend your strategic direction and justify your request for more budget. After all, the numbers don’t lie.


Marketing teams should hold themselves accountable for getting the right data in front of the people making marketing decisions. Where resource availability is an issue, you need the ROI numbers to support a budget increase request. And where skepticism about digital marketing exists, you need the data in place to prove what’s working and what’s not. If the skeptics in the room don’t want to make decisions based on data, they shouldn’t be making marketing decisions. 

At the end of the day, the question is: do you have the right data?


In July of 2021, Metric Marketing partnered with the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) in a survey of independent school marketing teams. The state of marketing in the independent school landscape has changed immensely over the last decade, especially as the power and influence of digital marketing have grown. In the final report, we learn about the common challenges and opportunities school marketers face, and provide some best practices that you can use to improve your school marketing.

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 fill in the form below.


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