Attracting new students and families is always top of mind for private and independent schools—and it starts with a good marketing plan. As they begin searching for schools, you want your mission to shine through and resonate with families so they connect with your school.
Marketing is a broad topic, with a lot of different subcategories; and while this can make it fun to explore new avenues, it can also make it confusing. We’re breaking it down into manageable steps so you can develop a school marketing plan that will boost admissions.
Why a School Marketing Plan is Important
Everyone wants to make a great first impression, including your school! Your marketing plan plays a critical role in how prospective families find you and their initial impression of your school; it also impacts how existing families engage with you.
When families receive communication from your school or visit your website and social media channels, you want to make sure that they are getting a consistent, clear message that reflects your mission and values. Plus, you want to ensure they are receiving information that is valuable to them.
With a strategic marketing plan in place, your school will garner interest throughout the school year and be prepared for a successful admissions season.
Here are three steps you can take to begin building your plan.
Step 1: Analyze Your Current Admissions Marketing Tactics
First, it’s important to know and understand your current market position. A SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis can help identify how your admissions marketing tactics can be improved in the future.
Let’s take a closer look:
- Strengths: What does your school do well throughout the admissions process? What marketing tactics have produced positive results?
- Weaknesses: What areas need improvement or lack resources? Knowing this going into planning can help you set realistic and attainable goals.
- Opportunities: Are there hidden opportunities to improve upon your weaknesses? Or perhaps build upon an area you do well?
- Threats: For schools, this may look like a high degree of competition with neighboring schools, decreasing enrollment rate, or lack of staff resources. Though it may seem intimidating, acknowledging threats can help you create a more effective marketing plan in the long run.
Bonus tip: As you complete the SWOT analysis, it may be helpful to research what marketing tactics neighboring schools are using to attract applicants. This can help you identify how your school can stand out.
Step 2: Setting and Tracking Goals
Setting and tracking goals ensure that you are spending time and resources effectively. SMART goals can help you with goal setting while identifying KPIs will aid in measuring progress. Let’s take a closer look at both tactics.
Setting SMART goals
SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely. Creating SMART goals is an actionable framework for your marketing plan. You can choose to create short- or long-term goals and break them out by the campaign.
- Specific: What are the desired outcomes of your marketing efforts?
- Measurable: How will you track and report results?
- Attainable: Look at historical data to determine if your targets are reasonable.
- Realistic: Does your staff have the time and resources to dedicate to this goal?
- Timely: What is the timeframe for achieving this goal? Consider breaking it up into milestones for long-term objectives.
Using Key Performance Indicators to Measure Results
Tying your SMART goals to Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) gives you an easy way to track and analyze results by channel. Examples of KPIs that schools could use by the channel include the following:
- Social media: Number of impressions, engagements, or new followers
- Website: Number of new vs. returning visitors, session length, form completions
- Email: Open and click-through rates
KPIs can help you gauge the audience you are reaching and what kind of information they find valuable. You can incorporate these insights into your marketing plan centered around admissions. For example, if you receive a high amount of engagement on social media posts showcasing school culture, you may want to consider content that promotes a positive school culture and how your school maintains that as a selling point in your admissions campaigns.
Bonus tip: There’s an opportunity for schools to leverage historical data to plan marketing initiatives that boost admissions. Systems like Ravenna ADMIT allow you to access prior year reports quickly and easily so you can identify admissions trends and create targeted campaigns accordingly.
Step 3: Create an Admissions Marketing Plan
Now comes the fun part—the creation of your new admissions marketing plan! Think about what channels you would like to use to get your message out there. Consider channels like social media, print or direct mail, email, text messages, direct phone calls, and landing pages on your school website. You may also think about hosting virtual or in-person events where prospective families can connect with you and ask questions.
Next, develop the main topics you would like each campaign to cover and decide on a general direction for the messaging. Think about the “what” and the “why” for each campaign—what are you asking of your audience and why would they be inclined to apply to your school? Providing value and creating an emotional connection with your campaigns are great ways to entice prospective families.
Then, you can begin planning the deliverables and assigning due dates. Worried about staying on top of it all? Try creating a master marketing calendar for staff. You can list campaign details like topics, audiences, channels, status, due dates, and responsibilities.
Bonus tip: Understanding your audience is an important part of marketing messaging. Here are a few tips to get started.
As you go live and monitor your marketing plan performance, remember that is okay to adjust as needed! Even with the most meticulous marketing plan, there is still a level of experimentation involved to see what resonates with your audience.
Duplicate or build upon tactics that gain traction, and don’t be afraid to try something new or mix it up! Marketing plans are fluid and what works or what doesn’t will continue changing based on new trends, generational differences, and technology.
The good news is that the latest technology can also help you build comprehensive marketing initiatives that increase admissions. Read our K-12 Trends Report to see how schools are using modern solutions to best market themselves.
Looking to elevate the entire admission process to attract new families and streamline processes? Explore Ravenna ADMIT with one of our experts.