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Is Your School’s Marketing Fragile?

5 min read
Apr 20, 2023 8:00:00 AM

Marketing your school takes time, but by following these four easy steps, you will own your process and improve student enrollment.

I had a conversation with the director of admissions at a private Catholic school that is thinking about working with SchoolMint’s enrollment consultants.

She told me that even though the school had record enrollment last year, they still felt their student recruitment process was fragile and within a few students of not meeting their goal.

She likened it to living “paycheck to paycheck” when it came to student recruitment and wanted a way to feel more confident about the number of potential students they were attracting.

Does this sound familiar? Are you constantly wondering where the next class of students is going to come from?

You’re not alone.

Most of the people I talk to about recruiting for their school have a hefty fear about how successful they will be every year. Though a little fear is good, there are ways you can take control of the situation and become more confident in your recruiting.

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1. Examine Your Enrollment Data

There are a few important data points you should analyze to get started. Pull your enrollment numbers from the past five years, and examine this data:

  • Are you growing or shrinking?
  • How many new students per grade are you attracting?
  • What is your yearly retention rate? Is it different by a certain grade?
  • What is your true replacement number? For example, if you are a K-8 school and you graduate 40 eighth graders every year, you not only need to recruit 40 kindergarteners but also any other students who left via natural attrition.
  • Where are your students coming from and how did they hear about you? If you are not asking this question, go back and ask your new parents. This is great fundamental knowledge that will help you to understand your kindergarten feeder schools as well as a rough idea on what your marketing channels are.

By doing this exercise, you will probably find there are a lot of gaps in what you know and don’t know. Write those down so you can begin to develop a plan to address them in the future.

Note that all the data above can be captured in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform like SchoolMint Connect.

Made specifically for schools in K-12, SchoolMint Connect helps you track application and enrollment data for your current school year, compare it to prior years, and easily see patterns across grade levels from one convenient dashboard.

Watch the video below to learn more about SchoolMint Connect:

2. Identify the Marketing Assets You Have and Your Process for Development

For many schools, just going through the previous audit uncovers a lot of learning. Do you have a full suite of marketing tools? How good are those tools? Do you need to improve or develop them?

It’s okay if you don’t have these in place now, but make sure as part of your marketing plan you’re identifying a way to create them in the future.

Here are a few types of marketing assets and things to consider:

  • Is your website mobile-enabled? When was it last updated? Does it have engaging content? Or does it have a bunch of broken links?
  • Have you recently reviewed the marketing collateral that you provide after a tour or open house? Are they of good quality? How do they need to be improved?
  • Do you have a prospect database? This can be as simple as Excel — or you can try out one specifically designed for schools like SchoolMint Connect.
  • Do you have a strong social media presence?
  • Have you recently surveyed your parents to understand their perceptions of the school?
  • Do you know what your “online reputation” is on the major school review sites?
  • Do you have an email system (like SchoolMint Connect) to reach out to prospects?

It’s okay if you’re answering no to a lot of these. The important thing is to know where you stand and to then develop a plan to address them. The list may seem daunting, but start small — and start checking them off.

3. Write Out Your Marketing Plan

The physical act of writing out your marketing plan is important. It can be a very basic template, but force yourself to go through the process.

What you put down on paper is not going to be your final work. This should be a living document that you constantly change as you learn more about your environment or what works and what doesn’t work in your marketing.

A few bits of advice on your plan:

  • Make it a 12-month plan. Marketing is not a “season” or a week.
  • Clearly identify who does what and when. The recruitment director or principal can’t do everything. Delegate, but monitor those tasks that you delegate.
  • Identify the big events (open houses, etc.). Pick dates to ensure you have enough time to launch a successful event. Once you have dates set, identify all the precursor tasks that go into a successful event so these are done before the last minute.
  • Don’t bite off more than you can chew the first time around. If your website is poor, January is not the time to start a rework of the site. But schedule a time to improve it. There is no excuse for having a poor website.

Alternatively, if you don’t have time (or don’t want the hassle) to improve your site, a solution like SchoolMint Engage can help lighten your workload and ensure your website is a true marketing and enrollment asset.

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SchoolMint Engage helps you increase the online visibility of your school and enroll more students through a mobile-friendly, optimized microsite that integrates seamlessly into your current school website.

Watch the video below to learn more:

4. Know What You Can Do — and What You Need to Outsource

This may sound self-serving coming from somebody who helps schools in recruitment, but you can’t do everything well.

There are experts at different things when it comes to student recruiting, and it might not hurt to bring in specialists to shore up areas where you are not as strong.

A few things you might want to consider hiring for:

You can probably perform some of these things yourself, but sometimes you need to hire for a specialty. For example, one of my clients was a chain of 20 very successful schools that just needed expertise in customer persona development.

As another example, many other clients choose SchoolMint for help with running ads on social media (Facebook and Instagram) to spread awareness of their school and drive parents toward enrollment. You can learn more about our digital advertising services here.

Before SchoolMint, back when I was the sole owner and marketing consultant of my company Bright Minds Marketing, I still hired out for collateral design because it wasn’t my specialty. (In fact, it still isn’t.)

As I told my client I mentioned at the beginning of this post, the best way to remove this feeling of fragility is to understand where you are (points 1 and 2), understand where you want to be (point 3), and know the best tools to get there (point 4).

Once you have that in place, you will feel more confident in your recruitment and, ultimately, will be more successful.

Take the Next Step with SchoolMint

Whether you are interested in a demo of SchoolMint Engage or in setting up a chat with one of our enrollment consultants, we can help you ensure your school marketing efforts are working to your advantage.

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