Admissions and marketing directors are busy from January through May working to market the school, re-enroll students, meet new families and build enrollments. Tours and visits continue through the summer with late enrollments in August. For many schools the tour and open house starts up again in the fall. Somewhere in the process, there might be a chance to catch a breath. The seasons can be so busy that we miss the most important moments in the year and end up with less effective school marketing.
Big moments in school marketing during May and December
Two of the most important moments in school marketing happen when school staff is most ready for a break – in May and December. The initial reasons why these dates are so important is obvious – this is when we have large groups of people celebrating the success of the school at graduation events and in holiday concerts and events.
The crowds of friends and family are important because this is when we can extend the natural social network reach beyond the parents in the school. Lots of smaller versions of this spontaneous sharing happen during sports seasons, homecoming and at other special events. Because the big events take up so much staff time and energy, it’s easy to miss the marketing opportunity that the big moments represent.
Because these events are open to the public, and help trumpet the real success stories that the Christian school is creating, they are a natural way to expand the reach of your marketing. Not only will people share invitations, but you can get spots on radio, local TV, and community news much more easily. Community leaders can be enticed to participate and proud parents will share well developed invitations and graphics broadly. Both seasons also provide the opportunity to register people for tickets and allow us to capture email addresses. Of course, the highlight of both seasons is the photographs of graduates headed off to colleges and great looking children singing and acting on stage. Those are the kind of photos that social networks love and families love to share.
The less obvious – what not to miss in May
With the end of the school year in sight, and lots to plan for around graduation, few marketing or admissions staff are looking for more to do – but May holds some opportunities you can’t afford to miss. Here are three:
Search Engine Strategies (SEO)
Developing or building a SEO strategy not only takes time to implement, it takes time for momentum to develop. If you want to be on the top of search rankings in January, then starting in May provides the six month SEO building period that you need. While you might get offers for some “magical SEO” tricks that will boost your rankings immediately, truly credible and sustainable search traffic requires time. You can be found by parents when they search for a school online, but it will not happen overnight.
Summer Family Moves
Lots of families make a move in the summer. Many of them don’t have everything in place before school ends. That means that families that you would like to introduce to the school are going to show up during the summer months looking for a school. While transience has decreased in the past decade, it is on the rise again, and in some areas this can be more than 1% of the local population moving every month (14% per year). 16 million people move cross country every year, and people with younger children move further than older families. Here are some strategies to reach those who are new to your community:
- Make sure that your school office is “new family ready” during the summer in spite of reduced staffing. Have materials, tour times, and a warm welcome ready.
- Be consistent in social media so that you can be found in the key social networks for your community all summer. One way to do that is to enlist teachers help in getting families to share about what books their children are reading from the summer reading list, and providing some incentive for learning while vacationing.
- Make sure that you have fresh supplies of materials and digital postings in all the places that families frequent when they first move to your area. That can include the visitors center, local hotels, the chamber of commerce, and the library.
- Take a look at how your school is getting found online, but putting various zip codes and the name of your school in a Google search. If you are not on the first page of listings, then some local search repair is in order.
- Consider a new mover welcome strategy with post cards or through a community welcome service.
Video and Photography
Some of your best moments happen in May, and the grounds probably have flowers and green grass. Don’t miss the opportunity for new photography and video. You’ll be able to use it through the next full year.
Key Point: May should mark the beginning of your marketing upgrades for your next enrollment season. Story Collaborative supports a May through December Marketing upgrade cycle by discounting services that start during this period.
December Marketing Opportunities
December holds some important opportunities for school marketing. The impact of a well designed Christmas card in the home of both enrolled and prospective families can have a big impact. But something else is also important. Since January marks the beginning of re-enrollment and many schools’ open houses, having marketing ready before the Christmas break is vital.
Don’t under estimate the browsing that parents will do online during the holidays.
Time off for families leads to online browsing. Once the shopping is done, and the holiday parties are over, parents have time to think about the upcoming year – and that includes school plans for their children. It’s also a time for honest reflection by parents about life and their children.
It’s such a busy time of year, and everyone looks forward to some time off — but the core marketing season for schools will be in full swing as soon as you return in January.
Use this checklist to make sure you’re ready:
- Website is up to date.
- You’ve planned some fresh online content and it will become available right after Christmas.
- Your end of year donation campaign marketing is underway.
- You’re sharing some thoughtful Christian parenting articles that will help parents think about education.
- You have stories ready for sharing that focus on key decision moments in the parenting journey.
- Social posts will continue over the Holiday.
- Lots of “thank you’s” are going out.
- Check your Search Engine Status (pick 10 phrases that people might search to find you (not just the school name) and see where you come up on the search pages (try “Christian School near me” and other more general phrases). Try the same searches on both a smart phone and a laptop.
Your Relationship Nurturing is Ready to Go
The most effective systems for building enrollment provide multiple ways for people to connect with the school online, including “pre-inquiry” opportunities. Provide some information for parents who aren’t ready to officially inquire, such as information about learning benchmarks, skills development for Kindergarten, middle and high school, or information that helps parents nurture faith in their children.
When “inquire or apply” is the only option available, then you are only connecting with people who have already come close to a decision. Instead, reach them throughout their journey toward enrollment by continuing to provide valuable information. This can offer the elements that make your school unique in a sequence of emails as well as other information that parents find valuable. The more educated your prospects are about the school, the more likely they are to stick with you through the decision process.
It’s good to have this complete prior to December, but certainly by January. You will want to have a system that allows people to explore the school, get connected, and start building a relationship.
It’s helpful to organize your marketing in advance by campaigns, to ease the load during the busy enrollment season. By pre-planning the campaigns you can gather the ideas and creative assets you’ll need, and then put them on the calendar.
If you want to learn how Hubspot provides a way to organize everything into campaigns including SEO, response pages, social posts and ads and buttons you use, sign up for a free 30 day trial, we’ll be glad to set it up.