Marketing the small private school is a challenge in the best of times. In the post-pandemic world we all live in, that challenge often seems impossible. It is not when you handle it head-on. You can't ignore it or make excuses. Denial or procrastination will not solve the problem. Identifying your school's brand will help point you in the right direction. So, here are a couple of things you can do to improve the marketing of your school. While I am writing this article for the head or owner of a school, many points fit a parent's viewpoint.
What follows are primary questions you need to ask yourself and your marketing committee if you have one. The answers will help drive your marketing program.
Who are your prospective families?
What are the demographics of your community? The U.S. Census Bureau has most of the data you need to answer that question. Using Google Maps, draw a ten-mile radius circle with your school at the center. Note which towns, cities, villages fall within that circle. Red flags would include communities with many retired people and homes with few or no children under 12. Investigate current property values with Zillow. The higher the property values and rents are, the more likely it will be that families can afford to send their kids to your school or any private school, for that matter. Understanding the demographics of your community is very important. Suppose there are not enough families with school-age children living within that imaginary 10-mile radius circle you drew earlier. In that case, there will not be enough students to make your school financially viable.
What kind of school are those potential families looking for?
Are they looking for a PK-5 primary school? Are they looking for a strong religious education component? Do they require a school for special needs? Your school cannot be all things to all people. Know your niche. Promote your niche. For example, if you own a Montessori school, normally, you will not provide the specialized instruction necessary for children with learning disabilities. Notwithstanding that, some parents will still try to enroll their children with special needs in your school.
How does your school compare with the competition?
How many schools in your community offer similar programs? How successful are they? Create a spreadsheet with all the schools in your area targeting the same age group. Then use the search feature on Private School Review to develop a list of schools in your market area. As you can see from these search results, we provide specific information about schools. Now add schools that match your school's grades and program to your spreadsheet. Then develop detailed profiles of those schools so you can see how your school compares with them. Examine program features, facilities, fees, faculty, curriculum, and financial aid. Your school is unique. How does it differ from the competition? Now, promote what's different and unique about your school and its programs.
Why would families want to send their children to your school?
Ask families whose children have attended your school to answer this question. Their testimonials will be invaluable. Feature parent testimonials on your website and social media.
This video shows you how to build a brand from scratch.
After answering these questions, you are ready to develop some critical statements about your school.
Develop your school's profile.
Parents want to find out several bits of information at a glance. People scan pages. They don't read them. That's why you must list profile information on your website in a format that's easy to scan. For example:
St. Swithun's Episcopal School
1234 South Street
Anywhere, NC 27605
Admissions deadline: January 31
Practically speaking, you probably won't aggregate all that information in one paragraph on your website. However, that essential information should appear somewhere on your home page. Your strategy is to make parents add your school to their list of schools that they think might suit their needs and requirements.
Let's examine each element in detail. The name of the school clearly shows that it is a school with a specific religious affiliation. The address helps you calculate the distance from your home to the school. The phone number and web address provide you with contact information. The description of grades offered allows parents to match your school with their requirements. The admissions deadline helps them refine their school search process. All that essential information factors into the school search process.
Describe your school's mission.
Parents want to know why your school exists. Here's a description of the mission of the Cristo Rey schools.
"The Cristo Rey Network of high schools delivers a career-focused college preparatory education in the Catholic tradition for students with limited economic resources, uniquely integrating rigorous academic curricula with four years of professional work experience and support to and through college. We partner with educators, businesses and, communities to enable students to fulfill their aspirations for a lifetime of success."
Your mission statement is a written snapshot of what your school is all about.
Describe your school's history.
Parents want to know how long your school has been around. They also look for signs of stability and growth. Your school history can be as detailed as you like.
Describe your school's educational philosophy.
Does your school follow a classical Christian model? Montessori? Progressive? Is it college-prep? Does it require a partnership of student, school, and parent? Understanding your school's educational philosophy allows parents to refine their school search further.
Your school's brand.
At the end of this exercise, you will have pulled together all the critical facts about your school. The next step is to plan your online marketing and outreach to your community. Hire a marketing specialist who understands how to market private schools. The person who knows how to market the local Thai restaurant is probably not who you are looking for. A Google search using the string "private school marketing" will yield some names for you to vet. Stay on brand and be successful.
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