The Private School Marketing Race: What’s your ROI?


Consider this …

I have a question for you: Do teachers at your school today still rely on the same teaching methods that were used in the 1960s or even 1980s? Of course not, much has changed over the last 30-50 years. Most schools pride themselves on 21st-century learning models, and the utilization of cutting-edge technology and teaching methods.  

Now, look at your marketing and communications office. Do you pride yourself on having a cutting-edge marketing and communications program? While schools are quick to stay current in terms of pedagogy and child development, the same can’t always be said for marketing and communications practices. In fact, many schools still solely rely on techniques that were developed not just 75 years ago, but 275 years ago.

That’s right. The first American magazine was published in 1741, and posters followed in the late 1700s. In 1867, the first recorded billboard rentals were reported. In 1922, radio advertising began, and almost 20 years later, the first television ads aired. Telemarketing emerged in 1970 and computers arrived in the early 80s. The advent of desktop publishing lead to a boom in print advertising in the mid-80s, and the early-90s saw SMS messaging arrive and TV became the nation’s largest source of advertising. And this is only a SAMPLE. You have to check out this history of marketing infographic from the Hubspot blog.

While these traditional tools can still be successful, and often are, they must be a part of a larger marketing and communications strategy to truly give you the best bang for your buck. Our world has changed dramatically since Benjamin Franklin had the idea of publishing a magazine in the American colonies, and if you’re relying only on these methods to reach your constituents, you’re missing out valuable communication tools, including inbound marketing practices.

Schools today need to go beyond the traditional, and embrace email marketing, website architecture and design that provides the best user experience possible (for paying customers first and foremost – prospective families, current parents and students, alumni; not faculty and staff), Search Engine Optimization (SEO), blogging, and social media outreach. These strategies and tools will help you foster new target audiences for admission, nurture and improve relationships with current and past constituents, keep your audiences connected with your school and invested in the community, and ultimately, bolster your revenue streams.

Yes, I said strong marketing can bolster your revenue streams, especially when it’s based on solid data. While your marketing office isn’t necessarily on the front lines of revenue generation, a solid marketing strategy can increase inquiries, applications, and ultimately enrollment to increase tuition dollars, as well as increase fundraising efforts.

Think about advertising in particular …

Are you still running print ads in your local newspaper and magazines simply because, “everyone else is?” At one of my schools (I’ve worked at 5), I had someone bring the paper to me when I didn’t advertise in it, shaking it at me, angry. “Why weren’t we featured in this paper? I’ve had dozens of people comment on the fact that we’re not in here!” My response to her was, “You’re welcome. I just saved you $1,200 on an ad, and a dozen people still thought of us.” It’s time to truly assess how we’re spending our money and why. Is the brand reputation really being bolstered by spending thousands of dollars on print ads? Or can you reduce your budget to a few hundred and invest in some targeted Facebook ads?

Here’s an admission case study. At Cheshire Academy, we advertised a scholarship for students from the Town of Cheshire. We ran one full-page print advertisement, purchased a direct mailing list, and invested in online social media advertising. How did each measure up? The print marketing brought in single digit visits to our website, which is where we want them to go. We want users to go online where we can capture their information via our inquiry forms. No one from the print campaign completed an inquiry form. The digital advertising, however, brought in thousands of targeted visitors. Consider this: working towards our goal to reach prospective families in Cheshire, Facebook tells us that there’s a possible reach of 8,300. Our paid and targeted advertising spend (which was less than half what we spent on print advertising) reached 7,353 of that possible reach, PLUS another 2,349 organic reach. Even better, we had a conversion rate of 4.29% from viewer to inquiry.


How are you spending your advertising dollars?

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