Learn How Private Schools Are Staying Competitive in 2023…and Beyond

Whether your private school saw a surge in enrollments during the COVID-19 pandemic or not, new enrollment and retention are both critical to the long-term health of your academic institution. In most cases, digital marketing will be a critical strategy to help ensure your longevity.

“Enrollment in K–12 schools is predicted to plateau nationally through the 2020s, and while the U.S. birth rate increased for the first time in seven years in 2021, that doesn’t compensate for the years-long decline that began in 2007. How schools tell their stories, share their missions, and demonstrate value to prospective families is more important than ever.”

2022 Niche PK-12 State of Enrollment and Marketing: Private and Independent Schools

Where to Begin

Private schools attract families by offering numerous benefits. Successful enrollment numbers come with understanding the desires and frustrations of the parent and student community and implementing appropriate marketing strategies. This is how you make the benefits of your institution clear to the target audience. The key to boosting enrollment and retention is communicating your value proposition to the right people, speaking to what they want and need in a strategic sequence.

Each year, more private schools are realizing that marketing is a justifiable, ROI-positive expense. In 2022, 18 percent of private schools spent more than $20,000 on digital marketing efforts.

Why then are some schools not capitalizing on digital marketing opportunities?

Many schools don’t partake because:

  • They don’t know where to start.
  • They lack the bandwidth to do so.
  • They don’t have anyone on their team with that expertise.

 

Working with a trusted digital marketing partner can help your school step into modern marketing. The result? You stay relevant, keep enrollment healthy, and improve retention.

With or without the support of a marketing agency partner, here are seven strategies you can implement to thrive in the upcoming academic years.

7 Practical Marketing Strategies for Private Schools

1. Mapping the Customer Journey of Prospective Enrollees

Imagine a parent is considering private school. Maybe that parent has heard of some local choices but has little other information. How does that person move from a state of ignorance about a specific school to enthusiastically enrolling his or her child? This process is known as the customer journey.

Step One: Awareness

Whether through a Google search, social media posts, or targeted ads, prospects become aware of a school and what it has to offer. They learn the name of the school and maybe poke around the website a bit.

SEO, social media, and digital advertising strategies bolster this initial awareness. Those efforts attract initial clicks and bring the same people back through re-marketing efforts.

Step Two: Lead Qualification

Before you begin marketing, define the persona of the target clientele. This includes:

  • Geographic location
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Age of children
  • Type of employment
  • Anything else relevant to your school

 

After someone comes to your website (either through targeted marketing or organic search), that person needs to take additional steps to become a qualified lead. When prospective customers share information that indicates they are a match for your school, they become qualified leads.

For example, a qualified lead would be a parent with at least one child in the grade range of your school who is actively seeking a private school education. A disqualified lead would be someone who has children who have already aged out, a person who only wants public school education, or someone who does not have the budget to afford your school.

We can implement marketing techniques to qualify leads and to move them to the next phase of the customer journey. Some of those strategies include a prospect providing personal information via a form in exchange for a free piece of content. This downloadable content is called a lead magnet. The lead magnet provides the prospect with highly valuable information, and in exchange, we ensure the person who downloaded is qualified to continue on the customer journey.

Step Three: Top of the Marketing Funnel

Once leads are qualified, they enter the marketing funnel, where they continue to be moved toward enrollment. This might include prompting them to register for open house events, phone calls, or other exposure to the school and its value proposition.

The digital marketing strategies that pair well with this phase of the customer journey are re-marketing efforts, such as showing those qualified leads relevant blogs or new ads. It can also involve phone calls or other touch points.

Step Four: Middle of the Funnel

People often need to see a brand many times before they are ready to make a purchase. That’s why we retarget the people who have shown interest in your blogs or social media posts, responded to forms, or inquired about tours.

When we have another touch point with a qualified lead, it can move that person down the funnel to enrollment. If, however, someone is not yet ready to make the decision, we continue to show that person ads, or we do other forms of outreach via email or phone calls until that prospect is disqualified or ready to enroll.

Step Five: Enrollment (Conversion)

Having a student enroll is the ultimate goal of the marketing efforts. The bottom of the funnel is student enrollment. By this point, we have weeded out the people who are not seriously interested in your school at this time.

(Bonus) Step Six: Advocates

When your parents are so happy with what your school is providing for their children that they want to shout it from the mountaintops, you have a good chance of getting new enrollments based on word of mouth.

These are the kinds of parents who:

  • Post positively about your school on social media.
  • Talk about you at the playground or during sports games.
  • Care so much about the school’s ongoing health that they actively recruit new students from their community.

 

You can leverage these school advocates by rewarding their efforts or providing a pathway for referrals. This is the partnership and champions marketing technique.

Now you know about the customer journey, we can dive deeper into the aspects of marketing that make the customer journey possible. By implementing the following tactics, prospects will move through a customer journey toward your school’s desired outcomes.

2. Harnessing Search Engine Optimization: What Is SEO, and How Does It Impact My Private School’s Success?

SEO is a key piece of a modern private school marketing plan. Improving SEO impacts how many people find your site by searching for certain keywords and phrases. Including popular keywords and phrases in your website helps with its ranking. The higher your school’s site ranks for certain keywords, the better your chance of being found and receiving prospect inquiries.

According to a study by Sistrix, the top three results for a keyword receive over half (55.2 percent) of all traffic, and a large amount of that traffic goes to the top result. In order to get enough traffic to your site to create sustainable enrollment, you want to end up at the top of the first page rankings.

Goal: Improve your website ranking in 2023 using SEO optimization to get more brand awareness, site visits, and inquiries.

3. Having an Active Social Media Presence

As social media expands in relevance and influence, it’s important your school takes advantage of the right social networks. Based on the typical private school family and parent demographics, placement on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn provides exposure, social proof, and a way for prospects to get to know your school. Because so many parents already use these social networks daily, advertising and posting here provide important touch points for prospects.

Having a regular posting schedule establishes a voice for the school and tells a story about who you are and what the community is up to. This can be a way to show off the theater program, sports events, school initiatives, trips, or other goings-on.

Already-enrolled parents can feel pride in what they see on social media about their child’s school. They are likely to engage with the posts (share, like, or comment), which provides your school with social proof. Based on these interactions, others are more likely to trust your school. These parents are part of your school’s group of champions and advocates.

4. Using Digital Advertising

Whether you implement pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, social media ads, or other paid advertising avenues, you can direct people who are already interested in private education to your website. This method can move a client directly to the middle of the customer journey. By prequalifying, they can skip the first few steps.

SEO often goes hand in hand with digital advertising strategies because of the knowledge we glean from popular keywords or phrases. We spend ad dollars to help direct the attention of those interested people to your website.

5. Redesigning Your Private School’s Website

The design of your school website is a reflection of the school to the public. Remember, unaware prospects will be landing on your webpage. It needs to provide information, to look reputable, and to help them trust your school. If your school’s website is out of date and not very attractive, it will be a challenge to convince discerning parents to enroll. They might wonder what else is outdated.

Redesigning your website will make it more attractive and modern. It will also help with your SEO and conversion rate optimization (CRO) goals. A trusted digital marketing agency or partner can help you do this right the first time, removing roadblocks, confusion, and poor design.

6. Creating Marketing Funnels

A marketing funnel is a structure that allows you to have a clear visual of how you are marketing your school and where you should start. Marketing funnels start with broad concepts and then get narrower and narrower to achieve the desired effect.

In the case of your school’s desired enrollment outcomes, we design the funnel to find qualified prospective families. We then lead them through the funnel to enrollment by providing the right content or touch point at the right time.

7. Capitalizing on Partnerships and Champions

Champions are the most common marketing strategy private schools use. Think of the parents who help you attract new students. These are the kinds of people we want to leverage to grow your school. We implement specific strategies that convert more parents into school champions who help with your student enrollment and retention.

Are You Ready to Take Your Private School’s Marketing Strategies to the Next Level?

All these steps are a lot to manage. That’s why so many successful schools rely on professional help. A successful private school marketing operation has many moving parts. At Spiral Marketing, we specialize in private school marketing programs.

If you’re considering partnering with a reliable, trusted private school marketing partner, please provide your information in the form. Someone from our leadership team will reach out within 48 hours.

Signed,

Karl Boehm, Spiral Marketing, Founder and Chief Marketing Strategist