Marketing Outside the Box

This outline is derived from the philosophy and methods utilized to grow a classical Christian school at an average annual rate of 50% for six years and from 0 – over 1,000 students in ten years. This approach resulted in rapid numerical growth with strong retention, financial growth, and mission accomplishment while maintaining quality standards, and achieving regional accreditation. A few of the methods have been updated to reflect the advent of social media marketing opportunities. This article is not intended to become your marketing plan but rather to stimulate creative thinking to help your school grow and meet its mission. I would be happy to help you customize a marketing and growth program for your school – partly because it is fun!

What do you do? See The Art of Positioning, by Guy Kawasaki

Market your mission-What do you do?
• Differentiate yourself from the competition-define your niche
• Stand out, don’t fit in
• Choose a school name that communicates your mission
• What makes your school like others and what makes it different? Although your audience needs to hear some things that are the same as any other school, be sure you clarify what makes your school unique

Market for a match – What do people in your community desire?
• Interest in your mission. For example:
o Christian environment, teachers, friends etc.
o Christian perspective, worldview etc.
o Kind and interested faculty
o A place where they know their children will be safe
o Quality academics
o Advanced placement
o College entrance
o Parental involvement
o Reasonable price or prestigious price
o Athletics and arts to meet the basic need or remarkable programs that stand out.
o Or, as one school states, “The premier Christian and classical school in the United States.” If you say something like this be prepared to deliver on your promises

Consider the Demographics
o Location and regional draw
o Population
o Income
o Culture
o Competition

Market to meet your vision and strategic goals
• The intentionally small school or the large multifaceted school
• One campus or multiple locations
• For example the school we founded that grew quickly stated, “We envision thousands of Christian youth trained over time in a historic Christian worldview through a system of academy campuses in the metropolitan region.”
• Clearly define your admission standards consistent with your mission. For example, if you plan to have a 90% pass rate on AP tests in high school then this should be reflected in admission standards in the lower grades. Or, if your mission includes meeting the needs of students with learning differences, the admission standard would be very different. No school can meet every need. Know who you are and admit those that will succeed in your school.

Market your mode – Clarify the kind of school you are up front
• Boarding school
• Intense five-day school
• Less intense five-day school
• University schedule school
• Homeschool classes offered or not offered
• Distance education

Marketing and admitting for growth and retention
• Creating demand by persuading people to buy into your mission and mode
• Matching the mission and mode of the school with parental expectations and student ability
o Educating inquirers about your intentions
o Determining level of compatibility
• Delivering on your promises
o Deciding based on mission and mode
o Evaluating quality of delivery
o Continuously improving
• Reenrolling those that turn out to be a good match
o The most important family is the one with students already enrolled
o It costs six times as much to win a new family as it does to retain a family.
o Seek to enjoy 85% + retention. 10% attrition is normal churn in urban areas because of employment transience and changing parental preferences.
o Actively seek to enroll siblings of enrolled students

Maximizing successful methods without the usual advertising
• Viewing all faculty, staff and parents as a part of the marketing team
o Generating qualified leads by word of mouth
o Satisfied parents will win the most new students
o The satisfied teacher will bring his/her colleagues
o Forwarding marketing emails through satisfied parents who would like to see a friend’s children added to the school community.
o Support with a full color pamphlet, web site with a landing page for new family, friendly telephone services, and events
• Assuring premier web presence in search engines
o Get over any discomfort about use of technology to get your message out,
o Check out free helps to learn this approach to marketing such as www.webmarketingtoday.com.
o Understand most families will hear about your school by word of mouth and then check it out anonymously on the web, or they we find it first on the web,
o Develop your web site with first time visitors in mind not for enrolled families. The school community can relate to each other through a log in based learning management system,
o Carefully choose the language you use to meet seekers where they are not just to say things exactly like you like to be heard. We developed a web site template to streamline this process at www.demo.marshalleducationgroup.com,
o Blog from the school website about classical education, student test scores, scholarships obtained, remarkable faculty, what others are saying about your school. This will push your site up in search engines as well educate those that visit your site. The blog that received the most hits on one site was sent in 2008 and was entitled, “The Best Defense Against Unemployment in the 21st Century.” Thousands of hits with content describing the benefits of a classical liberal arts education for flexibility in a changing world.
o Engage several faculty and administrators as bloggers – do not do it all yourself. Remember, everyone is on the marking team,
o Check web analytics often to determine what pages are most popular on your site (I use Google analytics – it is free),
o Consider web based ads and other optimization techniques,

Use social media marketing techniques
o Have active school Facebook page(s), Twitter, YouTube, blog, and Constant Contact
o Post often
o Repost any blogs to social media outlets,
o Voice over materials to create audio,
o Do not be afraid to record brief videos for YouTube (be sure to obtain permission to use any student images).
o Set up Constant Contact to share to Facebook and Twitter automatically,
o Have lots of people post and interact on FB
o Keep up with this rapidly changing means of reaching the market.
o Remember you are reaching the parents of five year olds. Don’t market to yourself, market to them

Meeting with inquirers through regular presentations
o Take every speaking opportunity offered
o Conduct monthly information meetings
o Regularly conduct campus tours and open houses,
o Allow older students to shadow a student for part of a day to become comfortable,
o Have key parents play an active part at public meetings,
o Have key faculty at public meetings to answer questions. Especially have the most popular entry grade teachers present such as kindergarten
o This decision to enroll is intensely personal. Help people through the decision process,

Provide a safe and friendly landing for all newcomers,
• Provide an easy to fill out online application that downloads to a data base,
• Provide an automatic thank you to any applicant. Then follow up the next day with a personal call from the admission director,
• Set up testing while lowering parental and student anxiety.
• Make the interview and admitting process friendly and thorough. Answer all the questions the parents and students ask. Remember they are interviewing the school as much as the school is interviewing the applicants,
• Accept the good match but have the courage to graciously decline an application that is not a good fit,
• Welcome the new family and student
• Orienting for success
• Following up quickly to assure successful assimilation
• Reinforcing all year long
• Reenroll as many as possible as early as possible

If you believe in your school you should seek to grow it for the benefit of others. Please write if you would like some help growing you school. Rodney@marshalleducationgroup.com.

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