Did you know that in the fall of 2021, over 100 private schools had announced the need to close their doors? Closures are partially due to the COVID-19; however, a variety of other reasons extend beyond the pandemic.
Having an independent school marketing plan is even more essential to the success of private schools than it was just a few years ago. What methods should your independent school utilize to recruit and retain students and generate the capital needed to keep your doors open?
Keep reading to obtain the knowledge you need to develop an independent school marketing plan as a school administrator or marketing/admissions staff member.
Conduct a SWOT Analysis
Conducting a SWOT Analysis is the first step in your creating a marketing strategy for your independent school. SWOT stands for:
SWOT analyses allow you to identify your independent school’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. Upon identifying these key components, your school will have the data to help maximize opportunities to achieve organizational goals
During a SWOT analysis, strengths and weaknesses are internal factors that your school can control. Opportunities and threats are external factors, including interactions with students, parents, competitors, and the environment.
How to Conduct a SWOT Analysis
There are several steps to completing a SWOT analysis, each of which will guide your school through the process.
Step One: Identify Your Objective
First, Identify the objective of your SWOT analysis. Making the scope too large will result in a broad analysis.
However, when you narrow the scope of your SWOT analysis, you’ll obtain valuable insights which allow your school to create actionable steps. One factor you can evaluate within a SWOT analysis is your independent school’s social media marketing.
Choosing an objective such as social media marketing helps to narrow down your focus. You can create other SWOT analyses when other factors get identified that need addressing within your marketing campaign.
Step Two: Identify Your Strengths
What strengths does your independent school possess? Does your school run a music or arts program for students studying creative arts?
Perhaps your independent school is focused on STEM fields? Identifying where your strengths lie helps in building your marketing plan. When you can identify your strengths and can clearly define them, you can easily incorporate them into your plan.
Step Three: Identify Your Weaknesses
What obstacles keep you from accomplishing your independent school’s marketing plan? Note, it will be important to talk to you teachers and staff members to figure this out.
Your employees might be able to identify weaknesses you would not have thought about because they live the school’s mission or lack thereof everyday.
Step Four: Consider Opportunities
When considering your opportunities, be sure to identify how and where to expand your reach. For example, is there an untapped demographic of potential students you desire to locate and reach?
Other opportunities to consider include how you can cause your independent school to stand out. For example, have you clearly articulated a strategy to highlight what makes your school stand out through video marketing?
Step Five: Consider Threats
What obstacles will prevent you from obtaining your goals? When you consider this question and answer it, you effectively identify your threats.
Once you complete all five of these steps, you’re ready to move on to the next steps of creating your independent school marketing plan.
Define Your Value Proposition
What value can your school offer that your competitors do not? You may offer value through highly rated sports programs, arts programs, STEM programs, or other programs that help you stand out.
One of the key components to your independent school marketing plan will be defining your value proposition and determining how you will share the value you offer with your target audience. Utilizing a business model canvas might help you define your value proposition and answer other questions that come up throughout the process of creating your marketing plan.
Define Your Target Audience
Creating a marketing plan for an independent school is impossible if you don’t first define your target audience. Identifying the audience you gear your marketing toward will help you understand how to reach them best.
When you define your target audience, create “buyer personas.” Buyer personas include demographic and psychographic information.
When creating your buyer personas for an independent school, two core demographics need to be considered.
Students should be your first target audience. Your students are the ones searching and looking at schools.
Before you try to capture their parent’s attention, capture their attention. Why should they come to your school? What sets your school apart?
While students are an essential component of your target audience, you cannot exclude parents. Students will come to your website, and it is necessary to capture their attention.
However, how will your school then convince parents that their child should attend your school? Parents will likely look at different factors than students.
A student might wish to attend your school as a result of an excellent sports program. However, parents might have a bigger focus on academics and cost.
Write SMART Goals
You likely have knowledge surrounding what SMART goals consist of, it’s probable you teach your students to create SMART goals. However, the need to create SMART goals doesn’t cease when you graduate high school or college.
Educational institutes need to continue utilizing this concept. Creating SMART goals will ensure the goals that you create for your school are achievable.
One example of a goal you might write is increasing enrollment by 10 percent for the following school year.
Decide on Marketing Strategies
You created your goals, and you completed a SWOT analysis and buyer personas. Therefore, your next step is to determine the marketing strategies you will utilize.
Your key strategies should focus on a variety of platforms. The key strategies you should consider include where your marketing will happen.
Your first audience is potential students. You must identify where you can connect with this audience.
Ordinarily, social media platforms that are popular for teens include Snapchat, TikTok, and Instagram, in that order.
Website and Content
Your website and content will appeal to both students and parents. Ensure your website includes information that captures both of your audiences.
Build a website that is easily navigated by visitors. Creating a website that’s user-friendly is important to ensure that when your target audience lands on your website they stay.
Another way to reach out to potential students is through events. Are you a performing arts school?
Accordingly, advertise to the community about upcoming theatrical events or music events. Invite the community into your school so they can recognize what you can offer potential students.
You can also utilize your social media and other platforms to advertise for events.
Email and Direct Mail
Utilizing email and direct mail, you can keep prospects up to date on what is happening within your school. However, you need to ensure that you create mail that your audience will read.
Set Your Budget
Another critical factor in your independent school marketing plan will be your budget. How much money is in your marketing budget?
Schools’ general rule of thumb is that about 10 to 12 percent of your revenue should be put into marketing efforts. There are various marketing efforts you can focus on that require time but have a lower cost if your school’s budget is low.
Implement Your Independent School Marketing Plan
Once you have completed all of the above steps, it’s time to implement your independent school marketing plan.
Nevertheless, implementing your independent school marketing plan might be a nerve-wracking process; however, you can change your plan as needed. Launching your plan is not the final step in this process.
Evaluate Your Success
Once your marketing plan is in place, it’s time to step back and evaluate and analyze your efforts. Earlier in the process, you created SMART goals.
Consequently, since you possess goals that are quantifiable, it helps you evaluate the success of your plan. Are the strategies you implemented helping you reach your goals?
When you evaluate your success, if what you are doing is not working, it’s time to consider what changes could help your plan. Ensuring that you are flexible and changing your plan as needed will be a significant component of your marketing strategy.
Therefore, be willing to step away from what’s not working and shift to utilizing tools that help you accomplish your goals.
Start Your Independent School Marketing Plan Today
Is your school ready to start building an independent school marketing plan that works? Utilizing the steps in this plan will help; however, you may still need a professional.