Boosting Private School Leads: Inbound Shines Over Outbound

Boosting Private School Leads: Inbound Shines Over Outbound

January 3, 2024
(Reading time: 3 - 6 minutes)

Outbound marketing methods like print ads and radio spots have been a staple for private school promotion for decades. However, these interruptive tactics no longer capture parents' attention or drive enrollment growth.

Why? Modern parents now actively research educational options for their children online and via social connections. This calls for a dramatically different approach to attract and engage prospective families.

Enter inbound marketing – an integrated methodology designed for the digital era parent journey.

The Case Against Traditional Outbound Marketing

While long relied upon, traditional outbound marketing has major blindspots diminishing its returns each year:

  • Broad targeting wastefully interrupts audiences not actually in-market for schools currently
  • Nielsen found that 64% of consumers intentionally take actions to avoid ads
  • Outbound tactics seem overly promotional versus educational to information-seeking parents
  • These methods fail to reach parents during key micro-moments of research online

These outdated techniques poorly align with how modern parents actually explore school options in 2024. It's time for an upgrade!

Take Greenfield Academy, our fictional but representative private school. They struggled to attract new families and fill seats despite their strong reputation for academic excellence and whole-child education.

Like many private schools, they had fallen into an outdated marketing rut—relying on the same traditional tactics year after year despite dwindling returns. Costly print ads, radio spots, name it. 

The initial trickle of inquiries would get their hopes up, but converting passive leads into enrolled students remained an uphill battle. Our enrollment growth had stalled. 

They realized today’s parents take an active, not passive, role when researching schools. The enrollment journey now starts on search engines, such as Google, diving deep into school websites and engaging on social media for authentic glimpses into school life. They want to self-educate before talking to admissions.

The average person spends 6 hours and 58 minutes per day on internet connected screens.


Why? Because parents spend nearly seven hours online daily. They intentionally search for schools during the research phase, ignoring interruptive ads. Their outdated reliance on postcards print ads, and tv spots became a drain yielding fewer and fewer results over the last several years as these channels declined in effectiveness.

How Today's Parents Research Private Schools

Today’s parents take a self-directed, funnel-based approach during their school selection process:

Awareness Stage:

Parents start gathering high-level information to understand their educational options. Questions at this stage include:

  • What are the main differences between public, charter, and private schools?
  • What methodology resonates most with my child’s needs?
  • What tuition range seems realistic?

Evaluation Stage:

As they identify top contenders, parents begin comparing specifics around curriculum, culture, special programs, location logistics, and more. Their search shifts to:

  • What school’s educational approach aligns with my priorities?
  • How do I choose between School A vs School B?
  • What value will this school provide my child?

Decision Stage:

The final stage focuses heavily on validated social proof as parents look to de-risk their selection. Key questions are:

  • What do other parents think about this school?
  • Will my child be happy and supported here?
  • Is this the right long-term educational partner?

This independent funnel contrasts sharply with how outbound tactics attempt to influence families. Private schools can no longer afford a disconnect with parent journeys in 2024.

The Inbound Methodology: Guiding Parents, Not Interrupting

Inbound marketing flips the script on conventional school promotion. Instead of aggressively pushing your school onto families, you attract and nurture high-quality leads by creating helpful resources tailored to parents' questions at each funnel stage above.

Rather than hiring another radio station to blast commercials, inbound schools invest in:

  • Website content answering parent FAQs
  • Social media channels publishing authentic school-life vignettes
  • Search engine optimization to appear prominently for parent queries
  • Review management ensuring satisfied voices are heard

This educational content pulls interested families deeper into your school’s orbit, positioning your brand as an authoritative expert versus a traditional advertiser.

The Four Pillars of Inbound Marketing

Successful inbound strategies balance three key elements:

The probability of bounce increases 32% as page load time goes from 1 second to 3 seconds.

Google/SOASTA Research, 2017

1. Website Optimization

Think of your website as the hub to which all inbound efforts return. The funnel leaks if the site lacks appeal or doesn't speak to parent concerns. 

Greenfield overhauled their site to highlight our differentiation, showcase school life, and address parent FAQs with digestible content across every page.

Technical optimizations for speed and conversions matter, too, but they mean nothing if the messaging doesn’t resonate.

Populating websites with blog content is how you end up with 434% more search engine-indexed pages than other business sites that don’t publish content.

Content Marketing Institute

2. Content Creation

Inbound content fills knowledge gaps and establishes trust at each phase of the parent research funnel outlined above. Quality lead nurturing content, from blog posts to interactive tools to video campus tours, demonstrates your school’s differentiation without explicit sales messaging.

Greenfield considered this and developed an editorial calendar for regular content production across formats that prospective parents could consume:

  • Long-form articles addressing top-of-funnel challenges
  • Shareable videos showcasing school activities 
  • Infographics on topics like benefits of private school
  • Interactive assessment tools  

The focus became quality over quantity. They provided parents with resources that answered concerns at each phase of their journey.

49% of shoppers surveyed say they use Google to discover new products.

Bind Media

3. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

With most of the website traffic now coming from organic search, SEO ensures educational content surfaces prominently when parents search for local school options. Optimizing for the precise terminology parents use across the funnel should remain central to any private school’s inbound strategy.

93% of businesses landed a new customer after sharing a video on social media.

Animoto Survey

4. Social Media Engagement

Today's parents scout school social media pages for real parent reviews while also weighing direct responses from schools to inquiries. Maintaining an active presence helps inbound schools drive authentic word-of-mouth.

Greenfield fostered connections on social media through parent testimonials, student spotlights, and responded to comments with care. They also highlighted influencer partnerships, awards earned, and press features to signal social proof. Their social media reach grew year-over-year while their follower engagement rate doubled over that same period.

Assess Your Current Strategy

Given another school year fast approaches, now is the ideal moment for private school decision-makers to reevaluate current marketing investments through the lens of the modern parent research funnel outlined above.

Does your approach align with how families explore options in 2024? Or is the budget still flowing to tactics that worked back in 2000?

Our inbound specialists offer a free website and content audit to map your integration opportunities. We also provide tailored market research insights around parent selection factors critical for lead nurturing but often overlooked.

Let’s connect to discuss how inbound can become your school’s essential vehicle for exceeding enrollment goals in the year ahead!

Chad Treadway

Written by:  |  January 3, 2024

Chad is a Partner and our Chief Smarketing Officer. He will help you survey your small business needs, educating you on your options before suggesting any solution. Chad is passionate about rural marketing in the United States and North Carolina. He also has several certifications through HubSpot to better assist you with your internet and inbound marketing.

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