How to Create a Christian Private School Marketing Strategy
1. Start by Building a Private School Marketing Plan
You may be asking yourself, “I have to have a plan for my strategy?” The short answer is yes, as your marketing plan explains why you will need specific resources, perform certain activities, and establish particular targets over the course of a year. The exact actions you'll take to achieve that objective are outlined in your marketing plan.
The right template can help create a marketing strategy that specifies your yearly budget, the projects your marketing organization must address, and the marketing channels used to accomplish those efforts. And it will link everything back to a summary to keep you on track with your overall goals.
2. Think About Your Ideal Students/Parents and Create Buyer Personas
At first glance, it may seem confusing; however, if you are an administrator at a private school, it’s best to think of a buyer persona as a fictional, generalized representation of your ideal student and/or their parents. In other words, if you can't identify your target audience in a single line, now's your chance.
HubSpot says, “A buyer persona is a semi-fictional representation of your ideal customer based on market research and real data about your existing customers.”
Therefore, when creating your buyer persona(s), consider including parent and student demographics, behavior patterns, goals, and motivations. The more detailed you are, the better.
The good news is that you don't need a pen and paper to build your buyer persona. We have a free buyer persona guide that you can use to create your own. Buyer personas should be at the heart of your strategy.
3. Identify Your School’s Goals
Your marketing strategy goals and objectives should coincide with your business goals and objectives if you want to increase enrollment into your kindergarten program from your pre-school; that is a business goal. If you want to gain 20 new families with siblings over the next year, that is a business goal. Your marketing objectives are the goals you want to achieve during a certain period of time. They entail choosing a hard number or metric for you and your administrative staff to work towards. It will also include the details about how you will reach them and why you want to do so.
4. Choose the Right Tools
Once you've defined your goals, make sure you have the tools you need to track their progress. There are thousands of tools to help you analyze and track your progress. Below are a handful of the tools we at Cube Creative use to help our schools track their progress or we can recommend.
- Google Analytics is excellent for tracking blog and web page performance overall.
- Google Workspace (formerly G Suite) provides schools and nonprofits with collaboration tools like Docs, Sheets, Slides, etc. We love the collaboration aspect and routinely use Docs to build out our plans.
- Trello is a great free tool (to start) that gives you a visual board and includes lists and cards. Think of it as a wall with lots of sticky notes that you can move around with ease.
- SEMRush or Moz are two tools that are a must if you want to run a technical SEO audit, track daily rankings, and monitor your competition. You can also research keywords and track your local rankings. At Cube Creative, we have used both. The choice between them may come down to your budget or personal preferences.
- BuzzSumo allows you to evaluate social media data so you can improve your marketing plan. Users will use it to find influencers that can help their school reach a wider audience and keep an eye on comments and trends to make the most of every opportunity.
- Crazy Egg or Hotjar are similar products that both provide “user focus groups” without your users realizing it. Now that might sound creepy but don’t worry, all the data is anonymous, and it is all to help you better understand the prospects' journey with heatmaps and mouse tracking recordings.
- Facebook Business Suite is a free way to manage your school’s Facebook and Instagram accounts. This allows you to schedule posts and stories for both Facebook and Instagram. You can review your engagements and views for both in one place.
- Social Champ is a great low-budget way to plan and track posts. You can post to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Linked In, and Google Business Profile using this platform. It will also allow you to view all your posts by the platform in a calendar format for easier management.
- HubSpot allows you to measure engagements, monitor brand mentions and relevant discussions automatically, and plan your social posts to be published when the right people see them.
5. Consider Existing Resources
Consider what existing resources you have that can assist you in developing your plan. Divide your assets into three categories: paid, owned, and earned media to make this process easier.
Paid media refers to any medium through which you spend money in order to reach your target audience. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn all have paid media options that can increase your visibility.
Owned media is any media that you generate, for example, blog articles, ebooks, pictures, and infographics developed by you or for you.
Earned media is another way of saying user-generated content. Earned media includes social media shares, tweets promoting your school, and Instagram images referencing your school.
Merge and Purge
Now is the time to do what I refer to as a merge and purge. You will need to gather all of your resources from the aforementioned areas and condense them into a single place so you can see what you have and how you can connect the three channels to maximize your school’s marketing strategy.
For example, suppose you already have a blog that publishes monthly content on your website (owned media). In that case, you may consider advertising your blog entries on Facebook (paid media), which prospective students or parents may then like and share (earned media). Ultimately, this will assist you in developing a stronger, more well-rounded approach.
If you have resources that don’t match your goals, get rid of them (purge). This is an excellent opportunity to “clean house” or identify gaps.
6. Audit and Plan Your Media Campaigns
“Cleaning house” leads directly into this phase. You must now determine which material will benefit you and your private school goals. Concentrate on your owned media and marketing objectives. Again, for those in the cheap seats, focus on the media you own first!
Take a look at your buyer personas next. Identify parents “pain points,” or things that stop the admissions process, and create a 15-second video for Instagram to address each pain point showing how effective your solution is at overcoming that challenge.
Finally, create a content creation plan. The title, goals, format, and channel for each piece of content should be included. Try to include which issue it solves for your buyer persona.
7. Create the Content Plan
So what is a content marketing plan? The content plan is what you want to focus on with your website content. This will often include your blog topics, landing pages, and geographic landing pages. It takes a little time and research to construct, but once you do, it makes everything a lot easier to get started when creating content, delegating, or outsourcing it. Furthermore, it eliminates the need to look at a blank computer screen and try to come up with ideas on the spur of the moment.
The key pieces are: Being Topical, Timing, Authorship, Providing Multiple Perspectives, and Connection.
You must figure out what type of content resonates with your parents and students. Going deeper into a subject is a great way to build visibility and credibility, especially if you’re just starting. Some great topics to start with are answering the questions you are commonly asked. You can dive into cost, problems, comparisons, “Best of” Lists, and social proof.
When you are thinking about your landing pages and geographic landing pages, you will want to create content that you can link to from your blog posts. Try to have these pages created the month before a blog post that would link to them. This gives the search engines time to index the content and time for you to get it posted.
Determine how frequently you should post content to your blog and create additional pages. Depending on your industry, competition, and geographic area, one blog and one form of a landing page may be enough. For others, you may need something weekly, if not two to three times a week.
Here is where most private schools falter. I am reminded of the poem about responsibility by Charles Osgood:
The Parable of Responsibility
Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody were members of a group.
There was an important job to do, and Everybody was asked to do it.
Everybody was sure that Somebody would do it.
Anybody would have done it, but Nobody did it.
Somebody got angry because it was Everybody’s job.
Everybody thought Anybody would do it, but Nobody realized that Anybody wouldn’t do it.
It ended up that Everybody, blamed Somebody, when Nobody did, what Anybody could have done.
Unknown author of a condensed version of Charles Osgood’s – A Poem About Responsibility
Obviously, the content has to be written. If you don’t have time for it, delegate it out to a staff member. If you don’t have a staff member who is a good writer or doesn’t want to take on the responsibility, then outsource it.
There are hundreds if not thousands of freelancers and places where you can outsource your content writing to meet almost any budget. Remember that you get what you pay for, so the cheap writer may provide you with really poor content. You have been warned.
Provide Multiple Perspectives
If you’ve followed a blog or website with the same author for a while, you’ll notice similarities in their writing style, themes they like writing about, and overall voice. Over time, this becomes stale and repetitive. That is why having more voices and professional perspectives in the mix is always beneficial. It keeps things interesting while also ensuring your school appeals to diverse people within the buyer persona. If you ever run out of individuals ready to write inside, there may be a moment when an industry expert outside your organization contributes to content.
Another thing you can also do to help liven up your content is to add quotes from other experts in your field. Just be sure to link back to the website you found or give credit where credit is due.
While I touched briefly on Connection under topics, let me further expand on it. You will want to think about how you may link your blog’s content to other resources you have. It might be a link to a certain page on your website, such as a landing page or geographic page. It could also be a link to a download link for an eBook that goes into greater detail on a subject. The bottom line is that it allows you to engage prospective students more effectively and even call out to them. It also helps the search engines to get lost in your site, which is surprisingly something they want to do!
8. Make It Happen
At this stage, your market research and planning should help you visualize how your approach will be implemented.
The next stage is to tie everything together by including action items into your plans. Make a paper or Google Doc that outlines the actions you'll need to take to carry out your campaign. In other words, define your approach.
When drafting this, keep the long term in mind. A typical growth content marketing plan for private schools lasts 12 months. This well-structured schedule should serve as the foundation for your strategic marketing activities.
Enrollment Growth Content Marketing Plan for Private Schools
If you want to grow your private school in today’s climate, you need to start thinking digitally. Stand out by creating blog posts and local landing pages that directly answer what your potential families are searching for online.
Remember that your digital strategy is distinctive to your company, and so should the document. As long as the strategy includes all of the required information, you'll be ready to elevate your school’s brand from meh to outstanding.
Should I Hire an Agency to Help Me
When to hire an agency or outsource some of this is a difficult question. The demands of growing your school’s enrollment and trying to implement everything I have mentioned thus far may seem overwhelming. Therefore you might be thinking, what would it look like to outsource or have an agency take everything over.
As a private school administrator, you may be more focused on improving your school's day-to-day operations and trying to grow enrollment. When that happens, your marketing may take a back seat. If that is the case, it may be better to employ a Private School Digital Marketing Agency to focus on what they do best: digital marketing. The online landscape is constantly changing, and keeping up with it can be difficult if you're already involved in working “in” the school instead of “on” the school.
Digital Marketing is a powerful solution for private school administrators who are in those stages, and it can seem daunting. There's so much that goes into creating and executing the right plan for YOUR school.
Hiring an Inbound Marketing Agency
So you’ve determined that employing a Digital Marketing Agency or Inbound Marketing Agency for Private Schools is the next step in growing your private school! We make no qualms about it; finding the right agency can be challenging, as you are essentially bringing someone in to help grow your school.
A good agency should follow the plan outlined at the beginning of this article. Therefore you should know what they will and should be doing. If in doubt, ask!
It should also be noted that digital marketing is a long-term investment in your school. While there are some “quick wins,” developing and implementing an effective digital marketing plan takes time. We tell our clients that it will take at least 12-18 months to see real traction, depending on your geographic location, competition, and the nature of the enrollment cycle.
If you are looking for an inbound marketing or digital marketing agency that helps Christian private schools, reach out to us for a free consultation. We would be happy to walk you through our process and see if we would be a good fit.