SMART Objectives for Private Schools: A 9-Step Guide

SMART Objectives for Private Schools: A 9-Step Guide

November 20, 2023
(Reading time: 4 - 8 minutes)

In today's competitive education landscape, private schools must have a solid marketing plan that sets objectives and aligns them with the institution's overall goals. The key to success is defining clear, measurable, and achievable marketing objectives that reflect your school's vision and appeal to your target audience.

In this blog post, we will break down the essential elements of effective marketing objectives for K-12 private schools. We will explore what SMART objectives are, why they are necessary, and what types of objectives schools can set to improve recruitment, retention, engagement, and fundraising.

Private School Marketing SMART Goals Infographic

What Makes Objectives SMART and Effective

SMART objectives are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. When schools set goals that meet these criteria, they can ensure they are:

  • Specific: Clearly defined, well-targeted, and based on data insights that are relevant to the school's mission, values, and audience.
  • Measurable: Quantifiable, so you can track progress, monitor results, and identify whether you are on the right track.
  • Achievable: Realistic and attainable within specified timeframes and available resources.
  • Relevant: Relevant to the school's overall goals, aligned with current market trends, and addressing pain points of prospective and existing students and parents.
  • Time-bound: Based on a clear deadline that puts pressure on stakeholders to execute a plan and track progress.

SMART Marketing Objectives for K-12 Private Schools: A 9-Step Guide

1. Types of Objectives to Consider Across Key Private School Areas

Let's explore different types of objectives private schools can set to drive recruitment, retention, engagement, and fundraising.

  • Recruitment Objectives: These focus on increasing the pool of potential students interested in the school. Examples include increasing website traffic, expanding lead generation, and improving lead-to-application conversions.
  • Retention Objectives: These aim to keep current students happy and engaged with the school. Examples include boosting student satisfaction, reducing dropout rates, and enhancing student referral rates.
  • Event Attendance Objectives: By attracting more parents and students to school events, you can create a warm community feel. Examples include enhancing open house attendance, streamlining waitlists, and improving RSVP conversion rates.
  • Reputation Objectives: There is no denying that a strong reputation can attract more qualified and interested applicants. Examples could include boosting alumni satisfaction rates, increasing social media mentions, improving faculty recruitment, and emphasizing academic accolades and scholarships.
  • Social Media Engagement Objectives: In today's brand-crazy world, social media can do a lot for private schools. Examples of objectives here could be expanding social media followers across platforms, improving engagement rates, producing shareable content, and creating a social media calendar aligned with school events.
  • Fundraising Objectives: Many private schools rely on donations to support projects, initiatives, and scholarships. Setting objectives to grow fundraising efforts is crucial. Examples of objectives could include improved donation site conversions, expanding donor lists, and boosting donor retention rates.

2. Prioritizing K-12 Private School Objectives

When setting objectives, not all goals will be equal in urgency or potential impact. Review internal data and analytics to identify 1-2 goal areas that should be the current top priorities based on:

  • Low-performance metrics: Areas where your school is currently underperforming represent opportunities for improvement. For example, if enrollment inquiries are down, an inquiry-to-application conversion goal could be prioritized.
  • Competitor gaps: Analyze where competitors may be ahead of you and set objectives to close those gaps. If their social media engagement is higher, you could prioritize driving more followers.
  • Upcoming initiatives: Align goals to support launches such as new programs or branding campaigns—for example, website traffic goals before announcing a new STEM program.
  • Resource availability: Consider the bandwidth of staff time and budget when assessing what is feasible. Goals with existing resources behind them have a better shot.

For Greenfield Academy, looking at last year's benchmarks, social media engagement was lagging behind peers. With a rebrand launching, Greenfield prioritized objectives to grow Instagram followers and engagement rates.

3. Enable Cross-Department Alignment

While the marketing team will be responsible for leading certain objectives like social media engagement, goals must align across departments. Admissions, academics, fundraising, and marketing teams should collaborate on shared objectives when relevant. 

Consider the following:

  • Review objectives with leadership early in the process to get input and buy-in. Address any concerns proactively.
  • Ensure heads of each department understand how their team's work ladders up to achieve the objectives.
  • Share objectives and timelines across the organization through meetings, emails, intranet postings, etc. Encourage questions and feedback.
  • Provide regular progress reports to leadership and at all-hands meetings. Celebrate wins publicly.
  • Keep objectives top of mind by referring back to them in communications, linking project plans to them, and incorporating them into employee goal-setting.
  • Admissions and Marketing could partner on an open house attendance goal, with Marketing driving registrations and Admissions managing the on-site experience.
  • Academics and Marketing could collaborate on objectives for social media engagement, highlighting school achievements and curriculum.

For example, if Greenfield Academy were to do this, they should have an enrollment goal that would involve coordination between marketing driving leads, and admissions processing applications. Regular cross-department meetings can ensure everyone is working towards the same end goals.

4. Secure School Leadership Buy-In 

To drive organization-wide alignment:

  • Get input from leadership when formulating objectives
  • Share objectives across departments and answer questions
  • Communicate how each team's work ladders up to objectives
  • Report on progress at all-hands and board meetings
  • Publicly celebrate wins and milestones achieved

5. Create an Objective Roadmap

Here is an example 6-month marketing objective roadmap that fictional Greenfield Academy could implement:

  • Months 1-2: Audit website performance. Identify SEO and user experience issues hindering lead generation.
  • Months 3-4: Optimize website for conversions. Improve call-to-actions, page speed, etc. Goal: Increase organic traffic by 30%.
  • Months 3-6: Refresh social media content strategy. Create engaging posts highlighting student & faculty achievements. Goal: Increase Facebook followers by 15%.
  • Months 5-6: Promote summer programs. Leverage blogs, social ads, and email marketing. Goal: Enroll 200+ students in summer camps.
  • Months 4-6: Analyze marketing ROI. Assess the effectiveness of efforts to identify future improvements.

6. Defining Metrics and Benchmarks for Your K-12 Private School

For every objective, establish specific metrics to track progress and set measurable benchmarks.

For example, here is Greenfield Academy’s:

  • Website Traffic Goal: Metric = pageviews, Benchmark = Increase 20%
  • Website Conversion Rate: Increase from 2% to 2.5%
  • Event Attendance: Metric = RSVPs, Benchmark = 10% higher turnout
  • Enrollment: Metric = Applications submitted, Benchmark = 15% more applications
  • Middle School Open House Attendance - Grow from 15 to 30 prospective families
  • Summer Enrollment - Increase enrollments from 50 to 75 students
  • Donor Retention - Improve retention rate from 30% to 40%

Use historical data to create realistic benchmarks. Revisit them quarterly and adjust as needed.

7. Strategies and Tactics to Achieve Your K-12 Private School Goals

Once you've set SMART objectives, create a roadmap involving:

  • Timeline with milestones
  • Budget, resources, team roles
  • Campaigns and activities to execute strategy
  • Required assets like content and technology
  • Data collection process to measure tactics
  • Regular evaluation and adjustment of tactics

For instance, if your objective is to boost alumni engagement rates, your strategy could focus on creating a dedicated alumni portal, running alumni-focused social media campaigns, and hosting dedicated events for alumni. Tactics could include designing an alumni survey, building a content strategy, and assigning a committee to these initiatives.

Strategies and Tactics to Achieve Greenfield Academy

For example, Greenfield Academy should map out a strategy with actionable tactics for each one. Such as:

  • Identifying specific activities and campaigns to execute their strategy
  • Outlining required assets like their content, creative, and technology
  • Establishing a process for collecting data on tactics
  • Creating a plan for regularly evaluating tactics and adjusting course

8. Track Progress Over Time

Tracking progress over time is crucial for success. You will need to measure how well your tactics are working, what marketing channels bring in the most leads, and what needs to be adjusted to your goals.

Use analytics tools to monitor website traffic, email open and click rates, social media followers and engagement rates, event attendance, student retention, and fundraising results. Assign a team to oversee the monthly or quarterly reports and adjust strategy and tactics based on these insights.

9. Conduct an Objective Audit of Your K-12 Private Schools

Assess which objectives were met and missed. Determine necessary strategy changes moving forward. This completes the loop and feeds back into the next round of planning.

Creating a Strong Foundation for Success

Setting clear, aligned marketing objectives is crucial to guiding your school's growth and engagement. By following the SMART framework, considering goals across key areas, developing comprehensive plans, and tracking progress, you can position your school for greater stability and visibility.

This process requires effort but pays dividends. Your entire team becomes aligned. You gain insight into what's working. You build momentum towards goals that matter.

While the road ahead takes dedication, you don't have to walk it alone. Consider partnering with specialists who can help set your school up for success through strategic digital marketing. With expertise on your side, you can focus on enabling student experiences that exceed expectations.

The rewards will be well worth it - for both your school and its community. So, embrace the challenge of effective planning. Be open to new tactics and tools. Commit to consistent tracking and optimizing. With a thoughtful approach, you will move closer to your vision of building an environment where students can truly thrive.

Adam Bennett

Written by:  |  November 20, 2023

Adam is the president and founder of Cube Creative Design and specializes in private school marketing. Since starting the business in 2005, he has created individual relationships with clients in Western North Carolina and across the United States. He places great value on the needs, expectations, and goals of the client.

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