- Charter Schools
No one is required to attend your charter school. It’s an option — an option that competes with other free options like public school districts and homeschooling, as well as paid education options like private schools. Local competition and a lack of brand awareness means that charter schools often miss their enrollment goals. A decrease in enrollment means a decrease in funding. And, a decrease in funding means you may not have the budget to invest into marketing your charter school to increase enrollment.
Vicious cycle, isn’t it? And we know that you want to break it. But the question is how (especially with limited budget)? You need to build brand awareness and market your charter school to the right audiences.
“Persuasively marketing your charter school to the right audience is essential for long-term success. Many parents want to choose a better school for their kids, but they don’t know what options they have. Having a clear, effective marketing strategy helps raise awareness of your school and achieve full enrollment,” said Jeanne Allen, Founder & CEO at the Center for Education Reform.
Here are five proven ways to build awareness about your charter school, and ultimately, recruit and enroll more right-fit students.
1. Know Your Audience
Before you can start building any sort of marketing campaign, you need to get to know your audience on a more personal level — not just “families in New Haven, CT.” Consider the following:
- Who is your target audience?
- What are their priorities, challenges, and goals?
- What is their income and ethnicity?
- What are their interests?
- Where do they live?
The process of identifying niche audience segments is called “developing personas,” and it is critical for building awareness for your charter school. Knowing your personas will steer how you position your charter school in the market, the way you design your website, the keywords you go after in search engine marketing, and how you utilize other marketing platforms such as social media, email, and even print.
In other words, without personas, you’ll have a hard time developing an effective strategy to build brand awareness.
2. Identify Your Differentiators
What makes your charter school a better choice than the local public school? Why would a parent choose your charter school over a magnet school, or even a private school?
It is essential that your charter school knows how to articulate the answers to the following questions throughout your marketing:
- What makes you unique?
- What makes you better than the competition?
- What do you do that cannot be easily replicated by the competition?
- What programs, teachers, or philosophies do you have that are unique and compelling?
The process of identifying your school’s differentiators is commonly known as defining your value proposition. A value proposition is a statement that describes the benefits students and families can expect from attending your school, and why your school is a better choice than the alternatives. A value proposition is not a slogan, a positioning statement, or a list of offerings and features.
Need help crafting your differentiators? Download our free Value Proposition Worksheet!
Consider North Routt Community Charter School (NRCCS) located in Clark, Colorado. The small charter school focuses on enrolling a niche group of students who desire outdoor programs to be a key component of their education. The charter school’s motto, Beyond 4 Walls, speaks to prospective families who want their children to grow both in and out of the classroom.
Be sure to call out those differentiators on your website, too. By adding a headline such as “What Sets Us Apart” like Ridgeview Classical in Fort Collins Colorado does on their homepage, you can draw website visitors attention to this essential content!
3. Focus on Mobile
Reaching low-income demographics is essential to meeting your charter school’s enrollment goals, but it isn’t always easy. Low-income families often don’t have access to desktop computers, and do much of their Internet browsing (and research) all from mobile. That includes finding your charter school online, visiting your website, and even filling out forms. This is where an excellent mobile experience becomes imperative to the success of your charter school.
By now, we all have read plenty of articles on the importance of mobile and responsive design for reaching prospective families on-the-go. But, for charter schools, having a strong mobile experience is about so much more than on-the-go communications. It’s about providing a mobile-first experience to its prospective and current families who only use smartphones to access the Internet.
A great mobile experience means:
- Fonts are easy to read
- Pages load promptly
- Large buttons make it easy to click
- Content collapses and resizes in a logical order
- A simplified navigation structure
For example, Public Prep Network in Bronx, NY uses large buttons to make it easy for parents using a mobile button to “click” and take the next step — whatever that may be.
For more mobile-first design strategies, read this blog: 6 Qualities of Great Mobile-First Design.
4. Master Search Engine Marketing
Ninety percent of all online experiences begin in a search engine. And, if your main issue is brand awareness, developing a strong presence in search matters. The majority of searches (83%!) that happen are unbranded — meaning searchers are using generic long tail keywords like “best schools in tampa, fl” and “public school alternatives in los angeles.”
What’s this mean for you? You have a lot of opportunities to get new eyes on your charter school’s brand!
Search engine marketing has three main components:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Pay-Per-Click Ads (PPC)
- Online Reviews
SEO and PPC have the same end-goal: drive traffic to your website. However, depending on your timeline, one might have a greater impact than the other. Traditionally, SEO is seen as the “long game.” Changes that you make to your website to optimize for particular keywords may take weeks (or even months!) to impact your ranking. On the other hand, PPC almost guarantees you a page one presence for the keywords you want to rank for.
In either case, having positive online reviews in essential. Even if you’re on page one, if your charter school doesn’t have positive reviews, you may not earn the click you worked so hard for.
Want to learn more about search engine marketing? Further suggested reading:
- Online Reviews For Schools: Why They Matter And What To Do
- SEO or PPC: What’s Right for Our School?
- PPC Marketing For Schools: 3 Tips To Make The Most Of Your Budget
- Getting Found In Search: Understanding Millennial Search Behaviors
5. Have a Savvy Social Presence
Your prospective (and current!) families — from Generation Z to Baby Boomers — all spend time on social media, which means that having a presence can help you build brand awareness. For social media, you’ll want to focus on organic and paid posts. Because the organic engagement rate is borderline nonexistent at this point, if you want to reach new families, investing in social media ads is a great start.
However, keep in mind that you don’t need a presence everywhere. Over the years, we’ve seen the popularity in Twitter drop, and popularity in Instagram rise. Across the board, Facebook has remained a foundational social media network for charter, public, and private schools alike. And, trust us when we say you don’t need to worry about Pinterest or Snapchat.
As for your charter school social media strategy, focus on posting once per day on Instagram and one to two times per day on Facebook. And for tips on what to post, check out the following blogs:
- Social Media Strategies For Reaching And Engaging Millennials
- The 3 Types Of School Social Media Posts That Always Get Engagement
- What Makes a Good Social Media Ad?
Don’t Forget Traditional Methods
If you’ve decided that your target audience spends time reading newspapers, local publications, magazines, or other printed materials in your area, it may be a good idea to maintain a presence within these traditional marketing methods.
Keep in mind that in most cases, there aren’t ways to track the ROI of print ads — and for charter schools with limited budgets, these may eat up a lot of ad spend quickly, as opposed to PPC or social media ads.
Prioritizing Your Marketing Strategy
Depending on your overall marketing budget, you may not have room to invest in all mediums for building brand awareness. So, if we could give one word of advice? Invest in your website first. This is your number one marketing tool, and an essential communications tool for retention.
The foundation of a successful awareness campaign begins with the development of personas and your value proposition. It is essential to know who your audience is and how to speak to them, before you actually develop a website or other marketing strategies to reach them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia shares innovative and helpful content that helps schools and districts create captivating online experiences that increase brand awareness, student and faculty retention, and school-to-home communications. With more than five years experience in the industry, Mia has written more than 200 articles, eBooks, and reports about best practices for schools on a variety of topics from social media to web design. As a former TV and news reporter, and wedding photographer, Mia specializes in sharing how to use storytelling to power your school's admissions funnel. When she isn't busy creating content or hosting her #LIKEABOSS Podcast for FinalsiteFM, you can find her hiking with her Boston terrier, running an army wives meeting at Fort Campbell, or enjoying a well-deserved savasana on her yoga mat.
- Inbound Marketing