- General Best Practices
- Independent Schools
- International Schools
- Public School District
According to Chinese astrology, 2019 is the year of the pig — a symbol of wealth and good fortune, and an ideal opportunity to take risks. So, it sounds like a pretty good year to take some leaps of faith in the world of school marketing!
Which marketing strategies will bring your school wealth and good fortune in 2019? Here’s a list of the smartest school marketing strategies for investing your time, energy and resources.
1. (Finally) Start a School Blog
Back in 2016, I wrote a blog called “Start and Master Your School’s Blog with These 6 Tips.” The blog begins by stating: “For most schools, blogging is last on their to-do list. Whether it seems too insignificant for the time investment or you and everyone on your team simply hate to write, there are dozens of reasons that keep schools from creating and maintaining a blog.” And unfortunately, three years later, not much has changed.
A school blog is still a wish-list item for most school marketers who can’t find the time and resources to keep it helpful, on message and consistent. However, in 2019, I urge you to move a blog from wish-list to the top of your to-do list.
A consistent blogging presence is proven to:
- Improve your performance in search: As a matter-of-fact, you have a 434% higher chance of being ranked in a search engine if you blog, than if you don’t.
- Increase website traffic: Blogging gives you more opportunities to land on page one of the searches that matter. (Because who really scrolls past page 1 anyway?)
- Increase families in your admissions funnel: Organizations who use blogs get 67% more leads than those who don’t.
- Build brand awareness and trust: Blogs are the 5th most trusted source for accurate information on the Internet
Keep in mind that if you wish to execute an inbound marketing strategy, you cannot do so without blog content.
Need help getting set-up? Here’s how to set up your school blog using the Finalsite Posts module. And if you need a little inspiration, tune into my webinar with Kristen Kerwin from Avon Old Farms School to learn how this marketing team is killing it on the blogging front.
Download Webinar: Start and Master Your School's Blog
2. Create a Content Offer
One of the biggest problems schools still face is declining enrollment. And while I can’t promise you that a content offer (a downloadable whitepaper, eBook, viewbook, something of value, etc.) is going to solve that problem for you, what it can do is get prospective families in your admissions funnel earlier. And the earlier you are able to sell value and communicate, the better.
Like a blog, a downloadable content offer allows prospective families to begin engaging with families earlier on in the process. But the advantage that a content offer has over a blog is the ability to obtain a prospect’s information.
For most school’s, the first time that they get a prospect’s information is via an inquiry form. Unlike an inquiry form, which suggests that a prospect is interesting in learning more about your school, a content offer provides them with something of value to aid in their decision-making process, such as a whitepaper titled “5 Reasons to Attend an All-Boys School.”
Content downloads often get higher conversion rates than lead generation forms (such as an inquiry form), which will help you get more families in your pipeline sooner.
3. Invest More Time and Resources into Search Engine Optimization
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a long play that many school marketers don’t have the patience for. It requires investing a lot of time and resources into keyword research, implementation, and you guessed it — blogging. And because the results often aren’t as instantaneous as say, a paid ad, many school marketers put SEO on the back-burner.
However, SEO is essential to your school’s survival in the digital world. With 90% of all online experiences beginning in search, and 75% of searches never scrolling past page 1, having a strategy that lands you a coveted page 1 position is key.
If you haven’t already put the time and effort into keyword research and website SEO, this should certainly be a priority for 2019. (Hint: If your SEO settings for your website pages don’t look like the screenshot below, it is definitely tie to get started.)
P.s. If you’ve been on the fence about investing in SEO or PPC, read this blog: SEO or PPC: What’s Right for Our School?
4. Invest in Marketing Automation
Is one of your new year’s resolutions to save time and be more efficient at work? Then marketing automation has your name written all over it. Marketing automation allows schools to more effectively market to their multiple audiences on multiple channels by “automating” repetitive tasks, such as emails and social media posts. While this may require more up-front work (hello perfect summer project!), those who invest in marketing automation typically see 77% increase in conversions and a 14.5% increase in productivity.
For schools looking to automate social media content, there are plenty of affordable apps out there, including Buffer, HootSuite and SproutSocial. For schools looking to automate their emails, we’re working on the industry’s first marketing automation platform, and can’t wait to release it this spring!
5. Invest in Consistent, Meaningful Social Media Ads
Have you ever run a social media ad for an open house to an audience that has never heard of your school? Are you a little guilty of promoting a “inquire today” ad to that same audience? And then maybe due to the lack of success of those campaigns you decided that “social media ads don’t work”?
One of the major issues with a school’s social media advertising strategy is that they don’t consider the nature of the platform. Social media is a place where your audience spends their downtime. It’s where they go to check-in on friends and family, watch the latest viral dog video, and maybe engage with the brands they care about. And of course, social media ads are a given in that environment — but there’s a huge difference between seeing an ad from a brand and product you’re prospect familiar with, and one they are not.
For example, I am a huge L.L. Bean customer. So, when I see one of these ads telling me their slippers are on sale, I’m pretty likely to click:
But, when I see an ad for engagement rings for Valentine’s day (I’m already married, ha!), from a company I’ve never heard of, I’m going to keep scrolling.
I bring this to your attention to remind you that in 2019, if you want to make the most of your social media advertisements, you need to play the long game. You can’t pick a geographic area and age range, and promote your upcoming open house to a bunch of strangers! Rather, invest your time and resources into a brand awareness and remarketing campaign, by following those who have visited your website, on social media. Because they are familiar with your school already, they will be more likely to engage with your content and take action.
And if you find the world of social media advertising overwhelming, our team of social media experts can help. Just check out the ROI from our work with these three schools.
6. Consolidate Your Social Media Accounts
Here’s an easy one! Are you struggling to manage a variety of rogue Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts that are either out-of-date or off-brand? It’s time to take inventory and delete!
Schools should only have one Facebook, one Twitter, and one Instagram. Schools with a strong athletics presence may opt for a second Instagram to cover athletics so as not to bog down the school’s main account.
To consolidate your accounts for marketing, you may consider investing in a tool like Finalsite Feeds to aggregate all of your posts from all of your accounts into a single, streamlined feed on your website.
7. Invest Time in More Video
It goes without saying that video content gets more engagement than written content, or even photography — so begin taking tiny steps to integrate it into your strategy. Using your school’s camera and/or your smartphone, go “live” on social media, film your testimonials instead of writing them down, catch candid moments on campus. (And if you use Resources, they can make it to your website in seconds!)
Eventually, you’ll want to consider making the investment of a full-time on-campus videographer, or a series of professional videos to use in your marketing.
8. Make Your Website Accessible
Web accessibility isn’t a “trend” or a “fad” that’s going away — it is a strategy backed by the importance of a human rights. And although web accessibility is enforced through WCAG 2.1 and OCR for government funded institutions like public school systems and public universities, independent schools should care about the matter, too.
Making your website accessible ensures that any website visitor, despite their disability, can access content. And with about one in five of Americans living with some type of disability, ensuring your website caters to this population is key.
In the past, some schools have resisted to make their websites accessible due to the serious investment of time and resources. But, the benefits are well worth it.
Some Benefits of Making Your Website Accessible Include:
- Improved alignment between your school’s brand and mission for community and inclusion, and your marketing. You can say community and inclusion are important, but an accessible website is a direct manifestation of that. If your school caters to students with learning differences or disabilities, this should be a top priority for you in 2019.
- Improved SEO. Yes, it’s true — making the content on your site accessible can greatly enhance your performance in search! Here’s a helpful article from WebAIM, and another from Search Engine Journal.
- Avoid lawsuits. While we hate to use scare tactics to promote a marketing strategy, keep in mind that web accessibility is currently a federal regulation. And although it doesn’t directly impact all schools — particularly private schools — we definitely think this is an opportunity to be proactive, rather than reactive.
- Increase website traffic, leads and conversions. According to research and testimonials, making a website accessible has had a positive impact on an organization’s bottom line.
What marketing strategies is your school focusing on in 2019?
Leave us a comment below to tell us what you’re working on this year!
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.