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Private School Marketing: Beating the School Down the Street
Connor Gleason

Competition between private schools is vicious, and these days, it's more important than ever to differentiate your school and attract the right audience.

But when it comes to the question of how to market your private school better than your competitors, it’s not about which school can be louder or more aggressive with promotions or even which has a bigger marketing budget.

There are a few key strategies to make your school rise above the noise, appeal to your target audience, and truly set your school apart from the competition down the street.

1. Innovate Your School's Marketing Strategy

To make a strong (and lasting) impression, you need to be bold and original in your approach to marketing campaigns. Say “goodbye” to traditional print marketing and engage with your audience online while using digital platforms to reach a targeted audience.

Remember, innovation isn't a one-time thing – it's a continuous process. Keep refining and updating your marketing methods to stay ahead of the curve and ensure your school remains relevant to families.

Social ads, nurture campaigns, email workflows, and targeted digital ads — it’s time to provide prospective families with a personalized experience and helpful information. The key is to think outside the box and never be afraid to push the envelope.

As a competitive private school in northern New Jersey, Far Hills Country Day School is up against 12 schools within 20 miles of its campus.

“Everybody's looking to get their attention,” said Shannon Hurley, the director of strategic marketing and communications for Far Hills, “so we need to stand out in this competitive market.”

combination of far hills country day school digital ads

A campaign led by Finalsite’s Digital Marketing Services focused on Far Hills’ SEO and PPC strategies to reach new audiences, ultimately improving its online visibility with a 58% increase in search results.

Keep Reading about Far Hill’s Success with Digital Marketing

2. Know Your Competition

Understanding your competitors is essential in crafting a marketing strategy that truly sets your school apart. Know the school down the street better than they know themselves.

To help you pinpoint areas where your school can outshine the competition, research your competitors' marketing strategies and identify their strengths and weaknesses.

Ask yourself: 

  • Why do families choose these schools over others — and yours?
  • What unique offerings, programs, or experiences do they provide?
  • What’s their enrollment strategy?
  • Would I send my kids there?

Use this information to enhance your own marketing efforts, focusing on the aspects that make your school superior to “the other guys."

rowland hall signature programs screenshot

Rowland Hall takes this approach and puts its signature programs into the spotlight. Overnight class trips, a world-class ski academy, and a state-recognized debate team are some of the experiences students wouldn’t be able to find elsewhere.

3. Know Your Audience Better Than Anyone

To market your school effectively, you need to understand your target audience inside and out. Conduct thorough research to uncover their needs, expectations, fears, and preferences. This knowledge will enable you to tailor your marketing messages and campaigns to resonate with your audience on a deeper level.

Engage with your audience through social media, events, and other platforms to learn more about their needs and interests and create specific personas to market to. The more you know about your audience, the better equipped you'll be to create marketing strategies that speak to their hearts and minds.

Keep Reading: The 3 Rules of Developing Marketing Personas for Your School

greater atlanta parent resource page

Greater Atlanta Christian School knows its audience's pain points and challenges well. With a Parenting Resources page, the school has provided some great content marketing that speaks directly to its target audience of prospective families in the Atlanta area — blogs and helpful ebooks about preschool success, how to choose a private school, and even a school comparison guide.

4. Offer an Amazing Enrollment Experience

A personalized enrollment experience can make all the difference when it comes to standing out from your competitors. That difference is apparent early in the admissions journey with a branded inquiry form that’s easy for parents and gives your admissions office everything they need to start forming relationships with families — and increase enrollment.

williams monsons inquiry page

Wilbraham and Monson Academy is engaging prospective families with personal communications through Finalsite Enrollment. Using an embedded inquiry form integrated into the school’s enrollment management software, they’ll have important information about students’ hobbies and passions to start creating personalized communications tailored to each family's needs and interests. Compared to "the other guys," that will set you apart.

5. Build a Strong Brand Identity

A clear, consistent, and memorable brand image is essential for standing out in a crowded market. Ensure that all your marketing materials – from your school’s website and social media presence to viewbooks and advertisements – reflect your school's core values and mission.

A major part of your brand is your school’s ability to communicate your unique selling points (USPs) effectively and consistently across everything. A confident, strong brand attracts attention and fosters trust among prospective families.

kla academy screenshot

KLA’s branding is spot-on and certainly stands out in the competitive Miami market. The school leans into its child-centered, hands-on approach to teaching and learning, a mission that’s reflected in the colors, imagery, and language on every page of its new website.

6. Cultivate a Positive Online Reputation

When going up against the school down the street, a positive online reputation can make all the difference within the local market. And because today’s audiences are so critical of traditional advertising, this digital approach to word-of-mouth marketing can be incredibly powerful in winning the hearts of prospective families — 90% of people are more likely to trust a recommended brand, even when strangers recommend it.

As part of your marketing plan, look to your parent ambassadors and satisfied parents and students to share their positive experiences and success stories, both online and offline. Some research suggests that 91% of 18 to 34-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.

northfield mt hermon mockup on a smartphone

A quick Google search of Northfield Mount Hermon displays a nice mix of authentic and positive reviews from the web and Google itself. In one study, 38% of consumers expect a local business to have a minimum average of 4 stars before they would consider it, so things are looking good for NMH!

Key Takeaway

You have the power to shape perceptions and showcase what makes your school unique. Be bold, be innovative, and never stop striving to connect with your audience in meaningful ways. By doing so, you'll help your school stand out from the competition and be well-equipped to make your school truly shine.

Digital marketing and consulting services for schools. Click here to request a consultation!

Connor Gleason Headshot


Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.

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