• Independent Schools
The 4 P’s of a School Digital Strategy Audit
Rob DiMartino

If your digital marketing activities don’t lead to your desired outcomes, it’s time to audit your digital strategy. 

A desired outcome from digital engagement — better known as a conversion, such as an inquiry form completion, open house registration, an online donation, an opened email, or a like or share on social media — is what you hope you achieve from your digital efforts. 

The value of the conversion is the importance you place on the conversion. What is the value of an open house RSVP versus a viewbook download? Identifying which conversions are most valuable in the funnel can help you pinpoint the ultimate desired outcome. 

There are many hours wasted on delivering on tasks that do not align with desired outcomes (enrollment, re-enrollment, volunteering, giving, or attending events like reunion or open houses). Your most important asset as a school marketing professional is TIME, or the ability to save your time by NOT doing things that don’t matter, or the ability to scale your time with a bigger team or better technology or both.

I have coached schools many through the years to analyze and audit their digital strategies in terms of four areas: Purpose, People, Platform, and Process

  • Purpose
  • People
  • Platform
  • Process

Purpose

Let’s answer “Why?” Everything you do online and offline should align with purpose: it is your brand promise. If your actions veer from your purpose, ask yourself why you’re doing what you’re doing and what are your desired outcomes. You will thank me later.

Everything you produce for your school, on campus and/or online, should align directly with your mission, spirit, and essence of your school’s existence. Most independent schools we serve at Finalsite are in the “value market” or considered a luxury item. This means everything you share on your website, via an email, an Instagram post or Tweet, or on a blog, needs to solidify and enhance your value at every click of the journey.

So, every time you create a new piece of content, or want to invest time and resources into the creation of one, ask yourself three simple questions:

  1. Does this align with our school’s mission?
  2. Does this sell the value of our school?
  3. Which target audience does this message align with in order to sell value?

Need help crafting personas? Download our free worksheet!

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People

Do you have the right people? Are they wearing too many hats or are they focused on the job at hand? More times than not, our schools have concerns in this critical area: the people. Taking a page out of Jim Collins’s book, “Good to Great,” you need to be sure that your people are in the right seat on the bus, or transitioned into the positions they excel at with the skills they have or can grow into.

While doing an audit of your people might seem scary (no one likes to talk about restructuring), it is important to consider:

  1. What skills are absolutely essential to help us fulfill our purpose?
  2. Are the tasks we’re asking our people to complete within their skill set?
  3. If yes, do they have too many tasks on their plate preventing them from focusing?
  4. If no, how can you help them gain those skills?

Platforms

Your website, social media, email marketing, and databases: are they integrated? Can they integrate?

To do an audit of your platforms, consider the following:

  1. How does my admissions software integrate with my digital marketing platform? The magic is in the middle of data and communications for optimal engagement.
  2. How does my communications platform leverage my student information system or Fundraising data (Master System of Record)?
  3. Does my social media integrate with my website in real-time, inspirational ways?

My answers from a 30,000 foot level of these concerns is: the magic is in the intersection of data management for targeted communications through your website and email marketing platform for optimal engagement.  Without engagement, you cannot recruit, retain, cultivate, or educate your constituents.

Integration of data and web for personalized school to home communication creates value for busy parents looking for timely, relevant content to their family journey with your school.  Your school can deliver this with a personalized portal experience, targeted personalized emails, educating constituents on the value of iCal feeds to ensure for value at every click and aide in the re-enrollment process.

Digital trends for alumni are ever-changing, but the goal of every school should be a connected and engaged alumni body.  The use of data, mobile giving forms, email newsletters, blog highlights, live streaming of games and events and more bring joy and connection to your alumni audience across the globe.  An engaged alumnus/a has a better chance of funding, volunteering, and giving back to your community over time.

Process 

Do you have a defined process that is easy to execute? It should be personal, repeatable, AND eliminate hurdles.  

There should be a process for everything you do in marketing, admissions, and development — from how you get content up on social media, to what happens when someone fills out an inquiry form. Without processes, there is no way to evaluate if what you’re doing is actually working.

Personas, messaging, and frequency are three key components that each school should identify to personalize for their constituents to create, execute, analyze and optimize for desired results. Cycle, rinse, analyze, optimize, repeat.  See below for my recommendations on persona marketing:

  • Parents: Weekly highlights, iCal feeds, Parent Portal, Single Sign on to several applications from one landing area.  Ease of use and elegant organization of content is key.
  • Students: Once a Week Frequency in email but daily value in the web, portal and app experience.  Build Trust online with content of value that is timely and relevant.  Show me you know me, pictures, video, social posts, student portal experience, digital signage shout outs for birthdays or special occasions.
  • Alumni: Once a Month Frequency but Awesome Content. Build a culture of connection across all generations with experience with your campus and find helpful areas to connect: career advice and mentoring for younger alumni, buying your first house, Parenting tips, Financial Advice, etc.  Bring your programs you have on campus to life on the web to stay connected with your alumni as they continue the journey.

Each area above should be looked at from a strategy and tactical manner by your team and analyzed on how we can be better tomorrow. 

Key Takeaway

Every school has an opportunity to refine digital strategy and align it with school goals, yearly. On campus and online alignment are critical for the maximum success in recruitment, retention, cultivation, and at the top of the list, education to your students.

The overall process should be on your calendar for the end of the school year and align it with your executive team’s goals for the best engagement, revenue growth, and setting your school up for a sustainable financial future.


Learn more about Finalsite Advantage, Finalsite's best-in-class school marketing and consulting service


ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rob DiMartino

Rob is a Co-Founder of Finalsite and currently serves as Chief Evangelist Officer. He brings a wealth of practitioner knowledge and great passion for engagement online and off to the global school community. Rob has also presented at over 200 conferences across the globe, building sustainable school communications and engagement models that build and maximize efficiencies within school organizations.

  • Content Marketing
  • Marketing/Communications
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