It’s me, hi. I’m the
problem resident Swiftie at Finalsite; it’s me.
Love(r) or hate her music, you can’t deny that Taylor Swift is a strategic, forward-thinker with a mind for business AND an unrivaled dedication to her fans. She’s worked hard to develop an immediately recognizable brand while keeping her music fresh and redefining herself through ten different eras over the past 17 years.
Long story short, the self-described “cat lady” is a walking (and singing and dancing) masterclass in marketing. Her impact goes far beyond the music industry – there are real lessons to be learned from her over the years, and they are ones that you can easily apply to your school’s marketing strategy.
So, let’s take a look at 13 (IYKYK) Taylor Swift lyrics and how they can apply to your school’s marketing and enrollment efforts.
1) “I laid the groundwork, and then just like clockwork, the dominoes cascaded in a line. What if I told you I'm a mastermind?”
A prospective family isn’t going to accidentally walk into your school and sign an enrollment contract on the spot. So, that means you need to create a personalized journey and curate steps along the way for families.
With a focus on mission-fit families, you can connect in a more purposeful and meaningful way. By understanding their specific needs, preferences, and behaviors, you can tailor your marketing strategies to resonate with the right people at the right time. You can orchestrate the right messages arriving to the right families so they feel personally connected to you and your school every step of the way. So like dominoes, set up families for success and guide them to what’s next at your school.
2. “I had a marvelous time ruining everything.”
There’s no phrase that frustrates me more than “That’s the way we’ve always done it!” especially when the way you’ve always done it doesn’t work! When there’s something at your school that is complicating life for parents, your teachers, or your team, it’s time to change it – even if that means starting over from scratch.
Recently at School Marketing Day, I shared the quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result,” and it couldn’t be truer when it comes to marketing.
Structuring your open house the same or advertising in the same places year after year means you’re losing out on connecting with potential families! While it can be scary to depart from the familiar, it’s a good thing to try new tactics or strategies. And even if it doesn’t work out for the better, you’ve still learned something along the way to guide you.
3. “I got a blank space baby, and I’ll write your name!”
Personalize your marketing as much as possible. But don’t stress – I don’t mean that you need to individually email every single family that has inquired. You can create a few different email workflows to target your biggest audiences with the content and information that’s most important to them.
By using the information submitted on an inquiry form, you can share content that aligns with their interests. Did they indicate an interest in music and performing arts? Set up an email to invite them to an upcoming concert or showcase. An academically driven family? Profile graduating seniors on their college plans and how your school prepared them for what’s next to use in nurture emails.
And those automated emails don’t have to be plain or boring messages. With the right balance of personal touches, you can save time and create a deeper connection with a family. *pen click*
4. “Love you to the Moon and to Saturn.”
When a potential new family comes to your website or an admissions event, you’re rolling out the carpet for them. Don’t forget to dedicate the same energy to current families!
When you create a personal relationship with parents and students AND deliver outstanding experiences within the school, they become raving fans who naturally share their stories with friends and family. Build their love of your school with parent appreciation events and messages, dedicated and customized support of students, and ongoing communications from the school.
5. “Maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much, but maybe this thing was a masterpiece before you tore it all up.”
Keep your school’s inquiry, visit, and application processes as simple as possible. If there are too many forms or steps that involve printing out applications or creating logins for the inquiry, the application, and the financial aid… parents may walk away from your process and not look back.
You also want to give families a hand to hold through the admission and enrollment process. If they’re lost and don’t know the next step, they might abandon the process altogether. By streamlining enrollment and making yourself available, you show a family that you value their time and don’t want to waste it.
6. “I like shiny things but I'd marry you with paper rings.”
You don’t always need to spend a lot of money to impress and win over prospective families: a simple gesture can sometimes go further than an expensive one, and smaller targeted advertising can reach the right family much better than casting a wide (and expensive net).
A hand-written ‘thank you’ note after a potential family comes to an open house might sway them more to your school over an expensive search engine marketing (SEM) campaign. Similarly, you can dedicate a few dollars to boost a social media post that features a guide to selecting the right private school. With the right, eye-catching visuals, these posts can reach all new families who may not have known about you before.
7. “If you have children someday, when they point to the pictures, please tell 'em my name.”
Your alumni are likely an untapped resource, so it’s important to connect with them to use for marketing (not just when you ask them for money.) Invest in alumni demographic research and organize regional meet-ups, Zoom reunions, and a quarterly alumni newsletter. If you have a well-established database, put more resources into your homecoming or alumni weekends so that as younger alumni start families, your school is always top of mind.
8. “Can I ask you a question?”
For a family who has never thought of sending their children to a private school, the process can seem daunting, overwhelming, and expensive… even if that’s not the case. Your school’s website should have plenty of opportunities for a parent to ask about enrollment, tuition, sports, extracurriculars, and more.
On top of that, it’s important to humanize your website. Make sure those pages feature a picture and the name of someone who will respond, rather than a generic inbox that will leave someone questioning if their email is getting read.
Marin Academy has a fantastic “Meet the Team” page. Each team member has their picture and contact information, plus a short bio when you click into their pictures. Humanizing the process can help parents feel much more comfortable and at home at your school.
9. “Midnights become my afternoons”
Has your enrollment team pulled all-nighters during the review process? That’s nothing new for some schools as they flip through paper applications and piece together recommendations to the right student late into the night.
Good news: you can avoid all that by having the right processes and software in place to keep track of your work, especially when it comes to admissions.
There are endless emails, reminders, and more that go and forth between parents and schools, checklists that need to be completed, and application files that need to stay together. It’s a lot to keep track of for a team of professionals, let alone those “army-of-one” school offices. When you have the right software in place that makes it a breeze for your school AND for parents, everyone wins.
10. “You need to calm down, you’re being too loud.”
Sometimes less is more. When it comes to parent communications, keep track of all the emails, texts, and push notifications they’re getting from your school. Learn what you can eliminate, combine, and what needs to be prioritized.
Parents are inundated with messages from teachers, heads of school, coaches, and more, so important emails get lost in the noise of their inboxes. This isn’t just a job for marketing — your colleagues across departments need to commit to making a shared communications calendar and working together to make sure everyone’s message is received and read.
11. “I’ll come back stronger than a '90s trend.”
Lean into trends — especially on social media. There's a lot to be said about creating evergreen content, but social media is the chance to show off a fun side of your school by getting in front of families while they scroll on their phones.
This Reel from Nerinx Hall features a trending sound and showcases the personality of their students at the same time.
Another big trend currently is the “POV” or “point of view” like this from Choate. And the best part is that this is SO simple. All you need to do is highlight what any normal day would look like at your school with short video clips and use a fun song to go along with it.
12. “Hey, all you had to do was stay, Had me in the palm of your hand. Then why'd you have to go and lock me out when I let you in?”
Retaining your current families is one of the best marketing decisions you can make, and it’s especially important for new families who have just started their first year at your school. Your enrollment team welcomed the family in, and guided them through a new process, so it’s important they have a support system that lasts. They will still need a hand to hold or a person to go to with questions when they experience something “new” at your school.
At the end of the day, retention involves more than merely avoiding student attrition; it encompasses every touchpoint a family has with the school! Every year, your school has the opportunity to foster an environment where students excel academically, socially, and emotionally. Your success is tied to theirs: don’t let it go!
13. “Today is never too late to be brand new.”
Do you know when’s the perfect day to start something new? Today. You can start a new strategy, create a new content piece, establish a new process, make a new connection with your students… and more.
Change and the fear of failure are scary, but you won’t know if your ideas will work until you try them! When you put families and your students first, there is so much you can do to grow your school and benefit your community.
Taylor is marketing herself 24/7, and it’s done in such a natural way you’re likely unaware it’s actually marketing. That doesn’t happen by accident and the best strategies to market your school take time (and sometimes a little failure) to develop.
“So make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it. You’ve got no reason to be afraid."
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Emily joined the Finalsite team in February 2020 after nine years of event marketing. She is now in charge of the email marketing strategy to connect Finalsite with schools around the world, and helps them learn how to communicate with parents, students, and their communities. She lives in Austin, Texas with her husband, two children, and two 60-pound lap dogs.