Explaining what makes your school great sounds like an easy task to most passionate independent school professionals. After all, you know first hand all the things — big and little — that make your school stand apart from the rest.
Our academics are the best in the state. Our study abroad programs offer cultural diversity. Our faculty to student ratio is 6:1.
To much disappointment, statements like that get lost in the crowd. Articulating exactly why an applicant should choose your school — and not your competitor — can be much more difficult than it seems. We call this articulation your value proposition. (Apologies for throwing a big term on top of an already-daunting-task).
Value Proposition: What is it?
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.
Your school's value proposition is a statement (usually also accompanied by photos, videos, or testimonials) to explain how your school helps a student or family solve a pain problem or fulfill their utmost desire, through your school's unique solutions.
Because value propositions are specific to a particular target audience, you will have more than one. You'll write them for your homepage, admissions section, advancement section, athletics...and so forth. While it is important to write one, over-arching value proposition to capture the attention of a website visitor (like Lauralton Hall does on their homepage), you need to think on the smaller scale, too.
Free Value Proposition Worksheet and Template
Your value proposition is bigger than your championship winning sports team and new computer labs. It is how those assets make your school valuable.
Focus on the 5% that makes you special and put that in the forefront. Everything else should be secondary.
The Value Exchange
So how do you know your value proposition is a good one?
Ask yourself this: out of the thousands of movies and shows on Netflix, how do you choose the right one? If the logline (that one to two sentence description) resonates with you emotionally or logically, chances are high that you'll choose that movie over the one with a logline that falls flat.
The same can be said for value propositions. Once you understand your audience, you can tailor your value proposition to pinpoint pains and desires that will resonate emotionally, such as application frustrations, tuition costs, travel distance, social challenges and college matriculation. Highlighting the ways your school can alleviate those pains makes the costs of not enrolling should feel urgent and tangible.
This cost/benefit evaluation occurs at all steps of the application process — from clicking a social ad to re-enrolling for their senior year.
Pro tip: Communicate your value proposition at every touch point — not just your homepage.
Here are a suggested list of pages to have a value proposition written for:
- Admissions landing page
- Inquiry page
- Tuition page
- Athletics landing page
- Academics landing page
- Giving landing page
- Giving form
- Student life landing page
- Any other page in your tier 1 navigation
How to Identify Your School's Value Proposition
Identifying your school's value propositions requires three somewhat simple steps:
- Identify your ideal prospect(s)
- Understand how you bring them value
- Know what you offer uniquely well, or at least better then most
When you identify these core concepts you'll be able to better understand the messaging your site should carry. Your messaging should alleviate applicant pains — like cost — and boast applicant gains — like college matriculation. Use the combination of text and media to create a meaningful story and message that conveys the value of your school's education.
Schools who know their value proposition well can quickly point out what sets them apart, and ensure it resonantes with the right student. For example, St. Mark's School in Southborough, MA focuses on it's small classroom size in numerous parts of the website — meaning it wants to recruit students who desire a small class feel.
It's important to identify the potential pains of your prospective families, such as cost, geography, and fitting in.
The pains of your prospective families should be tied into your messaging. For many families, cost might be their biggest pain, which can be addressed by sharing fast facts about scholarship opportunities. For other families or students, it might be their fear of fitting in. In this example, Our Lady of Good Counsel High School focuses on proving their students feel welcome by backing up their awesome value proposition with three video testimonials.
The Layers of A Value Proposition
To make things more (or less) complicated, a value proposition is more than a statement. You can't really say that your school is the best at something, without proving it. That's where photos, videos, testimonials, college matriculation lists, and infographics come in.
When writing your value proposition, focus on the supporting element as much as the text itself.
Seacrest Country Day School in Naples, FL focuses on the "small classroom, big experiences," value like St. Mark's School, and takes it to the next level by sharing a photo of students on a boat an experience that is clearly unique to Seacrest. The combination of their value proposition + photo makes a bigger impact than words on its own.
Implementing Your Value Proposition
Your website is your most valuable marketing tool. All applicant families will visit your website, and you must use it to communicate your unique value proposition.
The effectiveness of your value proposition can be tested by asking these three questions:
- Is it unique to your school?
- Can another school say the same thing?
- How is your school doing it better than anyone else?
Remember: you only have 7 seconds to engage your site visitors — meaning your value proposition must be made clear in that very brief period of time. Here are some great examples that we think hit the nail on the head for writing and presenting a unique and effective value proposition.
Boston Trinity Academy | Using layers upon layers of value
Boston Trinity Academy implements multiple layers here, beginning with a text value proposition of "Grow in your mind, heart, and soul." This simple statement is brought to life by a testimonial, and then photos and more detailed value propositions of its unique programs.
International School of the Sacred Heart | Focusing on location to sell value
International schools recruit students from all over the world. International School of the Sacred Heart positions their school's value by focusing on its location at the heart of Tokyo with an interactive element on their homepage.
Asheville School | Using social proof to sell value
Asheville is always a go-to example for value propositions, because the school shares value elegantly and subtly. Following their college matriculation slider, Asheville School shares numerous testimonials from parents to re-instill the value of the school's education.
Lenoir-Rhyne University | Proving the value of tuition costs
In one of our most-shared blog posts of all time, we discussed the importance of having a value proposition on your school's tuition page. Why? Well for starters, it's a top entry point for most schools and universities. And second, you always (always, ALWAYS!) need to back up the cost of something with a reason. Lenior-Rhyne's "Why We're Worth It" slider is a brilliant approach to combating the skepticism of private college tuition costs.
Looking for more information on value propositions?
- Download our value proposition worksheet and template
- Check out these 10 examples of great school value propositions
- Read how to take photos to support your value proposition
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As Finalsite's Content Marketing Manager, Mia plans and executes a variety of inbound marketing and digital content strategies. As a former TV reporter, freelance cinematographer and certified inbound marketer, Mia specializes in helping schools find new ways to share their stories online through web design, social media, copywriting, photography and videography. She is the author of numerous blogs, and Finalsite's popular eBook, The Website Redesign Playbook.