What Works?

What’s the one thing I should be doing?  We get the question all the time.  The simple answer is: everything.  The art of effective marketing is weaving a clear message into a mix of channels that cut through the clutter and get people to take action.  Unfortunately, when it comes to student recruitment there are no silver bullets.

That’s not to say all marketing tactics are created equal.  There are plenty of ways to spend a ton of money for meager results.  Since we need to squeeze the most out of every dollar that isn’t dedicated to teaching and learning, it’s critical to know which investments are likely to pay off, and which ones are a waste.

1. Friends and Family

The single most effective way to recruit new students is through your current families.  Focusing on our families has the added benefit of reducing attrition.  We all know this, but isn’t it amazing how little time, effort, and energy most of us spend engaging our families compared to other marketing.  I’m guilty of it myself.

2. Community Outreach

Whether it’s developing long-term relationships with area preschools and youth organizations or targeted canvassing and phone calls, getting into your neighborhood is incredibly effective.  Most of the activities are pretty inexpensive, too, but they do take a lot of time.

3. Digital Ads & Online Research

Your website is the first impression many families get about your school, so make sure it’s a good one.  From a cost and time perspective, it’s hard to beat digital ads.  You don’t need to spend a lot of money doing dynamic segmentation, even basic Facebook ads paired with Google AdWords remarketing can make a big difference.

4. Mailings

If you can get a good list through public records requests, mailings are a great way to introduce your school to new families. They work best when you target the same families with multiple pieces over the course of a few months, mixing postcards and personalized letters.

5. Other

Radio, billboards, bus ads, newspapers, etc.  I wasted a lot of money on these traditional channels when I drew up my first marketing plan.  While they may be good for building awareness, they’re pretty lousy at driving enrollment.  To top it off, they’re incredibly expensive.  That’s not to say you shouldn’t use them – especially if you’re maxed out on other tactics – but they work best as add-ons, not the core of your marketing plan.  Except newspapers.  Trust me, your families aren’t reading newspapers.

Keep in mind that each of these tactics are most effective when they are part of an integrated and sustained strategy.  Remember, there are no silver bullets.

Tagged: Marketing, Marketing Strategy, Integrated Marketing, Marketing Tactics