I was excited to learn that Independent Thinking wanted to publish two of my articles for their senior groups of school leaders:
Head's Letter: February 2018:
"What Marketing Can—and Can’t—Do for Your School" (originally published on my LinkedIn account in December, 2017).
Trustee's Newsletter: September, 2019
Excerpt from "The Building Blocks of Strategic Education Marketing" by William Bullard.
In his article, “The Building Blocks of Strategic Education Marketing,” William Bullard tackles something on the minds of most every independent school and board– how to connect your marketing strategy to the execution. In this excerpt, William suggests a road map to “creating or reinforcing the vision, mission, goals, strategy, and brand for your institution. On that foundation, you will add the key components of your marketing execution– research, segmentation, messaging, and campaigns. Then, and only then, are you ready to apply this strategic framework to address your admissions, fundraising and alumni work, and retention.”
According to Bullard, there are seven steps to powerful, relevant education marketing:
1. Clarify that your institution has a vision and mission, and harness them to drive your marketing strategy, goals, and brand. Ensure that these critical building blocks are carefully aligned and reflect your leadership team’s assessment of the changing education landscape.
2. If needed, commission market research to gain a more complete understanding of the perceptions of your institution, what your brand stands for, how satisfied your current constituents are, and similar questions.
3. Ensure you have clearly defined your primary market segments: in addition to current families and students, have you identified various sub-groups of prospects for admission based on their interests, income, demographics, geography, or other factors? Do you have distinct audiences among your large and consistent donors, occasional givers, high-potential nondonors, and other possible advancement targets? Do you know what students are at risk for a premature departure based on their grades, attendance, and other factors?
4. Create a messaging plan that addresses the needs you have found for each of your top segments, especially in prospecting. Are some highly focused on the academics and college admissions? Others searching for a program that espouses versatility and participation? Do some segments revere diversity while others are mad about sports or the arts? Your messaging must connect with your target audiences to turn inquiries into applications and acceptances into matriculation.
5. Now put your marketing programs into action! Create the digital, print, and social media campaigns for your enrollment programs and fundraising communications. Test several of them, against similar versions of the same marketing piece and against other lead- or awareness-generating media. Track the results carefully against historical norms as well as against your projections. Benchmark your ads and posts against your rivals’ comparables. Adjust your marketing options based on key findings from your analytics.
6. If you don’t have a strong and consistent follow-up program from admissions inquiry until decision day, get started now! Nurturing, staying in touch, and ideally personalizing your touchpoints to active prospects will ensure the growing awareness of your institution is not squandered by a lack of relevant, regular communications.
7. Begin trying to identify families or students truly at risk of leaving; develop a program to communicate with them differently and address potential retention concerns. Create your crucial marketing campaigns on the building blocks I’ve noted and you will greatly increase the likelihood of improving your enrollment and fundraising. Get started today!
The Letter then links to the complete text of my article.