Though there are many differences between private and charter schools, one of the primary similarities between the two in comparison to public schools is their main challenge: maintaining and growing enrollment rates. We’ve previously written about private school marketing strategies, but there are some important differences to keep in mind to make any marketing strategy for charter schools as effective as possible. In this blog, we’ll provide the best tips and tricks for developing a marketing plan that is sure to attract prospective students and their parents in the coming school year and make your school stand out in the charter school market.
Any good marketing strategy is composed of at least three parts, and planning is the first step. All of the execution and hard work that comes later in a marketing campaign will be based on the planning that you do in the beginning since this will establish your initial goals.
1. Do Your Research
It can be daunting to prepare a marketing plan if you have no idea where to start. Sometimes, it can be helpful to research what other charter school leaders have done in terms of marketing, but it’s also important to look inward with your research. There are four crucial questions that you should ask yourself and your board members before drafting a marketing plan:
I. What are your growth goals?
Your marketing plan will tackle a number of goals for your charter school, but one of these should focus on grade-by-grade growth. Setting SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound) goals for growth is one of the key parts of an effective marketing plan, and having specific enrollment goals will help you shape the rest of your marketing tactics.
II. Who are your target audiences?
The first thing most strategists think of when they consider a target audience for charter schools is the parents and students. However, this demographic is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to potential audiences for your marketing efforts. To fully maximize your marketing campaign, you should consider what your target audience is in terms of teachers and administrators, potential sources of funding, leaders within and members of the local community, and even school alumni. Considering these audiences will help you hone your target messaging.
III. What are your school’s differentiators?
The market for charter schools is heavily saturated, and with each year more charter schools are popping up in big cities and small towns alike. Keeping this in mind, it’s crucial to determine a key point that makes your school rise above all of the rest. Whether this is high performance in the arts, competitive test scores, or any number of specializations and achievements, deciding your charter school’s “it factor” will serve as a consistent message to send to your target audiences.
IV. What are the key attributes of your school?
Your charter school’s key attributes are not necessarily the same as its differentiator. Here, you need to keep in mind what you want your target audience to learn about your school when they see an ad or post from you. This information will frame the key messaging of your marketing strategy, which will remain the same throughout your campaign, regardless of the different frames you use for different audiences.
2. Create a Sounding Board
No one wants to begin a long and critical endeavor blindly—and you don’t have to do so with your marketing campaign. Once you have developed your differentiator and key messaging, create a board of advisors and community members who can share their feedback with you. This can be in the form of a traditional advisory board or even a survey.
3. Analyze The Audience’s Journey
After defining your target audience, it’s essential to gain an understanding of where they’re coming from and where they want to go. Consider how your enrollment process works from start to finish, and then look at the pain points of your audience. Where does your process alleviate the audience’s pain points? Where can it be streamlined? This is the step where you should identify how the goals of your campaign and the goals of your audience converge, as well as where you can find and address gaps in your service’s ability to alleviate any pain points.
Once the planning phase is complete, you can begin working on materials to promote your charter school.
4. Develop Your Brand
Think back to the key specialty or feature that differentiates your charter school from the competition. This differentiator is what defines your brand, and it should be utilized throughout your messaging to create resonance in your audience. Work on refining and developing your brand to highlight this differentiator—audiences should think of your charter school when they’re looking for a school that focuses on that feature.
5. Optimize Your Online Presence
The best way to optimize your online presence is to identify gaps in your current digital marketing efforts. By performing a website audit, you can see where your school’s website can be updated to generate the most leads and clicks. Furthermore, consider focusing on search engine optimization (SEO) to expand your site’s reach on search engines like Google and Bing; SEO tactics can include writing blog posts or creating content that includes specific keywords that will help it rank higher in search results. Furthermore, social media marketing is a powerful tool for promoting your campus, staff, and happy parents, among other things.
6. Focus on Inbound Marketing
Creating tailored marketing content that is specific to your target audience will make all the difference in the efficacy of your promotional campaigns. Creating content that is shareable and engaging for prospective students and parents, that also spreads brand awareness, allows the various audiences to visualize themselves as part of an existing community. Making the decision to join a specific charter or a private school is a big commitment, so providing assurance that their decision is a sound one will go a long way.
Generating interest and enrollment is a big part of marketing, but maintaining interest and parent satisfaction is equally as important for brand recognition and marketing. That’s because one of the most powerful tools for marketing charter schools is word-of-mouth marketing.
7. Survey Current Parents and Partners
One of the greatest things about marketing for a charter school is that the audience is ready and willing to share their opinions on the job you’re doing. Sending out an annual survey that prompts parents to share their experiences and opinions on various topics, such as communication, enrollment processes, opportunities, and more, will help you revise your marketing campaign for the new school year.
8. Continually Market to Current Families
Marketing efforts don’t stop when parents sign up their children. You want those parents to feel like they made the right decision in choosing your charter school, and there are many ways to do this. You can create automated email workflows to streamline the onboarding process and welcome new parents and families to the school’s community. These workflows can also serve as a newsletter, highlighting new events, opportunities, deadlines, and accomplishments on a regular basis.
9. Standardize Communications
By utilizing one standard communication tool rather than many, you can avoid parent frustration and make sure that no important information falls through the cracks on its way to your audience. This standardization will improve parent satisfaction, which will in turn make it more likely that they keep your students enrolled—and recommend you to others.
Charter School Marketing with Versa Creative
Even with all of these tips, developing a marketing strategy for charter schools, private schools, and many other businesses is hard work. That’s why Versa Creative has a team of experts with an excellent portfolio of clients with a specialization in education who are ready to help you grow your campus.