High School Admissions 2012: Take Your Cue From Steve Jobs
When Steve Jobs returned to Apple in 1997 and famously steered the company back from the precipice of irrelevance, he told the world, in very simple language, how he was going to do it: Think Different.
Often when I have the opportunity to speak with educators about schools marketing I imagine a little thought cloud building over their heads. In it is the image of a used car sales person or some other slick, overdressed personality who created a pushy, high pressure sales experience they would rather not repeat and certainly don’t want associated with their school. But marketing shouldn’t be a scary term to educators! When we discuss marketing in the context of schools, think of it in terms of demonstrating accountability.
My challenge to private and charter school marketers in 2012 is to think different (I know, it should be an adverb, but this is, afterall, schools marketing, not English class!) about marketing. Marketing is the school’s opportunity to show what happens to students enrolled in the institution and what parents can expect their children to gain by attending and applying themselves.
In the days when my conversations with educators focused on outbound marketing, my response to the concern that marketing was a pushy, pressure-ridden activity was always guarded – because it could be. The art of pushing a message that walked the thin white line between unwelcomed chest beating and aloofly-subtle-selling was indeed fraught with peril. However, when I’m speaking with educators about inbound marketing the conversation takes an energized, what are we waiting for? tone - because inbound marketing is the most natural thing in the world for a school to be doing.
These are my top 3 reasons private high schools and charter schools should think different in 2012 about their efforts to attract and engage prospective parents and students and specifically abandon their focus on outbound marketing and embrace inbound marketing:
It’s About Dollars – the reality is that the internet can outspend you any day of the week. You may budget $10,000 to print and send out a mailer to your prospects. People searching the internet for information on schools in your area (and can’t find you) are going at it 24x7. Inbound marketing is simply more efficient. In fact multi-year studies show that inbound marketing costs 62% less than traditional outbound marketing. That's a big savings on every new prospect you attract to your school.
You’re Not As Smart As You Think –outbound marketers are like those guys who think they have a formula to beat the stock market. If they get the right stock at the right time, at the right price, and hold it just long enough, they can hit a home-run. And just like those guys, outbound marketers find out that human behavior is a lot more complex and unpredictable than they think. Lining up all the factors for success once is amazing. Doing it year after year to fill your pipeline for the upcoming class just isn’t going to happen – at least not for the reasons you believe it will or with any predictability.
The smart school marketer is the one who recognizes that their prospective parents and students will choose a school for their own reasons – which you may or may not know or understand -yet. So the best way you can market your school is to get as much great content about your brand promise into the hands of prospects so they can choose - you.
The Thing You’re Best At Is You – If your school is really good at what it does – it’s brand promise – then the most effective way to get the largest number of prospective parents and students to apply is to make sure people who are looking for the qualities your school offers can find you. Good quality content about your academics, culture, social experiences, sports, values and the results parents can expect their children to gain by attending and applying themselves, should be natural for your to create and will be your most authentic and powerful marketing tool.
Attract and Engage in 2012: Think Different
So how does your school make the transition to inbound marketing? If you’re ready to go for the whole enchilada, we have some great free resources that you can use to guide your transformation. We’ve also published an e-book 7 steps to transforming your website that provides an excellent structured way to think about transforming your website from a testimonial into a prospecting tool for new applicants. Lastly if you’re already thinking about the 2012 admissions season and would like to speak to an inbound marketing agency about setting up a program for you, my firm, Innovative Marketing Resources would be happy to learn about your school’s brand and work with you on a program.
If you don’t yet have the support of your headmaster or haven’t worked out how to move money from your postage budget to your inbound marketing budget, there are still things you can do to get started. Blogging and social media are excellent places to begin. If you’d like some excellent examples of thought leaders in schools marketing who are blogging about their schools, check out Brendan Schneider’s blog at Sewickley Academy and Chuck’s Corner at Proctor Academy. You can also find both these forward-thinking schools marketers on Twitter where they share many thoughtful perspectives on attracting prospective parents and students to k-12 private schools and charter schools.
Are you ready to think different about the way you attract and engage prospective parents and students at your school in 2012? What are some of the challenges you face to starting an inbound marketing program at your school? If you’re using inbound marketing, what have been your hurdles? Are you still using outbound marketing too - what have been your successes?