Catch 22: Marketing Challenges Facing Independent Schools Today

By Ruth Eve

Many independent schools today are finding themselves in a “catch 22” situation. Student enrollment numbers are declining for some schools, thus tuition revenues are falling and marketing efforts are non-existent or so constrained by budget cuts they might as well be non-existent. Believing you can rely on “word of mouth” marketing or “what you’ve done in the past” no longer holds true. Today’s consumers are sophisticated users of digital media; mobile connectivity has overtaken desktops, and social media has become the norm. Schools need to take an integrated, highly coordinated approach to using all forms of media (both digital/social and traditional), in order to engage their prospective families. Clear brand identities should be formulated and reach across all aspects of a school’s engagement tools.

Offering an innovative curriculum with wonderful teachers is not enough if prospective families and students don’t know about it.

Unfortunately, many schools still do not see the value in an adequately funded marketing budget or a Chief Marketing Officer (CMO). Marketing positions are often filled by promotion from within, with the occupant having little to no marketing background. Consider that it is the marketing department that is responsible for a large portion of the school’s revenue. Contrary to the way most schools organize their hierarchy, the position of CMO should oversee all the other “marketing functions”; Director of Admissions; Director of Development; and all other areas that are responsible for bringing revenue to the school. In this way a clear and consistent strategy, brand identity, and messaging are disseminated from all departments.

Clearly, in order to attract the right candidates for these CMO positions, schools should be prepared to allot considerable resources, but the rewards will be reaped many times over.

Ruth Eve is the Executive Vice President & Partner of Kalix Communications.

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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