By Jonathan Oleisky
Over the past five years we’ve built Kalix into a highly regarded, full-service educational marketing agency that works to build a long-term partnership with a school’s leadership team. Today, May 23rd, just happens to be our fifth birthday.
When we built Kalix we set out to provide wise and strategic marketing counsel to mission-driven educational organizations who are as passionate as we are about helping others. We believe that education builds better communities. Simple, yes, but every success we will have as individuals and as a society comes back to what we’ve learned and what we will teach others.
The escalating cost of private and public education have forced institutions to clearly articulate their value proposition to potential customers, the students and families who pay for that education. Since we founded Kalix in 2012, these conversations have only gotten more complex.
Conversations are central to Kalix. We talk and we listen to heads of school, marketing/communications directors, admission directors and vice presidents of institutional advancement around the country about the challenge of communicating the all-important message of value.
Three key marketing themes have emerged from those collective conversations:
How well can you and do you tell your story? Every institution has one and your ability to effectively communicate it often determines just how successful your marketing efforts will be.
How are you authentic? Think about the phrases that are probably on your website right now: “dedicated faculty,” “a family-like community,” “hands-on, student-centered learning,” etc. How many other schools can claim those as well? In this tight market, these are a given and your market assumes these. What do you do that is remarkable and “remark”-able? What makes you stand out from the competition? Focus on that.
Peter O’Neill, founding partner of Hillcrest Associates consulting firm and former head of Garrison Forest School for twenty years and interim head for The Hotchkiss School and New Canaan Country School, said it best: “How will your school become a category of one?” You must find a way in your positioning to stand out as first amongst per institutions.
Measuring how well you tell your story is essential. Key metrics to measure not only include enrollments but should also focus on development and alumni engagement.
Yes, the social media revolution has changed the way in which we communicate. This is not a surprise to anyone with whom we speak. Rather, our conversations center on how to meet today’s young millennial families’ digital engagement expectations. Your students will be the first generation of fully digital citizens to graduate your campuses. The Preschool students for many of our clients will most likely never use a mouse. (“Click here” is obsolete. It’s the Tap and Swipe generation.)
If you don’t have a digital/social media strategy in place, you need one. And it needs to be authentic to how you want to share your message. You don’t need to be everywhere on every platform, but you need to be out there, posting, engaging, sharing and spreading the word.
Five years ago, it was all about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and it’s still very important. But it’s just part of your overall Search Engine Marketing (SEM) plan to promote your website through paid advertising. And if your website does not have responsive design, make that your top priority. According to comScore Mobile Metrix, Americans 18 years and older spend an average of 87 hours a month browsing on their smartphone – that’s four days’ worth of round-the-clock surfing – compared to 34 hours per month on a desktop.
Digital may be king but traditional media is not dead. The printed word and outdoor and broadcast advertising continue to play an important role in your educational marketing mix. Targeted radio, direct mail and selective print advertising will still help you move prospective students and families through the admissions engagement funnel.
The key is to coordinate it with paid social media advertising, so your message is being seen and heard in a concerted, clearly branded way across several platforms. Use unique URLs for these campaigns for easier tracking and analysis.
As we look to the next five years and beyond we are excited to build new partnerships with educational institutions and organizations around the country. Our goal is simple. We are here to help with these conversations and more. You know education. We know educational marketing.
Our birthday wish is to make the world a better place. As part of our commitment to our community, we are proud to donate one percent of our annual profit to Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust, which supports academically ambitious African American children with financial need through the admissions process at local independent schools.
As your academic year winds down and graduation is just around the corner, we wish you a wonderful end to another school year.
Jonathan Oleisky is the President of Kalix Marketing