Marketing Gifts from Holiday Flicks

Movie marquee

Would you believe that those classic holiday flicks stored on your DVR are filled with lots of marketing advice and strategy for independent schools? Grab some cocoa, que up the films and get ready for the ideas to flow!

Buddy the Elf knows Santa and how to market.

In Elf Buddy the Elf knows a lot about the sugar-based food groups, holiday spirit and how to fill his days to maximize fun. Take a page from his approach and layer it on when marketing your school.

In searching for his dad, Buddy found Walter and sparked a lasting relationship after privately reaching out to him. How are you reaching out to make that personal connection with prospects? If you don’t already offer and promote private tours of your school, you should be. You may offer group tours at open houses and other events but tailoring a private tour to a student’s interests is a great way to showcase your school – and show that you value what the prospective student values.

Is your landing (page) gear Rudolph-ready?

Without Rudolph’s bright red nose and his prowess at landing the team on rooftops, Santa’s mission would’ve been for naught. He nailed the landing every time. Are your prospects landing where you want them to on your website? Check out our tips for making a perfect landing (page).

Have a Plan B, just like Ralphie’s family in A Christmas Story.

No, the neighborhood’s pack of roving dogs won’t eat your marketing strategy. But just like Ralphie’s family who went to the Chinese restaurant after dogs ravaged their holiday meal, you need to have a Plan B if a strategy needs tweaking.

Staying agile means thinking beyond the calendar parameters of what used to be the “traditional” admission season (September through December). Our research shows that more viewers searched on the keyword “private school” beginning January 1 through February then in the fall. Searches peak in mid-February, level off through mid-April, then peak again in mid-May. This means people are looking at your school year-round. Plan A and B should include year-round advertising.

Take advantage when great things happen, not just the unexpected. Did a student or teacher get recognition for an outside award or honor? Share it! Consider including a short video of the recipient talking about the honor and why he or she loves attending your school or teaching at your school.

Other Plan B tips that get an “A” rating:

  • Looking for budget-friendly, community-building outdoor advertising? If your school team wins a championship, say congratulations on a banner or sign on the road to campus (checking with local zoning laws first, of course). Or give school actors kudos for a great show. This is great word-of-mouth for your current families and sends the message that community is important to you. (Coordinate it with a unique URL and landing page that shows team victory video, photos and more.)
  • If you host a spring open house or tour program, give them the same marketing weight that your fall programs get.
  • What content does your school already produce that might entice a prospect? Send arts-loving prospects tickets to your school play – and a “thanks-for-coming” note with the playbill that you can’t wait to see his or her name on the list of actors next year. Same with the athletic banquet program for prospective athletes. While they can’t attend the banquet, they can enjoy the program, especially if it has bios of your scholar-athlete honorees.
  • Print extra copies of your school’s magazine and send one to your prospect list with a letter from the head of school. Many schools leave it to chance for the magazine to finds its way into the hands of prospects. Deliberately put it there.

Word of mouth helped George Bailey. It can help your school, too.

In It’s a Wonderful Life, everyone in Bedford Falls (save Old Man Potter) loved George Bailey. But until Clarence the Angel showed him how grim the world was without him, George had no idea that people held him in high regard.

What are your students, parents, teachers, trustees, neighbors and alumni saying about your school? Your word-of-mouth (WOM) – what people talk about when they talk about your school – is still the strongest and most effective marketing tool around.

You don’t have to wait for an angel to show you. WOM can be cultivated, but it must be portable, repeatable and emotional. Good stories and great outcomes drive word of mouth. How easy is it for your parents and students to talk about all the great things that happen at your school? And, more specifically, the things that impact them?

Just as George needed to be shown what Bedford Falls would’ve been without him, images and video are essential to improving your word of mouth.

  • Look at your school calendar: what can you stream live on Facebook? Think beyond celebrations and graduations. What about an innovative program? A fun class project that’s been a tradition for years, taught by a beloved faculty member? A fun spirit event?
  • Tell your stories where prospective students are watching them: Instagram! What events at your school lend themselves well to 15-second videos on Instagram? Or Instagram Stories clocking in at no more than a minute? Imagine a series of Instagram Stories of seniors sharing where they are going to college, what they plan to study and the most valuable lesson they’ve learned at your school?
  • What story does your YouTube channel say about you? Post a feature video each week.
  • Get older students involved in a weekly Great Gram contest by asking for photo submissions of school life to be posted on your school’s Instagram feed. Small prizes (ice cream gift cards, loot from the school store) will sweeten the deal, as will giving the winner a shout-out online. Prospects know that these are genuine depictions of your school.

From all of us at Kalix Marketing to you, here’s wishing you a great holiday season and Happy New Year!  How may we help you celebrate your school in 2019?

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

Read the latest post from Kalix President Jonathan Oleisky.
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