Unlike students, promoting your school does not get a summer break. Year-round advertising is essential to your school’s marketing and advertising strategy because it provides consistent visibility, a competitive advantage, targeted messaging, relationship building, long-term brand building, maximized enrollment opportunities, and adaptability.
By maintaining a continuous 12-month, two-fold advertising strategy that includes organic marketing and paid ads, your school can effectively reach and engage with prospective students and their families throughout the year, leading to increased enrollment and sustained success.
Below are four essential activities that will skyrocket your recruitment game and keep your school in the spotlight. With this game-changing winning formula as the backbone of your advertising and communications efforts, you will unlock your school’s full potential and supercharge your school’s year-round recruitment efforts! Year-round advertising is essential to your school’s admissions marketing strategy. Unlike students, advertising for your school does not get a summer break. All your recruitment efforts and communications should be part of a 12-month, two-fold advertising strategy that includes organic marketing and paid ads.
Best Practices for an Impactful Advertising Calendar
- Collaborate with marketing and communications to align advertising and recruitment efforts with school brand and messaging. Every message and outreach effort is geared toward filling the admissions funnel. Coordination also ensures that branding is consistent across every message.
- Plan your ad strategy around your admissions cycle. Your cycle doesn’t begin when the school year starts. You need a year-round presence to keep your funnel full with each new recruitment season. Use the summer to maintain a presence in the marketplace before your fall admissions season begins.
- Create admissions marketing calendars and messaging for each division of your school. If your school has multiple divisions (lower, middle, etc.), don’t use the same messaging. These are important differentiating factors, since growth and development vary in the age groups. Your audience is looking for different things at different entry points for your school. Address that in your marketing.
Make the Most of Organic Marketing
Organic Marketing is about growing and engaging with your audience through unpaid efforts from social media posts and ads such as:
- E-communications, content published on your school’s social media sites (both school pages and admissions-specific social pages), text messaging and blog posts.
- In-person activities such as open houses, school fairs, school tours, shadow days and word of mouth.
Organic Marketing uses a very personalized approach. Personalization is key to getting to know your prospects and engaging them one-on-one. You can reach people directly through social media or via their email inboxes.
When using social media, think about how families and students use and interact with the various platforms your school has. It’s essential to tailor posts to the platform. Again, work with your communications department to strategize on the different types of messages on social media. We’ve laid it all out for you in our post on how to master the various platforms.
Embrace the Power of Blended Paid Advertising
With 25 years of experience in education marketing, 23 of them in admissions and recruitment, I still believe in traditional advertising outlets as much as I believe in digital. When you take a blended, multi-outlet approach – a mix of traditional and digital advertising – you create the most strategic and comprehensive advertising plan a school can create.
- When assessing the best paid outlets for your budget, consider your audiences and your region.
- A year-round digital campaign for a school is crucial to maintain consistent engagement with your prospects and prevent loss of digital momentum caused by stop-start approaches, ensuring optimal results and lasting connections with the audience.
- Direct mail is a must-have tool. I absolutely stand by this marketing method. It is very effective, trackable and minimal cost. Calendar-wise, I recommend spring before the fall admissions season with an awareness campaign, then more tailored messages from July-November.
- Advertise in print publications that your prospective families read. Specialty, “life-style” – magazines tend to still be popular in cities/regions. I am from Baltimore and Baltimore Magazine offers Best Of and Back to School issues. Many schools find these niche publications good outlets, especially for upscale audiences.
- Be strategic about feeder schools that have take-home folders and advertising opportunities.
- Traditional outlets are still effective in some markets: radio, billboards, TV ads (like traffic sponsorships).
Create a Strategic Calendar
Here’s my recommendation for a year-round advertising calendar:
- Admissions events calendar should be finalized. This is critical to all paid advertising, and organic marketing.
- Online Inquiry/Shadow Scheduling Form Goes Live
- Use school social sites to begin announcing new admissions cycle information. Post video messages for current students of admissions staff, post videos of any fall special events (open houses), run a short message campaign focused on unique programs or expert faculty.
- E-communications begin with your funnel (email messaging and text messages)
- Direct Mail Campaigns
- Print Ads; most schools find back to school issues (August and September) most valuable
- Paid Digital Media Campaigns
- Continue with your school’s social media sites for enrollment messaging
- E-communications and drip campaigns. Really beef up these e-communications from newsletters with updates to e-postcards to simple e-message reminders.
- During your school’s conversion period, ensure you have a digital and social strategy that includes testimonials from students, faculty and parents and the dates will be driven by your acceptance and deposit dates.
- Paid Digital Marketing. This is the time to generate new leads for the fall recruitment season
- Spring events for prospective students/families in advance of the fall admissions season
- Direct Mail Campaign with messaging about unique offerings of your school, differentiators and fall save the dates
- The admissions advertising cycle/calendar starts all over again.
Make sure you connect your admissions marketing calendar and your school’s content calendar. What messages is the communications department planning for internal audiences for the coming year? Those stories and messages will resonate with prospective audiences, too. Check out our post on creating a robust content calendar.
Tracking your admissions calendar efforts is as important as tracking all the other data in the funnel. For digital campaign leads, track them as they come with contact information for admissions staff for direct follow-up and the dates of the leads.
For broader calendar initiatives (direct-mail campaigns, launch of an inquiry form, etc.), use the admissions database to export the data and sort by date based on when postcards dropped and when the form(s) launched and re-pushed for reminders. The same follow-suits for all events tracking.
Maintaining a list of those who attended any spring events and go into the funnel for the following school year also provides important conversion tracking.
A strategic and planful admissions calendar will do more than provide a roadmap for prospective families of important dates, events and activities. It’s another method of providing trackable data from the all-important funnel (which will be the August blog, if you are closely following me).
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What tactics have you used to create your admissions calendar? Share your ideas and success stories in the comments. We want to hear from you.