A Prospective Parent’s Experience of a Private School’s Digital Marketing Strategy, Part 1

Sometimes when we talk to schools about improving their digital marketing, they have trouble understanding and appreciating the value it can provide to their branding and recruiting efforts. It just sounds like additional work and an additional expense pushed by millennials who maybe check their phones a bit too frequently and who want to try to make a storied and historic school seem hip and cool for . . . well, for who knows what reason.

The ROI on digital marketing can sometimes seem questionable at best.

But when we explain to schools how the right digital marketing strategy can affect a prospective parent’s perception of their school, a switch can flip.

As we previously discussed (read part 1 and part 2), today’s parents can approach the selection of a school for their child in the same way they approach any other purchase. So, in this article, we are going to explore how a contemporary mom might do some research on a school for her son. We will see how the digital marketing strategies of two schools might influence her experience and opinion of those schools and her choice of where to send her son.

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Jane has always wanted her son Johnny to attend a private high school. Johnny has good grades, is ambitious, and hopes to attend an elite college. As Johnny finishes the 7th grade at their local public school in Smallopolis, Jane realizes that she better figure out soon where Johnny is going to attend high school.

Jane has a couple of schools in mind that have good reputations in Smallopolis, School A and School B. She doesn’t really know much about them. But she knows that they are considered to be very good schools.
One evening in early summer, Jane sits down at her computer to learn more about School A and School B. But she doesn’t just start searching for information about School A and School B immediately. She wants to make sure she isn’t missing another school in Smallopolis that might be even better for Johnny than School A or School B.

So she types “best high schools in Smallopolis” into Google. She notices right away at the top of the page is an ad for School A. That makes sense to her. She knows School A has a great reputation, so of course she would see an ad for it when she searched for “best high schools in Smallopolis.”

She doesn’t see an ad for school B. Hmm.

Toward the top of Google’s page 1 search results for “best private high schools in Smallopolis” are four entries for School A. The first is an ad for School A. The second is a listing for the school in Google Maps. The third is a landing page for School A’s website. The fourth is from another page of School A’s website and features a recent article on School A from Smallopolis Magazine.

She doesn’t see any search results for School B. Why isn’t School B showing up?

She clicks to the next page of the Google search results . . . no. She clicks to the third page of search results. Ok, there it is. School B’s website is listed in the third page of the search results for “best high schools in Smallopolis.” What does that mean, she wonders? Is School B not as good as she had been led to believe?

She spends some time reviewing the search results to see if any other schools might be a good fit for Johnny. But she doesn’t find any that jump out at her and decides to stick to researching School A and School B.

So, she decides to read their websites.

School A’s website is modern, attractive, and elegant. It presents the school very well. The content and words convincingly sell her on the school’s value.

After spending some time on School A’s website, she decides that it is time to review School B’s website. As she moves her cursor to close her browser on School A’s website, a box pops up in the middle of her screen. It is an offer from School A to send her its monthly newsletter as well as a short report on “The Current Best Practices for Getting into an Elite College” written by School A’s college admissions counselor. School A has a reputation for sending its graduates to elite colleges, so Jane is happy to give School A her email address in order to get that report.

She then visits School B’s website. School B’s website isn’t bad at all. It explains the history and traditions of the school. The school is remarkable and there is a lot of good to be said for it. Jane is impressed with School B and likes its website. She notices a box in the lower right hand corner of School B’s website where she can enter her email to sign up for “the latest news” from School B. But she isn’t sure why she should do that. She gets enough email anyway and doesn’t need more.

The next morning when Jane checks her email, she is delighted to find a nice “welcome” email from School A’s head of school, together with the report on college admissions that she wanted. Over the course of the next few months, she continues to receive occasional emails from School A, every couple of weeks or so. She doesn’t read all of School A’s emails, of course. But the ones she does read give her a real sense of what the school is about and what type of community her son Johnny would join if he goes there. She learns more about School A’s teachers, its clubs (and what they are doing), its athletic teams and their accomplishments, etc.

She doesn’t receive any email from School B. How could she? School B doesn’t even have her email address.

What will happen next in Jane’s quest? Read next week’s blog post to find out!

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