Despite facing similar challenges of attracting and engaging a target audience, many schools don't approach marketing like a business would. Namely, they can 'shoot from the hip' when it comes to what strategies and tactics they will include in their yearly school marketing plan.
5 essential strategies every school marketing plan should include
School Branding – Keys to Success
How did school branding clench the top spot? Branding is that unspoken special connection an organization has with its target audience. It's the strategic mothership from which all marketing tactics can launch from.
Branding has been the top priority of the world's most successful companies for decades, yet unfortunately often it can often fall by the wayside for some schools. Perhaps this is because branding is a concept vs. a marketing tactic? Unlike digital advertising, social media, or website traffic, measuring the direct, analytical ROI of great branding work is difficult, if not impossible to do.
Yet when done correctly, school branding is the best way to engage, connect, and build trust with your audience.
Why is branding important for schools?
Spending the time to establish what your school brand truly is will have profound marketing effects down the line, not to mention an improved unification of all students, parents, and faculty. It will allow your school to put their values, identity, and intentions on direct display. In turn, this establishes clarity between the school, surrounding community, and all future classes of recruitment.
Bonus: Download this guide to consolidate and clarify your school’s brand messaging into a one-page sharable resource!
School Website User Experience Design
Your school's website will be the medium through which the vast majority of parents and students first interact with the organization. For schools looking to improve enrollment and optimize their marketing strategies, first impressions are key. This places much importance on the aspect of navigation user experience design.
Providing your website visitors with user-friendly navigation and an intuitive experience will be paramount to success. This allows the relationship between students, faculty, and parents to begin from a place of clarity and ease.
What are the most important aspects of navigation design for school websites?
When it comes to navigation design, schools should prioritize providing the most intuitive experience possible. In this regard, less is often more. Here are a few of the most important elements of navigation design for schools:
- Multiple Navigation Menus: Website visitors should be able to spot and use the menu icon at the top of their screen. Sometimes, however, users fail to see the first menu, which is why it’s always a good idea to have additional 2-4 navigation menus across the site. [resource on Navigation Design tips]
- Multi-Content Updates: The best website templates and designs for schools are not only intuitive, but data-driven as well. Data-driven website templates will allow school administrators to send urgent and important messages across all applicable webpages.
- ADA Compliance: An ADA compliant website is the digital equivalent of a wheelchair accessible entryway. Just as districts need to provide an easy and equitable way to enter their place of learning, they must also ensure their online content is accessible for every student, regardless of ability.
- Mobile-Friendly Design: Over 60% of all web traffic now comes on from a phone. This means ensuring your site looks great in all shapes and sizes is paramount to the user's experience.
SEO (Search Engine Optimization)
Did you know that almost 30% of all clicks happen on the very first result that pops up in Google search? As you can see below, engagement drops off very quickly the further a person has to scroll to find what they're looking for. If you're on the second page of search results, it's like you're in a different town. 3rd page? Different planet.
Another way to think about this concept is thinking about how you shop online. Chances are that most of the time you have a good idea of what you're looking for. So you may type in "black waterproof boots" or "how do I start working with Foxbright." Well just like you, your audience is out there typing in things like "best schools in Detroit" or "summertime learning programs near me."
The key principal of SEO is shaping your online presence to be a place that provides the answers to the needs/wants that your audience is searching for.
Such expectations are allowing schools that prioritize navigation design and user experience a big head start in terms of overall search rankings.
Some easy (and helpful!) SEO tactics to improve your website's search rankings:
- Title Tags: HTML elements such as title tags are usually the first place search engines will look to understand what a webpage’s content is about before ranking it.
- Precise Subheadings: Organizing your h2 and h3 subheadings is crucial not just for search ranking, but also for user experience in the long run. It makes it that much easier for your website visitors to find the information they’re looking for.
- Alternate Text: Alt text – tags that provide context for website images – will help search engines understand what to rank your content for.
Note on the relationship between search engine optimization and American Disability Act (ADA) compliance: While Google has not yet included accessibility compliance in SEO algorithms, our SEO practitioners is predicting that accessibility could be part of a big, upcoming algorithm change in the future.
Mobile App Communication
We briefly hit on the importance of mobile-friendly web design early. It’s an aspect with a growing amount of importance. In anticipation of more mobile traffic in the years to come, many schools are already looking into the benefits of a mobile app.
Here is a brief look at why your school may want to invest in a mobile app:
- SMS and Email Notifications: This makes for more effective communication and clarity between school faculty and parents.
- App News Feed: This feature goes a tremendous way in growing community engagement for schools.
- Staff Directory: Parents and students will have instant access to staff information.
- Calendar Integration and Scheduling: This features allows for complete calendar synchronization, so parents and students are never at risk of scheduling something incorrectly.
For a more complete look at the mobile app benefits for schools, be sure to check out all that Foxbright’s customized iOS and Android apps have to offer.
Digital Advertising for Schools
Considering how digital our world has become, more and more schools are placing digital advertising at the top of their marketing strategies. Here is a look at a few of the promising benefits of digital advertising for schools:
- Cost-Effective Marketing: In comparison to traditional advertising, digital advertising offers a number of promising ROI benefits. Schools are able to optimize their marketing campaigns to best fit their specific goals and objectives.
- Targeted Marketing: With digital advertising, schools will be able to plug and play with the criteria for their target audience, allowing for more efficient campaigns down the line.
- Better Brand Awareness: Because digital advertising allows for larger influence, schools will be able to communicate what their brand stands for with a wider audience.
While it can seem difficult at first, constructing an effective marketing plan for your school really boils down to a few key points:
- User-friendly navigation experience
- A compliance-friendly SEO strategy
- Mobile application for effective communication
- Clarity on branding (school values, intentions, etc.)
- Digital Advertising to a targeted audience
In our 20+ years of serving school districts across the country, we’ve seen the most successful clients prioritize building a strategic plan to connect with their communities. Your school has great stories to share about the difference you’re making in your students' lives. If you’d like to see how Foxbright can ensure those stories get seen by the right people at the right time, we’d love to help.
Take the first step by scheduling a consultation with one of our marketing experts and - as a special incentive - we’d be happy to offer you a free Brand Visibility audit of your website!