School Marketing: The Definitive Guide

School Marketing The Definitive Guide

Are you employed in the marketing department of a community college or university? Is your goal to run a successful fundraising campaign for your school? Are you interested in starting your own preschool, driving school, or adult business classes center? An intelligent school marketing strategy is crucial to the success of any of these endeavors.

These school marketing tips will help you attract more students, increase revenues for your fundraisers and donations from alumni, and increase awareness for your school.

1 School business startup information

The U.S. education industry is worth nearly $1.3 trillion annually, with the following approximate market valuations:
  • Early childhood education: $70 billion
  • K-12 education: $670 billion
  • Higher education (universities, colleges, etc.): $475 billion
  • Adult learning (continued education): $55 billion
  • Tutoring and test prep: $1 billion
  • Online education: $20 billion
  • Print and online textbooks: $8 billion

That means there’s plenty of opportunity, but there’s also plenty of competition. Whether you’re in the startup phase of a private education business, charged with leading public school fundraiser campaigns, or responsible for revitalizing the image (and revenues) for your school, these marketing tips will help you make the grade.

Size of U.S. Education Industry
  • $70 billion Early childhood education
  • $670 billion K-12 education
  • $475 billion Higher education (universities, colleges, etc.)
  • $55 billion Adult learning (continued education)
  • $1 billion Tutoring and test prep
  • $20 billion Online education
  • $8 billion Print and online textbooks
Not sure what type of education business you want to start? There are many school business opportunities, from everyday services to unique educational niches, including the following:

School Business Ideas

  • Traditional schools (K-12, colleges, universities)
  • Tutoring learning centers
  • Test-prep operations
  • Foreign language schools
  • GED programs
  • Business schools
  • Professional training and certification
  • Computer schools
  • Preschool education
  • Art schools
  • Dance schools
  • Driving schools
  • Music schools
  • Occupational training schools
  • Cooking schools
  • School fundraising projects and events
  • School brand marketing
  • Online education

Your investment will depend on the type of education business you’d like to start, where you’ll be located, what equipment you need, and what market you serve. An online education business could be started for minimal investment, while a private adult training facility could cost millions. Franchises have their own fees, which can likewise vary.

Examples of school-related franchises and start-up costs:
In addition, your company might serve the education market rather than teach; such is the case with the following examples of school marketing job opportunities:
  • Director of Business Development, Marketing and Sales
  • Director of Advancement for Student and Campus Life
  • Marketing Specialist
  • Brand Marketing Manager
  • Director of Public Relations

Whether you’ll be educating or helping educators with branding and student acquisition, you need to develop a strong marketing plan that outlines what you do, who you will serve, estimates costs, and projects revenues.

Sample school business plans and resources

Your business plan will help you chart your company financials; the following will help you create a marketing plan for your school – your roadmap to attracting students, customers, and clients.

2 School business branding and design

School marketing is unique in that you're selling education and opportunity while also selling an environment and a community. Even though your product is different, your basic marketing requirements are the same as any business or nonprofit. High enrollment figures and successful school fundraising begin with effective branding.

Importance of a branded image

Ever notice how Ivy League schools enjoy a reputation for being the best of the best and how some universities are known as party schools? There may be truth to such claims, but the fact that schools perpetuate the labels means they understand the power of branding. Harvard is an elite school but you know there are parties near campus every weekend; and you can get an elite education at a "party school."

Whether a college or a private preschool, branding your school helps you recruit your ideal students, keep your classes full, and bring in more revenue.

How to identify your branded image
Define your niche

What is your niche in the education industry? Ask yourself how you differ from the competition and focus on that to help you define your niche.

Describe your benefits

What you do is one thing; how it benefits your customers is another. Make a list of your benefits and identify why students (or parents) should choose your school.

Know your customers

Are your customers parents or students? Both? How can you appeal to your entire customer base, when different segments have different goals and expectations?

State your mission

What is your school all about? What are your philosophies? What do you stand for, and who do you serve?

Sum it all up

Brainstorm potential taglines that expresses your school’s identity. Then, select the most accurate and memorable to base your brand on.

Consider your unique selling points, your audience’s problems, fears, and desires, and how offer the best education solution to that audience. Create a slogan or tagline that sums up your school – this is your brand, and it must permeate every aspect of your public image, policies, and marketing initiatives.

Branding through design

A skilled graphic designer can turn your brand into powerful visuals that symbolize what your school stands for. Your school colors, logo, font selections, and other graphic elements should be dictated by a formal style guide – which should be adhered to on all your brand assets.

The goal is to earn recognition for your school at a glance; when you’ve achieved that, you’ve developed a strong school brand image.

3 School marketing tools

You need the right tools to market your school!

Must-have school marketing materials
Business cards

An essential tool for making a great first impression. All school professionals should have business cards to distribute to their networks and contacts. If you operate an education-related business, hand out business cards to prospects. Increase your brand prowess with ultra business card printing, featuring triple-thick paper stock and a memorable band of edge color.

Brochures

Brochures are staple marketing materials. Use them to promote your school, special programs, athletics, and more. Brochure printing is also essential for your school fundraising drives.

Booklets

Booklets are indispensable school marketing tools. You can print booklets for course and class schedules, multi-page marketing brochures, athletic game programs, school program and fundraising overviews, and end-of-year reports.

Catalogs

If your school has a bookstore, you can print catalogs to showcase your apparel and other retail items. Catalogs are likewise perfect for take-home fundraising campaigns and selling gear to alumni and donors.

Bookmarks

Use bookmarks to brand your school. You might print a bookmark featuring your school logo on one side, and URLs for helpful school resources on the back.

Postcards

Direct-mail postcards are perfect for reaching well-targeted audiences. You can even use them to segment audiences: one message for potential students, another for their parents. Command attention at the mailbox with edge-striped ultra postcard printing.

Window clings

Promote school pride with window clings, which can also be sold via school fundraisers.

Magnets

Locker magnets and car door magnets increase your school brand visibility; refrigerator magnets featuring school schedules, sports schedules, cafeteria menus, and other information are useful to students and parents.

Banners

Banners are useful for not only promoting your school, but also for directing pedestrian traffic on large campuses. They’re also great for advertising special school events, enrollment periods, and unique programs.

Posters

Print posters to motivate students and to promote school events and activities. Display posters at career days and other events to generate interest and brand recognition.

Flyers

Flyers are like mini-posters that can be distributed or inserted anywhere - from magazines, newspapers, and newsletters to bulletin boards and restroom stall walls.

Stickers

Spread school spirit with sticker printing. You can print school bumper stickers, custom stickers printed for lockers, notebooks, and laptops, address labels, and even parking pass stickers.

Information kit

All schools need a comprehensive information kit to send to prospective students, complete with a brochure, business card, relevant flyers, course offering booklet, and other printed materials neatly filed in a branded pocket folder.

Calendars

Calendars that depict images of your campus in action, showcase your students and their achievements, and highlight important school dates are a great way to put your school front and center 365 days a year.

Website, email, and social media

Today's students are tech savvy, so you need to have a website to compete. Make sure your URL is on all your print marketing materials. Send regular email newsletters, and showcase your school, your students, and your achievements on social media pages.

4 School marketing: copywriting

Copywriting plays an integral role in your school marketing campaigns. The following details how to leverage the power of the pen to attract students, solicit donations from alumni, and market your school programs and events.

Four steps for writing winning school copy
1. Craft a powerful headline

Your headline should command attention and set the mood of your marketing piece. It can be bold, poignant, or boisterous so long as it makes the recipient want to learn more about your school. A strong headline makes an emotional plea, delivers a benefit statement, and/or promotes an exclusive offer.

2. Highlight your benefits

Tell prospects what’s in it for them, in no uncertain terms. Create desire for your school with strong benefit statements.

3. Develop an incredible offer/make a key point

Professional schools, online courses, driver’s education classes, and others can deliver desirable offers. Other schools might be better making key points about how their institutions offer superior experiences and educations – however, some online and community colleges can promote less expensive education options.

4. Motivate with a call to action

Your prospective students, alumni, and donors might be highly intelligent, but you still want to leave them with a clear call to action that details exactly what they need to do next. Give them several ways to respond or get more information (visit your website, visit your school, and call a phone number, etc.).

5 School marketing: distribution

Creating school marketing materials is only part of the process. The following details popular distribution channels for school and education marketing.

Direct mail

Direct-mail marketing makes it easy to promote your school to a well-defined audience. It also allows you to segment audiences and adjust your message accordingly.

School direct-mailers include:
  • Sales letters (alumni donations, enrollment requests, special programming)
  • Brochures
  • Folded flyers
  • Postcards
  • Booklets
  • Catalogs
  • Alumni, student, and parent newsletters
  • Information kits

Repetition is key to direct-mail marketing success, so map out a long-term strategy that puts your school in front of prospects on a regular basis. Offer incentives for response whenever possible, and be sure to incorporate a tracking mechanism (such as a reference number) so you can measure response.

Advertisements

Promote your school with flyer inserts, poster placement, and banners. Take out paid advertisements on billboards and in newspapers, magazines, trade publications, and more. Purchase digital advertising where your ideal students are likely to find them.

Hire a street team to hand out stickers. Host events, set up booths at trade shows, festivals, and college fairs, and develop special programming designed to introduce prospective students to your school.

Following up

Test, track and tweak: These three T’s will help you develop winning school print marketing campaigns.

  • Test

    Always test different variations of your marketing materials on small portions of your mailing list to see which performs best

  • Track

    Track response so you know who responds and what they respond to

  • Tweak

    Evaluate recognizable trends so you can customize your message and develop stronger campaigns based on real-world data

Adhere to these rules and you’ll be able to develop reliable, predictable, and successful marketing campaigns for your school.

6 School marketing ideas and resources

Try these effective marketing strategies for schools and resources to boost your marketing efforts this year:

Creative ideas
Publicity stunts

Host a student-led publicity stunt, invite the media, and get free PR. Every week there are headlines about the latest or traditional college crazes, and most are quite tasteful yet newsworthy. Encourage your students to contribute creative ideas that put your school on the map.

Allow public access

If you have athletic facilities, a library, or a media center, you can hold public hours so that your local community becomes more familiar with your campus and more likely to want to attend or donate. Host open houses and student tours.

Challenge other schools

Host competitions and events between schools. Everyone has a basketball and debate team, so get creative here - how about a treasure hunt with a big prize?

Be always visible

Make sure you have posters, flyers, banners, and other materials placed in high-traffic areas. Never underestimate the value of consistent visibility.

Get endorsements

Many schools have famous alumni. Ask yours to help you market your school.

Showcase your students

Use your newsletters, email, social media accounts, brochures, and booklets to showcase your students. Compile real-world case studies that demonstrate how you help students achieve their goals.

Recruit student ambassadors

Identify influential students and hire them to promote your school in their hometown. Give them business cards, stickers, brochures, and information kits to hand out.

Resources

Here are a few links to school marketing resources you can use to bolster enrollment.

PsPrint

Full-service printing, direct mailing and mailing list generation.

Education Marketing Association

Trade organization for educational products.

Data and Marketing Association

Offers insights any business can use, including education-related businesses.

American Marketing Association

Billed as the essential community for marketers.

National Council for Marketing and Public Relations

Connects community college communicators.

State and regional associations

Professional business associations, early education associations, and similar organizations can often be found on the state and regional levels. Search for resources in your area.