Educating Your Staff on Effective Marketing

A billboard may not be the most effective way to advertise your school in 2020. I’d argue that the only successful billboard is one that has a big arrow pointing down to show families where your school is.

As enrollment professionals, it’s important to educate staff and leadership about effective marketing – what works, and what usually doesn’t (like expensive billboards). Enrollment professionals are experts in their field for a reason, but there is often a disconnect between what happens in the admissions/enrollment/marketing office and what happens in the classroom. Bridging that divide is key:

  1. School staff has to understand they have part to play in the marketing of the school.
  2. Marketing/enrollment management is a team effort. You may be just an office of one person. The team has to come together to see success.

An oft-quoted phrase is that students come to schools because of enrollment directions, but stay because of teachers in the classroom. “Marketing is like electricity! No one notices it until it’s gone,” said Brendan Schneider, director of advancement at Sewickley Academy and author of

In school terms, no one will notice that the marketing has disappeared or the quality of marketing has declined until enrollment has declined. That’s part of that disconnect. Everyone needs to be a part of the marketing plan for the school, even if they aren’t executing it.

Educating the whole school on the importance of enrollment and marketing translates into more inquiries, more applications, and more revenue for the school. At the very least, the enrollment office needs to have a seat at the leadership table. The head of school needs to get the enrollment director involved with every consequential meeting, face-time with faculty, spots in in-service days, and more. The enrollment director having a healthy partnership with the head of school is critical to success.

If you need help talking to your head of school/principal to get you more involved you can send them this webinar, The Partnership between Enrollment and Leadership, from our Marketing and Strategic Growth Series.

It’s the teacher’s job to teach, and the enrollment director’s job to educate them about working as a team in terms in marketing, retention, and everything related to enrollment. Getting full buy-in from the school is essential to meeting school-wide strategy goals.

Here are the top three things you need to educate your staff about:

1) Explain to your teachers what you know about millennials

You have to market to millennials differently because they research differently. They exist in a Facebook/Instagram/Yelp/Google review/crowd-sourcing world. Why does faculty care about that? Maybe it’s as simple as sending a mobile-friendly classroom newsletter over email instead of a paper newsletter in backpacks.

The enrollment office relies on faculty to tell them when they’ve had a positive interaction with a family in order to get testimonials for the school. School reviews or testimonial videos/case studies are so important to school marketing. After a family has enrolled and they step into the classroom, the experience of retaining a student is up to the whole school, not just the enrollment director.  You’ve got to explain to teachers how important reviews are and enlist their help. The teachers are the ones that can tell you about great family interactions. And when the right time to do a review is.

Millennials interact differently. You’ve got to pay attention to where millennial families are interacting, what platforms they’re using, what they respond best to, and so on.  This generation has a huge emphasis on pragmatism: what’s best for my family? What’s best for my kid? They rely on reviews from “peers,” which they consider as anyone on the Internet. Do you know what the Internet is saying about your school?

Millennials communicate differently and appreciate modern communication methods from their school. They expect you to communicate with them frequently, but how? Text, don’t call. If your schools uses FACTS, is your faculty…

2) Inbound, Outbound, & Word of Mouth Marketing

There are three types of marketing:

  1. Outbound: traditional advertising, “push” messages out, slogan, slick booklets, and commercials.
  2. Inbound: creating valuable experiences, attracting prospective families to your website through helpful content, engaging with prospects by using conversational tools like email, chat, text, promising continued value, and delighting prospective families by acting as an empathetic advisor and academic expert
  3. Word of mouth: what people are saying about your school.

Understanding these three types of marketing can stop the questions of why don’t we have a billboard or why aren’t we sending direct mail. The reason those things aren’t being done is because 84% of millennials don’t trust traditional advertising according to Hubspot (a great marketing resource to check out). It doesn’t make sense to spend your marketing budget on traditional advertising because most of your millennials don’t trust it and won’t pay attention to it.

Explain inbound marketing to your staff. Inbound marketing is creating valuable experiences that people want to share about. Your teachers are the best people to create these valuable experiences. Create memorable experiences worth sharing like Shadow Day Welcome.

Learn more about customer service. Here’s a great resource: 501 Ways to Rollout the Red Carpet for Your Customers by Donna Cutting.

The next step in inbound marketing is attracting prospective families to your website through helpful content. Explain to your staff why fresh blog content is important. Explain SEO (search engine optimization) to them. You want to have a blog or something on your website that is constantly refreshed. Your teachers are very busy but solicit their ideas and passions and turn it into blog articles. You don’t want to overburden your teachers but I bet there’s a couple that could help you out.

Word of mouth marketing is huge! 79% of prospects come to your school via a word of mouth referral. If 79% of your prospects are coming from word of mouth referrals then how much time are you spending on word of mouth marketing? Check out Enrollment Catalyst by Rick Newberry. He has lots of content and it’s all free. It specifically references word-of-mouth marketing.

Your teachers have the stories to use in word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing. Another great resource is Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz. WOM marketing has to be intentional and Andy’s book gives a great framework on how to do that. His book goes through the Five T’s of WOM: Talkers, Topics, Tools, Taking Part, and Tracking.

To further develop your school’s WOM marketing, you need to ask teachers to be willing to talk about your school outside of school hours, whether in carpool duty, at ball games, via email or text, or at their own church/sports/club activities, etc.

Give teachers things to talk about when they’re engaging in discussions with people about the school! Provide talking points about the vision for the future–everyone can get excited about the future! Tell them to share current stories about the school, funny classroom stories, or statistics about student outcomes. Arm your teachers with every piece of relevant information possible.

3) Your School’s Elevator Speech: What are the most important things to know about your school?

Your school needs to be clear on what your brand is. Try doing this exercise to see if your school and staff have brand clarity. This great exercise is courtesy of Dr. Americus Reed from the 2018 EMA Conference:

  1. Put up a picture of the Starbucks logo and ask them what comes to mind when they see the Starbucks logo. They’ll probably say things like Starbucks; spend lots of money here; expensive; delicious coffee, etc.
  2. Now put up the logo for Google and listen to their responses.
  3. Now put up the logo for Apple and listen to their responses.
  4. Now, don’t put up the Nike logo but instead do the Nike swoosh motion to see if people know. Hopefully, they shouted out similar answers for all of these brands.
  5. The last logo to put up is your school’s logo. People may no longer shout out their thoughts but will likely go silent. Why will they go silent? Because oftentimes people have the least to say about their own brand, their own school. There isn’t one clarifying brand statement or vision.

Brands like Starbucks, Google, Apple, and Nike don’t have a problem with brand clarity. These brands are well-known not because of their corporate branding, but because they are laser-focused on what they want to be known for. When you put the school logo up, you want everybody to respond with similar enthusiasm as they do to large, recognizable consumer brands.

Have you walked your faculty through the 6W Questions? If not, try this exercise with them. Ask them the following questions:

  1. Who are we?
  2. Who are we not?
  3. What will we stand for?
  4. What will we not stand for?
  5. What difference do we make?
  6. Where are we headed?

This exercise is powerful and important. If your branding is not clear your faculty will have different answers. Everyone needs to be on the same page and tell the same story about the school. This is something you can work on as the enrollment director but it needs to start with the head of school. Ask for three answers from the faculty and then narrow down the best answers to the ones that align best with the school’s brand.

If nothing else, remember this: Everyone is on the retention committee. Faculty plays a huge role. It is up to the enrollment director to educate staff on their marketing role. Teachers have to understand how prospective millennial parents research, interact, and think about schools differently. Teachers have to understand how to create experiences that people want to talk about. The entire school has to be crystal clear about your school’s brand, reputation, brand promise, etc. Enrollment is everyone’s job and teamwork makes the strategic plan a reality!

More from our Marketing and Strategic Growth Series

  • Making a Plan
    • Creating a Strategic Enrollment Management Plan
    • What is an Enrollment Growth Plan?
    • What is a 90-Day Plan?
  • Understanding Your Families
    • Marketing to Millennials
    • Retention Strategies to Grow
  • Marketing Your School/Pivoting to Virtual Marketing
    • 50 Strategies to Market and Grow your School
    • Your Website as your School’s Open House
    • Parents as Advocates & Ambassadors
  • Nuts and Bolts/Tactical Instruction
    • Using FACTS New Inquiry Experience to Nurture Leads
    • Partnership between Enrollment & Leadership
    • Educating your Staff

Watch any of these webinars on demand here.