How to Advertise School Events

How to Advertise School Events

Schools have no shortage of events during the year, whether it be open events to drive enrolments or parent events such as a school musical. Every event is a reflection on your school and both current parents and prospective parents will draw certain conclusions about your school based on your event’s success. The first part of a strong event is great promotion. In this article we will cover how to advertise school events so that each one packs a punch and is well attended.

Let’s get to it – how to advertise school events

We’ve found that the sweet spot for open event promotions is 4-6 weeks prior to the date. If you provide too much time in advance, people may register but forget to attend or lose interest. If not enough notice is provided, they may not have enough time to plan their attendance.

I am also a huge fan of encouraging event registrations so that you can plan for the numbers well in advance and gauge how your school’s promotional efforts are doing as you go, making adjustments in the weeks leading up to the event. The registration form should be as short as possible and can include fields, such as the attendee’s full name, phone number and email address so that you can send reminder emails and SMSes before the event.

Your registration page should be dedicated to one event at a time. If you have several open events a year, I would promote one at a time. Having too many date options leads to people postponing their decision.

We’ve drawn an example landing page for an open event that includes just enough for people to make a decision about your event and register their place. The page title should match the exact title in your advertising, and we like to use the same image for the header as what is used in your promotions so that people make the connection that they have landed at the right place.

How to Advertise School Events

Other details to include in the registration page are:
•  what attendees can expect to experience at the event
•  a short registration form
•  a little about your College, if this is a promotional event such as an open morning
•  testimonials about your College or previous event attendees.

You will also want to create a unique thank you page so that you can track the success of your various digital promotions.

Event registrations should go straight into an enrolments database (check out SchoolCampaign) and registrants should get a confirmation email immediately after registration, as well as a reminder email and SMS before the event.

Now that we have a registration page setup for your event, let’s look at how you can promote your event online and offline.

Digital Advertising

Digital advertising is usually broken up into three main audiences:

  • ‘cold’ audiences are people who have never heard about your College
  • ‘warm’ audiences are people who may have visited your website or interacted with your content
  • ‘hot’ audiences are on your email list and actively seeking a school.

Digital marketing can be used to promote your events to each of these audiences in the following ways:

  • Email event invitations – Your email list is your most valuable asset and works great to advertise upcoming events. We usually send about two emails per event depending on your email list and event schedule for the year.
  • SMS invitations – SMS should be used sparingly, but I like to send event invitations as text messages and also send booking reminders before the event.
  • Display ads to both warm audiences and interest-based audiences in your local area using Google Ads or programmatic display advertising.
  • Facebook Ads to both warm audiences and interest-based audiences.

The great thing about using digital advertising to promote your event is that you can measure conversions (event registrations) and tell exactly which ads and audiences are working best to attract registrations for your school.

Traditional Advertising

Traditional marketing still plays an important role in our overall event marketing efforts. No strategy is complete without thinking about the people that may not be online. Having said that, not all traditional mediums are suited to call-to-action event marketing and below I go through my top recommendations when it comes to choosing traditional mediums:

  • Leaflet deliveries work well when done 4-6 weeks before an event. They can also be integrated with digital, with an SMS to register call-to-action and email follow-up.
  • Stay away from mediums such as billboards and outdoor signage as they are best suited to brand awareness and not short-term call-to-action campaigns.
  • Outdoor signage such as signboards and light pole banners can work well but need to be up about 8 weeks before the event.
  • Magazine ads typically suit longer-term campaigns because even though they may be distributed monthly or termly, they get read long after their publishing date.

One of the trickiest parts of mastering how to advertise school events is getting traditional mediums right for school events is getting all the details of how people can register in a tight space. The best way to do this is to have a similar look/design banner on your website home page that directs people to your registration page so that you can use your school home page as the go to location for registrants.

However you decide to implement traditional campaigns into your event marketing. Make sure that your digital and traditional campaigns complement each other and work together.

Increasing Attendance at School Open Events

We spend so much time and money in our marketing efforts trying to get people to register. That’s why it is so important that we do everything we can to increase attendance on the day. We have a little formula we follow for open events and the communication leading up to the event:

  1. We always expect a registration for the event. This helps with planning and checking in with how marketing is working leading up to the event.
  2. Once people register for the school open event, I send them a confirmation email and SMS to make sure they know that they are registered.
  3. One week before the event I send out another email reminding them about the event details with a picture of the Principal and details about what to expect on the day.
  4. Two days before the event I send out another reminder. Try to work out your SMS reminder to be the day before the weekend leading up to the event. Say your event is on the Tuesday, send it out on the Friday before. This gives people the time and space to plan their attendance with their family.

Even with all the reminders, people may still not turn up on the day and this could be good marketing dollars gone to waste if not dealt with properly. What I do in these cases is mark people in SchoolCampaign with a ‘didn’t attend’ tag that will then send them an immediate SMS inviting them to book a personal school tour. Often people reply saying they are so sorry they missed the event and that they are still interested in the college. I find that offering them an option for a school tour at a time that suits them, works well to still get them into the school.

I hope this article on how to advertise school events will help you with your planning and promotions, and also help you increase your open event attendance on the day.

Virtual Open Events For Schools

Virtual Open Events For Schools

As a school marketer, you may be on the fence about how to respond in our current climate, deciding if you should wait it out or offer a virtual open day. There is no doubt that virtual open events are new for our schools, but as we’ve embraced the change for our clients, we’ve seen some fantastic results. The feedback has been that parents are asking a lot of different questions on their tours, that conversations are more relaxed and parents are focusing on what you are saying to them. Most importantly, parents feel they can still put in an enrolment application after having met so personally with the team.

A virtual open event can be run at a specific date and time or made available on demand. It provides you the opportunity to create an online experience with additional options, such as live or recorded presentations, a video gallery, live chat, and a resource download portal. Parents can choose the content they engage with and individual connection is encouraged with live chat. Virus or no virus, these are great tools that we can use to engage our families.

Our schools have built online experiences that will continue to be used when the COVID-19 crisis is over, as a warm-up to in-person tours and a tool to engage interstate families and boarding students.

Visit our ‘Virtual Open Events’ page for ideas on what your virtual open event could look like.

Building Your School’s Marketing Team

Building Your School’s Marketing Team

What does your school’s dream marketing team look like? In our quest to build our marketing capabilities you may ask the question, ‘Should we try to cover areas such as website management, SEO and digital advertising, in-house?’ The answer to this question really depends on the skills of your team and your school’s long-term goals. 

In a world with ever expanding digital opportunities (and consumer expectations), it takes an ever-increasing amount of time to keep up with it all. We’ve gone from managing one school Facebook page to a world that includes so much more. Our digital marketing needs for schools has grown.

Great leaders are aware of their strengths and weaknesses and have a plan of how they are going to achieve their marketing goals with their current team and capacity. In this article we will try and help you make decisions about how you can cover your digital marketing needs using the skills and resources available to you. 

Shouldn’t Our Marketing Person Cover It All?

Often there’s the perception that once a school has hired a marketing team member that all their marketing needs are covered. Have you ever been called the school photographer, or been asked to arrange a parent get-together all in the name of marketing? Similarly, it can be an expectation that school marketers will do it all from writing copy to taking photographs, event management, website editing, and digital marketing media buying on Facebook and Google Ads. Not to mention the day you spent trying to fix your SEO. We’re always learning as marketers, and while we can get by covering some of these areas to the best of our ability, we also need to realise when we may be hindering our schools’ growth by trying to do it all ourselves.

Once we have a clear understanding of what we can bring to the marketing department, we then need a plan on how to cover the areas outside of our remit. And the question remains, ‘Do we cover it in-house or outsource?’

Covering Digital Marketing In-House

Building an in-house team may sound like a dream come true and a few schools have afforded the opportunity to have most of their marketing needs covered in-house. Digital marketing is one of those areas where a qualified professional is needed for the role. If your school is looking to hire an in-house digital marketer to add to your team, there are a few considerations to bear in mind:

  • Great digital markers typically come with a price tag (expect to pay around $80,000 plus).
  • They’re hard to retain because of the demand for skills in this area.
  • They too will have their own specialisation and you will have to work with each new hire according to their strengths to ensure you hire according to your biggest needs.

Having an in-house digital marketer on your team can be a huge advantage, however, it is not always possible to do so. Hiring a digital agency may be the next best step to ensure your school is proactively promoting on digital mediums.

Engaging an Agency to Join Your Team

So, what are the tell-tale signs that tell us it’s time to look at getting a digital agency on-board?

  • Your digital projects keep being skipped on your list of things to do and you find yourself stuck in the day-to-day of the role rather than on your marketing.
  • You have a great strategy in place but rarely follow it or often find yourself off track.
  • You’ve had a brilliant marketing idea sitting on the ‘we should really do that’ pile for more than 6 months.
  • Certain issues within your marketing are starting to bottle-neck the success of your overall campaigns, such as an outdated website or poor SEO.

An agency may be able to help you start to tick off some of this work. There are several advantages to hiring an agency:

  • Digital agencies will be able to offer you a wide variety of skills within their team for much less of the cost of hiring a marketing professional.
  • You’ll pay for a desired outcome and if that outcome isn’t met, you have the ability to choose a new agency. 
  • They’ll offer you flexibility and the ability to respond to market needs. For example, you could switch from SEO to digital advertising for a season, rather than being restricted to the abilities of your team.
  • You can save money by hiring an agency for what is needed, instead of employing a digital marketer and paying a salary. Time training a new employee is also saved as the experts are already prepared and ready to help you.

Whether you choose to go in-house or outsource, it is important to first identify the strengths and weaknesses of your team and the goals of your school, so that you can clarify what it is you actually need from a digital marketer. It’s likely that you will need to outsource at least some elements of the technical digital strategy to take full advantage of new technologies, so having a clear plan as to what you want to achieve and a budget, will help you find the right digital marketer or agency to fit your team.

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Branding vs Call to Action Campaigns

Branding vs Call to Action Campaigns

Have you ever felt that you’re not getting the results you have been working so hard for? It’s like there’s an invisible barrier pushing back at you every time you advertise your open events or tour bookings? After all the effort, the photo shoots, the design and picking the best ad placements, you’re left with a handful of mildly interested families; NOT the result you were expecting.

 

I have the privilege of working with a variety of schools and the thing that always surprises me is that many of them are implementing similar strategies with the same amount of budget, but their results are vastly different. I love working with schools to uncover the missing link, and today we’ll explore how the right balance between branding and ‘call-to-action’ campaigns could be your solution for better marketing results. 

Branding

Branding is incredibly important. When I used to work in a school, I would often say that ‘it doesn’t matter if everyone knows about us if they don’t like us’. If parents are overlooking your school because of the perception they have about you, your ‘visit our open morning’ messages are going to fall on deaf ears. Schools can usually suspect branding issues if they’re consistently experiencing low performing ads. 

When asked, ‘What makes your school unique?’, many schools give a surprisingly similar answer. The key to answering this question is to dig deep and identify the uniqueness of who you are, what you do and how you do it in a way that appeals to your target market.

Now that we know how important branding is, how do we implement a branding campaign? Branding campaigns are usually targeted towards a broad audience, are distributed on mass and use mediums, such as radio, billboards and magazines. Every element of your campaign from the location, text and images, communicates a singular clear and distinguishing message to your audience that is complimented on your campus and website. 

Call-to-action (CTA)

Call-to-action campaigns request an immediate action in response to your advertisement. They are suited especially well to digital marketing mediums (banner ads, Google Search or Display advertising and Facebook ads) because they are so measurable for actions taken within 30 days (a 30-day attribution). However, local campaigns, such as leaflet drops and magazine ads, also do well. 

Common CTA messages for schools include ‘book for our opening morning’, ‘tour our college’, or ‘download our prospectus’ etc.

A successful CTA campaign requires a strong brand foundation and should not be over used or go too far ahead of your brand.

How branding and CTA campaigns work together

I often use the analogy of sowing and harvesting when it comes to marketing. Branding campaigns help you to build awareness and prepare your audience for action (sowing), while CTA campaigns lead your market to take action towards enrolment (harvesting). Many schools make the mistake of only sowing (they are big on their brand) and others only harvesting (appearing salesy and abrasive).

The beauty of CTA campaigns is that they are so measurable and because of that they get a lot of the credit for growing your school, but the truth of it is that your brand has actually done a lot of the heavy lifting to ensure that people care and take notice in the first place.

Common pitfalls to avoid

I often see schools advertising CTA campaigns on mediums more suited to branding. An example would be an open event advertised on a billboard. Often schools are disappointed with the result achieved with this strategy and they may have lost out on the opportunity to broaden their market appeal.

Many school mail outs have way too much information on them and no singular/clear CTA. You have 3 seconds to grab someone’s attention on a flyer before it lands in the bin and they aren’t going to read through your copy to find out why they should care.

Headlines on landing pages and brochures etc should be outcomes focused. Instead of having the headline ‘XYZ Open Morning’, rather say something like ‘Your chance to join our life-changing community has arrived’.

Establish your brand and achieve results

When you start to work through your marketing budget, ensure you’re allocating a reasonable amount towards branding. You may not see immediate results, such as a specific number of enrolments, but you’ll be setting the school up for long-term success. Create a platform, build a brand image and you’ll see consistent results in the long run. 

How to Launch a Successful Leaflet Drop Campaign

How to Launch a Successful Leaflet Drop Campaign

Have you tried using leaflet deliveries for your school? It sounds simple enough, producing a few leaflets and having a company deliver them door-to-door for you, but it’s not as simple as it sounds.  I’ve always had a saying when it comes to marketing – “success is in the detail”. I’ve learnt that this is especially true for leaflet delivery campaigns. Today, I would like to take a few moments to discuss the finer details that have transformed our campaigns from average performers to heavy lifters in our marketing arsenal.

Design

Before you start, it’s important to plan how your delivery will fit into your broader campaign. Consider what the main objective and try to focus on one key message. Whether people glance at the leaflet, or read the whole thing, you want to be sure that they’ve received that one key message. Don’t be afraid to be specific – general marketing never really works.  

The look of your leaflet will say a lot about your college too. I opt for cleaner designs and avoid using text over images (which is hard to read). Try not to overwhelm people with too much information, you don’t them throwing it out straight away, keep it simple and to the point.

Timing

Normally, people assume that earlier is better, but this is not the case when distributing  leaflets for event promotions. I learnt this a few years ago when I was running behind on my distribution for an open event. We started delivering leaflets a month before the event, rather than the usual six weeks and I noticed a better (and quicker) response. I now give the supplier three weeks to deliver the promotional material, with a one week safety-net. Ensure you not to leave it  too late though – if you have a large delivery to do, rushing the supplier will affect the quality of their delivery.

Choosing a Supplier

This is the key to getting leaflet deliveries right, so much so, that I would spend a year testing suppliers against each other to ensure I had selected the right organisation for ongoing promotions. Price is an important factor to consider, but don’t put both your printing and distribution costs at risk with a non-reliable supplier.

If possible, try to find a supplier that only delivers your leaflets and maybe one or two others at a time. Bundled deliveries tend to get missed or go straight in the bin.

Some services offer tracking at an additional fee. I’ve found this to be out of my price range, but it is certainly worth testing smaller drops that are tracked versus larger drops that are not tracked.

Measurements

The first step in measuring the effectiveness of a campaign is to ensure that your supplier is reliably distributing your leaflets. I would ask a college parent from each suburb to keep an eye out for your leaflet and to inform you when they receive it.

Another tool I often use with leaflet campaigns is ‘SMS keywords’ which allow your prospects to interact with your marketing campaign through SMS. You can do this using SchoolCampaign. This is a great tool to measure the effectiveness of your campaign while facilitating prospect engagement.

It Is All About the Numbers

When planning how many leaflets to distribute, I recommend a larger area of distribution instead of focusing on only one or two suburbs at a time. I have previously stuck to around 40,000 leaflets to give me the exposure I need to build campaign visibility.

Broader Strategy

Have you ever noticed that you never really see something until you’re in the market for it? Try to ‘warm your audience up’ by supporting your campaign with local press, or a Facebook campaign for the postcodes that you will be distributing to.

If you are pointing people to your website, make sure that you have some visibility with the same call to action and artwork on your homepage so that you let people know where to navigate once landing on your website.

I hope that the pointers above will give you a few ideas to take your next leaflet distribution to the next level. What has worked for you?