Why Your School Marketing Campaigns Are Falling On Deaf Ears

Why Your School Marketing Campaigns Are Falling On Deaf Ears

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 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 like 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 call-to-action 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 call-to-action 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 call-to-action 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 actually care and take notice in the first place.

Common pitfalls to avoid

  • I often see schools advertising call-to-action campaigns on mediums more suited to branding. An example would be an Open Event advertised on a billboard. Often schools are dissapointed with the result achieved with this strategy and they may have lost out on the opportunity to broaden their market appeal.
  • Many school mailouts have way too much information on them and no singular/clear call to action. 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 & 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.


More Schools’ Marketing Blog Posts

5 Simple Tips to Ensure You Get the Best Results from Your Facebook Ads

5 Simple Tips to Ensure You Get the Best Results from Your Facebook Ads

Ok, great, you’ve got a Facebook Ads Ninja to start running a campaign for you and it’s time to sit back and watch the enrolment enquiries roll in, but is there something that you can do to support your campaign? Today I’m sharing the Facebook advertising tips that I send to my school clients on how they can support their campaign and ensure they get optimal results.

Take Advantage of your Parent Audience


Many school marketers aren’t aware of the fact that Facebook relies on both your pixel data (data from people that engage with your advertising and click through to visit your website) AND data from your Facebook page to decide who is likely to take action on your ad. While you are no longer relying on organic reach from your Facebook page to build enrolment enquiries, it is important to keep your page engagement alive and kicking.

Schools are fortunate to have a large audience of parents that are generally highly engaged with their content. The trick is to link these parents to your page and use your community to provide Facebook with data on your ideal target market.


Invite People to Like Your Page


Your current parent’s list is the perfect template of who your customers are. I always recommend that schools invite school parents to like their Facebook page. Use community notices, emails and letters home as an opportunity to mention why they should like your Facebook page.

You can also encourage enrolment enquiries to like your Facebook page. One of the best ways to do this is to include a ‘Like us on Facebook’ link on the website confirmation pages for enquiries and event confirmations. You can say something like: “Thank you for booking a school tour, we would love to stay in touch, why not like us on Facebook?”

Plus, did you know that you can invite people who engage with your posts to like your page? You can do this for both ads and organic posts and it’s a great little strategy to help grow your followers.


Keep Your Followers Engaged


Keeping your followers engaged is still very important. Most schools are great at sharing community news articles about student achievements and school programs. Beyond that, aim to create content that is of interest to a broader market. Think of parenting or education-related content you could include in the mix – your Facebook page is the perfect testing platform for new content ideas.

A good metric to look at is your engagement share. The engagement rate for a post is calculated by dividing the total number of engagements (reactions, shares, comments) by the total reach of the post, multiply the whole thing by 100 to get an engagement rate percentage. A good target to aim for is an engagement rate above 1%.


Share the Ad Organically to Your Page


Once your ad is up and running, you can help it along by sharing it to your Facebook page during a peak time. Your followers are more likely to engage with and share your ad, giving your ad an extra push in the right direction.

Often we will launch an ad to parents first so that we can gain social proof and testimonials before launching it to cold audiences.



Don’t run too many ads at once


A word of caution: running ads at the same time could lead to ‘audience overlap’ where your ads essentially compete against each other, causing your campaigns to perform badly and one of the campaigns to stop serving. Always think about how audiences may overlap and if you are unsure, check with your agency or use the Facebook Audience Overlap Tool.


Of course, the best way to get optimal results out of your Facebook advertising is to have a professional do it for you. We specialise in Facebook advertising for schools and continue to get great measurable results for our clients.


Unplugged | #1 Julie McAllister Barker College

Unplugged | #1 Julie McAllister Barker College

Today’s show is the first episode of our ‘Unplugged Series’ where we speak to school marketers just like you to get an insight into the day to day role. Today I’m really happy to introduce to you, Julie McAllister. She’s the Director of Communications at Barker College and she’s had particular success in the area of video that she’ll be sharing with us. 

Can you tell us a tale from the trenches?


This one was just last week actually. With the move to co-education, we’re obviously having to redesign and introduce new uniforms for the girls coming into the school and at the same time, we’re refreshing the uniforms for our current male students as well.

So that parents and the students can see what the uniforms are going to look like when worn we’ve had to be carrying around these mannequins around the school in various states of dress. Carrying these things that aren’t that easy to manoeuvre and carry. And they keep appearing in different places one day they’ll be in the junior school and then we have to get them back the other end of the school so that the mannequin can then appear to be a middle school girl. So I think it’s confusing quite a few of the students because they keep popping up in the most unusual places in different outfits.

It’s those sort of moments as you carry a mannequin around a school, you think they don’t really prepare you for that at University. The types of things that you’ll be having to do as a marketer one day. No two days are ever the same.


Julie, what do you love about your role?

I guess what you just said and what I was sort of referring to, it has to be the diverse nature of the role. When I started in this role, coming up to 10 years ago now, it’s so vastly different to what the role was when I first started. Just looking at the sort of media for example that didn’t exist 10 years ago when I started in this job. So that’s been a huge addition to what we do on a day to day basis. I definitely think the diverse nature. As I said you sort of come in thinking at the beginning of the day you’re going to be doing one thing and then something happens and it turns into just a totally different scenario. It’s a little bit unpredictable which is nice as well. 


Can you tell us about a schools marketing area that you are particularly passionate about?

You mentioned at the beginning of the program about videos, I guess for us a big part of what we’ve been doing in recent times is producing a lot of mini videos. I think when I looked the other day we’ve produced close to 100 mini videos this year, and we just seem to do more and more of that every year.

We don’t have an in-house video production person but we’re fortunate to have a company, it’s just two former students actually, a husband and wife team, and they have a video production company and we work really closely with them, they’re almost an extension of our internal team here. I put together a program for them each term with what I know we have coming up that I would like them to film for. That could be events or showcasing the work of students, and also meeting some of our new student leaders, seeing what their plans are for the school in their new leadership roles.

We’re also starting to do a lot more community updates via our Head. It’s a good way to actually show our community in a weekly bulletin, the progress that’s taking place. As I said we’re fortunate that they’re able to turn those videos around for us really quickly.

We might have an event, it might be a play at the school one night, and I’ll come in the next morning and they will have this little highlights video, including interviews with the students and it’s really professionally done and we’ll push it out through our social media channels that next day, on YouTube and through newsletters, Facebook, etc. We know that they’re really effective and they’re certainly enjoyed by our community as well.

People are time poor they like to know what’s going on. So it’s really just a quick snapshot of this is what’s happened, and they can hear from our students or from our head of school. Sometimes they’re a little bit longer if we’ve got more of a message to share.

They’re something that you can easily watch on your phone or if you’re on the train. We know the kids really like seeing their friends on the video and what they have to say. We get quite a few subscribers through the YouTube channel. I’m always surprised at how quickly you can push something out and how quick the reviews are as soon as it goes out. So we know that people are definitely watching them.


Do you have a low-cost marketing tip for other school marketers?

I mean obviously, we don’t have an extensive budget. In terms of video production, the company that we use, I think we get a particularly good deal with them having explored other video production companies. There might be a couple of former students or even a couple of current students in any particular school that might have that passion for videography or video production that can potentially turn it around for you. I know there are some schools that use an internal process with their students who have that interest.

We found Facebook advertising to be really cost effective. We recently ran a campaign over three months, we were looking to focus on parents aged between 30 and 55 within a 22-kilometre radius of the school and we were really pleased with the result. In that three months, I think we generated something like an additional five hundred clicks to our book a tour page on the website and that wasn’t expensive. I can’t remember what the figure was off the top of my head but I just remember at the time thinking that we got a lot of measurable benefit from that.


Do you have a favourite tool/app that you would like to recommend to other school marketers?

We’re a department of only two so there is just me and a graphic designer. We find Trello to be a really useful app, it’s constantly opened on our desktop each day. We both can see what we’ve got coming up and what the deadlines are. I can add things that I know our graphic designer will just instantly pick up as I think about it. He can see what I’m working on and we both know what our deadlines are and what our workload is. Trello has been a really useful app for us.

Digital Marketing Health Check | Week #8 | Measurement Health

Digital Marketing Health Check | Week #8 | Measurement Health

Download the Schools Marketing Toolkit

Hello everyone, welcome to the final week of the Digital Marketing Health Check for your school. I hope that this series has been helpful for you. Today, we are looking at measuring the success of your digital marketing strategy.

If you aren’t working through the digital marketing health checklist, click here to access the toolkit and get the checklist for yourself. It’s a 60-point checklist that we are working through, covering a few points in different areas each week.

I will just add a little footnote in here and say that, we don’t really want to shoot ourselves in the foot when it comes to measuring our digital marketing. As I’ve mentioned a few times throughout the series, enrollment decisions take a little while to make, and it can be anywhere from three months to a year, two years if there’s a move involved.

We don’t want to be running campaigns and then measuring them within that month and saying, “this month we spent X amount, and got Y many enrollments”. The measuring factor is more, to give you an indication of what works and what doesn’t. You’ll always want to look at your data month on month, and also year on year, just to make sure that you’re catching any of those last minute enrollments that come in after your campaign is finished.


Google Analytics


What do we need to measure our digital marketing campaigns? The first thing I recommend is that you have Google Analytics installed on your website. Google Analytics is a free tool. Most of these analytics tools are free, and you can do a lot of great measuring, and reporting with them. Once you have Google Analytics installed, then you’ll want to look at your monthly report to see the number of visitors that you are getting to your website. Have a look at the geographic reports in terms of where visitors are coming from, as well as view valuable information about audience demographics. Also look at the main enrolment pages that are enrollment pages on your website such as tour booking pages?

A problem that schools have when it comes to measuring results is school websites tend to cater to a few different audiences. One, they cater for current parents, two, they cater for enrollment inquiries, and three, the local community that might be interested in events.

What I tend to do if I’m working with a client on a longer-term basis is recommend that they have a parent section on the website or a parent sub-domain. Something like parents.yourwebsite.com as a go-to place for anything related to them. This helps to clear up your data and seperate regular visits from parents verse potential enrolments. 


Google URL Builder


The next thing you will need to do once you have Google Analytics tracking set up, is you’ll want to set up a goal, and a goal can be anything from booking a tour, downloading the prospectus, registering for an open morning. Then whenever you run a digital ad, for example, if you are advertising on a third party website, on Facebook, or Google Ads, you will want to use the Google URL Builder to build a unique, trackable URL. Then you can go back to Google Analytics, look at your specific campaigns and see how many people clicked that link.

Whenever I’m testing out new advertising, I build a unique URL for that advert, and I track how it goes within that first month to see how much traffic they’re sending to my website. I use this for my client’s Facebook Ads because it gives you specific information if you are split testing two different Ads, if you use the URL parameters, then it actually gives you detailed information on how each of those Ads is performing, instead of just the overall campaign.


Conversion Rates


The next thing you’ll want to look at when measuring your marketing efforts is your conversion rates. When you’ve set up your goals in Google Analytics, you will know how many people visited, for example, a tour booking page and how many people actually clicked through and booked a tour. As a general rule of thumb, we want to have a conversion rate of 20%. When I work with clients and I’m building a landing page for them, I always aim to have a conversion rate of 20% before sending any paid traffic to the page. I recommend having those opt-ins on your website, they are easy for people to sign up to, easy to measure and track, and you can work up to a point where you’re converting at 20%. You can try split testing a new page and try different button colours, add testimonials, change the layout, maybe add a video or remove a video, sometimes simplify the content, to help increase your website’s conversion rate.


Cost Per Conversion 


The next thing that you will want to measure clearly is the cost per conversion. This metric can get lost in all the data that you gather about a campaign. You’ve got so many clicks, and website visits, and this and that. But, the most important thing to look at is, how much did it cost me to get that tour booking? Or how much did it cost me to get that prospectus inquiry and to build my email list?


Click-Through Rate


You also want to look at the click-through rate, even for advertising where this is not necessarily reported. If you are advertising on a third party website, you want to look at how many people are actually clicking through to your website.

In advertising, typically as a general rule for schools, I look for a click-through rate of at least 1%. If you get 100 impressions on a Facebook Ad, I’d be looking to have at least one link click.


Asking the Question


The last thing that a lot of marketers forget to do, or have given up on doing is to ask the question when you don’t really know how a person find out about your school. There are so many different points that you can measure your success at. You can say, “we’ve got this many enrollment inquiries, this is our click-through rate, this is how many people visited our website”,

But the most important data is, of the people that actually enrolled in the college, are we closing the loop with them and asking them how they heard about us? Or is our database integrated enough that we can see the different touch points that they had with our college, and then track them all the way through to when they registered to enrol at the college.

If you find that you’re collecting too much data and there’s nothing that’s really clear, start with the people that are enrolling at your college and make sure that you can close the loop with them. They are more likely to be able to answer those questions for you or willing to invest in answering those questions for you.



I actually build a lot of custom dashboards for my school marketers, where they can have an automatic dashboard that fills up all this information in a nice user-friendly display. They can check day-to-day, they can check month-to-month, they can check every fortnight, they can check for a specific campaign. Having this data on hand, it shows them the flow of people from inquiry, through to tour booking, through to open morning attendance, through to enrollment. Having that information available on a dashboard that you can look at, at any given day, and can share with the principal vastly improves the rapport that you’ll have with the principal and the ability to report for how you are using your school’s budget.

I hope I’ve given you a bit of food for thought in terms of measuring your success. If you can get these details right, and be clear about what’s working and what’s not, you are going to achieve so much more with your school’s marketing, and you’re going to be able to grow your marketing budget year on year.

Thank you so much for taking part in the Digital Marketing Health Check Series, if you haven’t worked through the 60 point checklist, you can get it from the schools marketing toolkit linked above.

Digital Marketing Health Check | Week #7 | Follow-up Health

Digital Marketing Health Check | Week #7 | Follow-up Health

Download the Schools Marketing Toolkit

Hello everyone. Welcome to week seven of the Digital Marketing Health Check for your school. 

If you aren’t working through the digital marketing health checklist, click here to access the toolkit and get the checklist for yourself. It’s a 60-point checklist that we are working through, covering a few points in different areas each week.

Email Database


Today, we are looking at your follow-up process. We’ve touched on remarketing through different platforms, like Facebook and Google Ads. But today, we are specifically going to be looking at follow-up, when it comes to building up an email database. I’m actually surprised at how many school websites I look at that don’t actually have an option to build an email database, or there’s no trackable conversion that they are optimising for, when it comes to their school website.

I know there are different reasons why school websites don’t do that, and some of them may be bureaucratic decision-making processes. But if you have the freedom to make that decision for your school on your own, then I would definitely recommend that you try to build your email database. It can be something as simple as ‘submit an enrollment inquiry’, ‘download our perspectives and fees’, or ‘book a tour’. All of those are actions, which require a users email. Users can then be added to a database, which can then be used to strategically follow up prospects.


Engagement and Interest Tracking


The first benefit that an inquiries database is going to give us is the ability to track people’s engagement and their interests. We all know that you can see the open rate for emails, but with email marketing software you can score prospects based on the actions that they take, for example every time they open an email, every time they visit your website, every time they take an action that you request them to take, or even offline actions like every time they visit your school. You then have the ability to segment out the most engaged contacts and follow them up.


Customer Relationship Management 


The next thing that we want is a fully functioning Customer-relationship management (CRM) system for our enrollments team to work with. Some schools have the enrollments team as part of the marketing team, which is ideal. Otherwise, the enrollments team would report to the principal. Either way, you need to have a good working relationship with your enrollments team. A CRM is going to help them to consistently follow up contacts. They can have a running history of your contact with each person from the first touch point. How did they hear about the college? Did they click on Facebook ads? Are they clicking on any other digital ads? Are they opening and closing the emails? Which website pages are they visiting? What are the notes that your enrollments team has on their contact from telephone calls?

All of that data is going to help you nurture prospects through, answer their questions specifically, and get them through the process of applying to become a part of your college. A CRM is also going to help you with the sales pipeline. Your sales pipeline may be that people ask for the prospectus and fees. They then receive a phone call from your enrollments team. They typically come in for a tour and put in the application. A CRM helps you follow people as they travel through that pipeline; it helps to have a visual representation of what stage each contact is at. The enrollments team can also have call and task reminders in the CRM so that they can have a daily list of the actions they need to take.




The next thing that we want in our follow-up process is automation. Automation is a set of messages that are sent when users take certain actions, they take place automatically and are really helpful for both the marketing and the sales team. These triggers can be set up for certain events, for example, if someone visits the prep page of your website, you can then automatically segment them into a prep segment, so they receive prep information and reminders about prep-related events. You can add different tags to your contacts and add notes to a contact’s file. You can add SMSs and emails to your automation that get sent out automatically at a certain time.


Email Broadcasts


The last part of our follow-up process is email broadcasts. This is a really nifty feature that I’m sure many schools are taking advantage of. Email broadcasts are a series of emails that are sent to nurture a prospect through to an action, such as coming in for a tour or putting in the application form.

The first email that you send out is the most important because it will have the highest open rate and the highest engagement rate. I recommend that schools make this first email really personal, maybe have a photo of your enrollments team or your principal. A lot of schools send out emails that are full of corporate imagery, and there is a time and space for that, but that first email, you really want to focus on deliverability, so the fewer images and clutter in that email the better. The language should be as if the principal is talking directly to the contact, so personalise it with their name, and if possible, ask for a response in that email. If a user opens that first email and responds, then the likeliness of future emails landing in their spam folder is drastically reduced.



I hope that helps you with your follow-up process. It’s a really important aspect of your marketing. Whenever I deliver Facebook or Google Ads leads to schools, the first question that I’m asking is how are you following up the leads? Is your enrollments team consistently phoning them within a day of that inquiry? Are they set to receive email broadcasts? Remember, the decision to join a school can take a few months, so it’s important that we keep in contact with these valuable leads that we’ve worked so hard to get.

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