Let’s discuss a scenario we see frequently: It’s early fall, school’s starting, and empty seats fill your classrooms and after-school programs.
What went wrong?
Maybe you didn’t offer special promotions to entice parents to enroll. Maybe your enrollment is down as a result of state-sponsored after-school programs. Maybe you didn’t run enough digital ads to promote your school, or you didn’t run them early enough.
These possibilities can all impact your bottom line. Let’s talk about what you can do next year to avoid a disappointing back-to-school season.
Plan Ahead… Way Ahead
Advance planning is essential in business, especially when it comes to marketing. For example, we start planning fall enrollment initiatives for our childcare clients in May, and we run campaigns starting in June.
That may seem extremely early — the spring semester ends in May — but most parents also plan that far in advance. It’s critical that you plan your summer camps and back-to-school campaigns two to three months ahead of time.
Here’s how we do it.
A Sample Promotional Timeline
The following is an example of a campaign for an after-school program that includes a special promotion. Let’s assume school resumes on August 15.
May 24: Solidify Details of the Program and Special Promotion
By May 24, you need a detailed description of the program you plan to feature in your campaign. You also need details of the special promotion you’ll offer — it’s how you’ll stand out from the crowd.
These details include program pricing, discounts you plan to offer, and how prospects can receive the discount (open house attendance, for example).
Finally, detail the features and benefits of the program that you’d like to include in the ad copy and landing page. Make sure it’s more than just a list. Your copy should highlight the benefits and value of your school.
For example, “We provide a healthy, organic snack as part of our after-school program so that you know your child isn’t going hungry or filling up on junk.”
The more details, the better. If you provide 50 benefits, your marketing partner can hand-pick the ones they know will resonate with parents.
Finally, decide when and where to display and promote your special offer. You might elect to have an open house, for example. Decide on those details now.
June 1: Gather and Deliver Creative Assets to Your Ads Team
Your advertising team or marketing partner needs you to deliver the details you’ve assembled by June 1. These include the details for the ad, landing pages, and promotion.
Specify any ad copy you want to be included, specific images or designs you want to incorporate, and any other special instructions. Again, the more details, the better.
June 15: Launch Your Campaign
By June 15, your ads go live, and you and your marketing partner begin weekly optimization.
June 22: Launch Your Special Promotional Campaign
A week after the campaign for your program launches, your promotional campaign begins. The attached incentive must be compelling — not a measly $10 discount on tuition.
You’re spending hundreds of dollars and months of time on this campaign. Can you imagine doing all that and only having two people show up to your open house? We’ve seen it happen more than once.
Ensure you get people in the door by giving them a good reason to come to the open house — 50% off a month’s tuition after three months of enrollment, for example.
Focus on lifetime value rather than what you “lose” by offering the discount. You’re not losing anything; you’re gaining thousands of dollars in years of enrollment with a new family (not to mention a boost to your reputation from word of mouth and great reviews).
The parents who come in because of that discount are much more likely to enroll. All that’s left is for you to do what you do best — run a great school!
Once your promotion ends, so does your promotional campaign.
Oct. 15: Reduce Your Budget, but Continue to Run Your Campaign Year-Round
After the back-to-school season, reduce your budget for this campaign. However, keep running it year-round to attract families moving into the area, switching school districts, aging into school, etc.
This timeline structure — planning for a campaign two to three months in advance — applies to all seasonal programs. Including promotions in your campaigns is essential, as is including as much detail as possible on your landing pages and website.
Details such as tuition rates are often left off websites, but this is a mistake. When you list your rates on your tuition page and include detailed descriptions of everything covered by your tuition, you differentiate your school from your competitors and weed out prospects who can’t afford your school.
This won’t reduce the number of phone leads you get, but it will reduce the number of wasted phone calls (and wasted time) your front desk staff wades through.
The phone calls you do get will be from prospects who know your rates and know they can afford them. They’re warm, qualified leads. All your front desk staff needs to do is close the deal and schedule the tour.
We know it’s easier said than done, but it doesn’t have to be mission impossible. And if you’d like professional help with paid ads, we’d be happy to chat with you.
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