Shoestring Marketing - The Basics

November 13, 2013 Suzanne Walker Buck
Shoestring Marketing - The Basics

Greetings! Given that we are fully ensconced in the admission and enrollment season, I was asked to share a few ideas regarding marketing. Lord help us both! Marketing is such a broad topic that it could fill an entire conference of SSATB professional development workshops.

There is much to think about. What is your message (brand, value proposition) and to whom are you sharing it? How do you maximize the impact of your website? How do you rank within search engine optimization? Are you using social media to make others aware of admission events? In which print publications should you advertise?

These questions are mind-boggling. In addition, you have probably spent considerable time and money on developing marketing materials, like a view book or informational brochures. It is amazing how much we do.

And yet, sometimes, when we are so busy moving forward, we neglect to tend to or utilize effective simple marketing tools that are ripe for the taking.

And so, I offer the following “low cost, right-under-your-nose marketing ideas that will change your life forever.”

Ok, maybe they are not worthy of such a bold statement, but they are worthy of consideration.

What can you inexpensively do to increase your institution’s presence within the marketplace?

Raise your banner… I mean this in the most literal of ways. Is your school clearly marked? Do people know what they are driving past? Do you have signs, flags, or banners indicating the dates of your Open Houses? If the answer to any of these is “no,” get cracking. For minimal cost you can make an already captive audience aware of your school and the events that are happening.

Be Present and Build Relationships… The basic building block for all good admission work is relationships. Connections need to be cultivated. What professionals refer students to your school? Are they educators, educational consultants, religious leaders, pediatricians, youth athletic coaches? Reach out to these individuals and their colleagues. Invest time and resources to massage these relationships. Be a presence in their spheres of influence. Whether advertising in one of their specific publications (and don’t forget to target your message to their particular audience) or having an information tent (branded of course with your school’s name and logo) and water station at a youth athletic jamboree, get on the radar screen.

Tell your school’s story… Provide fodder to your local newspapers, radio stations, and television reporters. What’s happening on your campus? Whether it’s the kindergarten play or a varsity team’s undefeated season, let your community in on the exciting events transpiring at your school. Did one of your students win a special award? Is a veteran teacher employing innovative methodology in the classroom? Is the community service society collaborating with local citizens to make a difference? Use stories in the media to introduce the outside world to the people and programs that make your school special.

Send Blogs and Pushes… Another form of storytelling, blogs and electronic pushes can be excellent means of sharing ideas and happenings. If a push page is sent from your school to current families, make certain that there is an admission section within it. Announce opportunities for prospective families to become acquainted with your school and ask your current families for their assistance in making their friends aware of these opportunities. Simultaneously, create your own push page to send to prospective families. Let them know of school events to which they are welcome and increase their awareness of what’s happening on your campus. Encourage families to forward the pages to others.

Tweet… How is your school using Twitter? In an abbreviated fashion, Twitter allows you to keep constituents apprised of what’s happening and when. Work with your parent and student body to re-tweet tweets about your school. It’s a great means of creating a positive buzz.

Connect with community organizations…You know your community, but are there organizations to which you have not yet reached out? Are there churches, temples, mosques, youth ministries with which you can connect? What about civic groups like the local Rotary Club or Junior League? Are there social or country clubs that might benefit from knowing about your institution? Think creatively. Promote your school by volunteering to lead a presentation at one of their meetings or having an expert teacher guest lecture on a subject. Create a positive relationship for your institution.

Write a handwritten note… In an era of electronic communication, personalized hand-written correspondence often falls to the wayside. Don’t underestimate the value of a note received via post. While neither efficient nor effective in introducing the masses to your school, it is incredibly impactful in reinforcing the messaging of your school and the relationship you are forming.

Please know that none of the aforementioned efforts are intended to replace the marketing staples of the web, print materials, social media, and effective advertisement. Instead, they should serve as reminders to take advantage of tools we already have at our disposal and are hopefully already employing.

I wish you the best of luck with all of your marketing efforts. May the Enrollment Gods be good to us all.


Trade Secrets - Marketing Tools for the Admission Office (presentation)

The Communication Flow - Increasing Enrollment Through Strategic Conversation (webinar)

Marketing Musts - Boarding Schools (from the ALC Power Practices Compilation)

Marketing Musts - Day Schools (from the ALC Power Practices Compilation)

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