The growth of school choice throughout the country has increased the competition for students. More and more schools are having to actively market themselves to attract students. And marketing your school well is becoming an imperative to combat the competition.

Really, marketing is first and foremost about knowing:

  • Your environment,
  • Yourself, and
  • Your customer.

If you understand those three things, you can develop a very strong marketing plan that allows you to attract your ideal student. One of the first steps in understanding your environment is to understand who the competition is, and what is their “value proposition” relative to yours.

To do this effectively, we need to start with a basic understanding of your own school. Ask yourself these questions:

  • Is my school a “neighborhood school” where location is the primary factor in the selection of my school?
  • Is my school a “destination school” where parents and students are attracted due to the uniqueness or excellence of my service offerings?

Some characteristics of a destination school might be an award-winning STEM program, or the fact that you are the only school around that does project-based learning. For some private schools, this could be your specific faith or religious education that you offer.

Next, determine where the nearby schools are located. If you are a neighborhood school, you base this upon geographic proximity. If you are a destination school, this would involve more research to understand what other schools offer a similar educational experience as you. But even if you consider yourself a destination school, don’t discount location. A good tool to use to identify schools is www.greatschools.org Type in your school’s address and pick a 5-mile radius. Filter it down by the grade levels you serve and now you have a basic competitive set. For destination schools, you might have to do a bit more research on potential competitive school websites, but in the end, you want to try to identify those 10 – 20 schools that you feel would be schools that your parents might have considered or even more alarming; are considering.

Now that you have your list, do a bit more research. Go on to your state Department of Education website and see how these other schools compare to you academically. Visit their websites and see what sports or extra-curricular activities they offer.

Finally, do an honest comparison through the eyes of a parent. Rank each school based upon its academics, its extracurricular activities, its costs, etc. Don’t include things that are experiential like feeling of community, etc. Those are not necessarily things that you can build a strategy on.

Why is this a good strategy? This is what your potential parents are doing. Understanding the different choices that parents have, and how you compare, will strengthen your school’s marketing efforts and will help your school differentiate itself. And ultimately, attract more students

Nick LeRoy is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board. Bright Minds Marketing provides marketing and recruitment consulting to private, Catholic and charter schools. For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve your marketing, visit us at www.brightmindsmarketing.com, send an email to nick@brightmindsmarketing.com or call us at 317-361-5255.

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