Have you ever wondered how you can expand the reach of your school easily and efficiently? Word of mouth is terrific, but it just isn’t scalable or controllable. You can’t just turn word of mouth on and off when you need it. But you can manage and scale a well-planned advertising campaign.
You need to pay to play when it comes to digital advertising, but that doesn’t mean a school with a small marketing budget can’t get in on the action. It’s all about the right messaging and understanding your persona(s) to effectively target your ideal audience.
My education marketing agency, Kreative Webworks, has been assisting in advertising for schools to boost their enrollment for nearly a decade, and paid advertising strategies are the fuel that powers so many of our enrollment marketing programs.
Let’s go over some digital tactics schools can use to increase online enrollment, models to calculate your return on investment (ROI), and finally, whether to use Facebook or Google for your paid advertising efforts.
Table of ContentsHow do schools increase enrollment digitally?But what’s my return on investment for ads?Let’s take a look at the factors that influence ROI:BudgetAd qualityLanding pages and continuityFollow-upReputationA basic model for calculating ROI on your school’s paid advertising Facebook vs GoogleWhat’s in your budget?
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How do schools increase enrollment digitally?
There are countless ways your school could, and should, increase your digital presence and brand awareness. For example, one of the most effective marketing strategies for smaller schools — that is free and easy — is setting up a Google My Business profile.
Read more of my tips on what to put in your school’s Google My Business profile to improve your SEO rankings and further legitimize your school’s online presence.
However, nothing is faster and more controllable than paid advertising. Google and Facebook give priority to paid advertising. Why do you think they are among the most wealthy and successful companies in history? It isn’t because they give “the good stuff” away for free.
Here’s an example of how Google prioritizes paid ads when a user searches for terms related to your school. The paid ads sit right at the top of Google’s search engine results page (SERP).
Don’t be afraid to leverage the power of social media by creating display ads for highly targeted audiences on Facebook or text ads on Google to ensure you show up in the first few spots on a search result page.
So, how does this work for you?
As an example, you could bring awareness to your school program by running paid advertising campaigns on Facebook or Instagram specifically to parents aged 24-42 that have a certain education level, have children between the ages of 13-17, or that that have liked particular pages about online education or the method your school teaches, such as Montessori. Of course, the targeting would be unique to your school
You could even target particular zip codes, or a radius around your campus, or any landmark if you want to start with a smaller test area. Facebook advertising can get so granular that you can even target parents based on their online behaviors or interests outside of your school.
This example Facebook ad focuses on one key feature that appeals to the target audience — in this case, safe and reliable door-to-door bus transportation.
Because Facebook ads are both visual (images and videos) and text based, even if someone didn’t click on them, they still saw them… which builds your brand awareness for their next exposure to your marketing efforts.
But what’s my return on investment for ads?
With school budgets tighter than ever before, return on investment (ROI) is an important metric to know. You’ll want to be able to calculate how effective your marketing efforts might be, and if it’s even worth investing in paid advertising.
It is difficult to pinpoint ROI for any individual school because there are so many variables. But with the right understanding of those variables, you can get a pretty good sense of ROI on paid advertising for your school.
Let’s take a look at the factors that influence ROI:
Your budget influences your reach. If your budget is underfunded, you will not get the proper degree of exposure it takes to move the needle. If overfunded, there is a point of diminishing returns.
For pay-per-click ads (Google or Facebook), the quality of your ads will affect your click-through-rate (CTR), or the percentage of people who see your ad and actually click through to your website or landing page. Well-crafted, strategic ads that are properly targeted to the persona of your target audience will get a higher CTR than generic all-purpose ads.
Landing pages and continuity
Just sending traffic to the school’s home page will most likely not maximize your conversions. It creates a “self-serve” scenario where the visitor is left on their own to locate the information that they expected when clicking on your ad in the first place.
A well-crafted landing page answers the specific question that aroused their curiosity in the first place. Continuity is when specific keywords send traffic to ads that address the keyword topic that your target audience was searching for, which in turn send them to a landing page that addresses the topic that started them on their journey.
So looking at the example Facebook Ad above, the most effective landing page for the ad should focus on the school’s door-to-door bus transportation program, since that’s what’s highlighted in the ad.
Many schools don’t have a full-time enrollment person or team. In those cases, following up with interested families is often a part-time job that isn’t taken as seriously as the person’s main function at the school. We’ve done some “secret shopper” tests with some of the schools that we work with and found that much of the marketing budget is being squandered by complete or partial lack of follow-up.
Face it, you could do everything right, only to be thwarted by a poor reputation. Parents and students want to be confident that you made other parents and students happy about your school. It is a virtual certainty that before contacting your school, anyone truly considering enrollment will check your reviews. Before investing in advertising, invest in a strategic online reviews initiative.
A basic model for calculating ROI on your school’s paid advertising
Although you can’t calculate exact ROI, you can set up models. Google and Facebook will give you statistical estimates of how many clicks you can expect based on your budget and targeting criterion. So, if Google says that $1000 will get you 250 clicks to your website and you assume that 10% of those will contact you, that will give you 25 contacts. If you assume that you enroll 10% of those, that will give you 2 or 3 enrollments. Multiply that number by the value of a new enrollment and subtract the $1000 investment. That will give you one potential ROI scenario.
Play around with the numbers. What if only 5% of your visitors contacted you… or 15%, etc?
Facebook vs Google
Google and Facebook are both great marketing solutions, but they aren’t interchangeable. They each have their place in your marketing toolkit, but depending on the stage of your buyer’s journey, one of them might be more appropriate than the other.
When someone is searching on Google for a school like yours, they are what we call “prequalified” because they initiated the search. They were searching for a school, the school wasn’t searching for them.
When someone responds to your ad on Facebook, they weren’t necessarily thinking about a school at that moment, but if they were properly targeted demographically, many of them will be intrigued and click through to find out more. If you have it in your budget, we recommend using both platforms to ensure you’re covering your bases.
In each case, it’s easy to make a mistake or just not do a good job. Learning to effectively utilize paid advertising will require some experimentation, and neither Google nor Facebook will give you your money back if you don’t like the results. This is one of those cases where you might consider seeking an experienced professional to manage these campaigns for you. What you pay for in professional services, you can easily make back in results.
What’s in your budget?
Schools often have a limited marketing budget, so deciding where to use your ad spend dollars can be challenging. So how much should a school budget for marketing?
Well, you need to consider the value of a new enrollment. I’ve seen too many schools determine their advertising budget based on what’s left over after everything else. Enrollments are the lifeblood of your school and shouldn’t be considered an afterthought. Make the investment, take the time, and do it right.
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