As published in the Summer 2018 issue of HaYidion:
In my experience working with two-dozen Jewish day schools across North America to drive enrollment and improve retention, I’ve learned this: marketing a Jewish day school in 2018 is hard.
You have multiple target audiences, from educators and administrators to board members, parents, alumni and students. You have a product that requires continuous improvement to stay competitive. You have limited time, talent and money. And you have aggressive metrics to meet.
You are passionate about igniting curiosity and creating a love of learning. You know the impact of positive buzz and want to know how to make it happen. You know the challenges. Where do you begin?
Here are the most common questions I hear from Jewish day school administrators—and the answers.
How do we get parents to read our emails?
You spend hours collecting content for each email, drafting engaging and fresh copy, and then hit “send,” only to end up ignored. How do you break through so parents read your emails?
It starts with understanding what your target audience, in this case, parents, cares about. How do you determine that? You conduct research.
Many of you have conducted parent surveys. I’ve read several that are too long and don’t stay true to the survey goals. Before you send out the next one, ask yourself:
- Am I asking the right questions?
- Am I asking the right people?
- Am I using the right research tool?
- Would I spend the time to answer this survey?
Survey fatigue is a growing problem facing data collectors (that’s you). How can you avoid survey fatigue?
Don’t over-survey your audience.
Communicate why the respondents (parents) are being asked to complete the survey, how long it will take to complete it (preferably three minutes or less), and how the data will be used.
Make it easy to answer the questions by using logic to skip over questions, and ensuring the survey performs well on mobile devices.
Be ruthless about only asking questions that will help meet your survey goals. Cut the “nice to know” questions. If you want to know how to best reach parents, then ask a direct, easy to answer question such as:
How would you like [School Name] to communicate with you on a weekly basis? Please rank these communication methods from 1 (most desirable) to 5 (least desirable).
Email Facebook Twitter School website Text
Use third-party online survey software such as SurveyMonkey, which tracks responses and provides easy-to-analyze charts and reports.
Include a question about email content in the parent survey. Provide choices and ask parents to rank their interest.
After the survey is conducted, share the themes that surfaced with the respondents when you thank them for participating. Then, when you make changes to your parent emails, it’s important to explain that the upgrades were made based on their input.
Once you know how parents want to receive your communications and what interests them, then you’re ready to develop a template and the content.
Some of our flyers and materials look great; others are just okay. With limited time and resources, what can we do to produce consistently high-quality materials?
There are often many people at a school developing flyers and marketing materials. It’s difficult to produce materials that use the same visual and verbal brand assets.
Creating a strong brand is all about frequency and consistency. How can you create materials that are high quality and consistent?
Develop professionally designed templates and require that everyone at your school use them. Identify one brand champion who monitors usage to ensure people are using the appropriate template for each communication. Using a third-party email marketing service like MailChimp, Vertical Response or Constant Contact is a must. These services track all activity, have high deliverable rates, and provide automated reports you can use to analyze and optimize results.
Develop a repository of your school’s brand language. Identify one brand champion, ideally the same one you identified above, to ensure that your brand language is current. This document needs to include one way to describe your school’s mission, one way to describe why your school is different and better, one way to describe your school’s educational philosophy, effective calls-to-actions, etc.
Develop a repository of your school’s brand assets. Again, identify who is responsible for your school’s library of brand assets, from your logo to infographics and professional photos.
Repurpose your messaging. Copy and paste. Don’t rewrite.
Our website is old and tired. Do we need a new one?
I love hearing this question. It means that a school is thoughtfully considering the investment before hiring a website designer and developer.
Start by taking inventory of the following:
Who is the primary target market? Is it for parents of students attending the school? Is it for prospective parents? Is it for donors? Is it for potential staff? You likely have multiple target audiences. Prioritization is key.
What is the purpose of the website? If the primary target audience is current parents, then is the purpose to provide them with detailed information about upcoming events? Is it to remind them of the amazing educational experience their children are receiving? Is it to explain a new twist to the curriculum?
What do you want people to do after they check out the site? Attend an event? Apply online? Donate? Share content?
How will you measure the effectiveness of the site? What metrics are you collecting today? What have you learned from them? (If you aren’t using Google Analytics, start tracking data today! It’s easy to set up, and the data and reports are invaluable.)
How big a problem is it? A new site takes a lot of time and money. Is it a priority?
Then, evaluate your current site against your checklist. Does the site, or can it with tweaks, meet your objectives? What is the cost to develop a new site? What would it take in terms of an increase in enrollment, retention or donor dollars to achieve an acceptable return on investment?
Is our Facebook page effective?
All schools need a Facebook page. The school’s brand champion (see above) needs to be the administrator of this page. That will ensure that the look and messaging will be consistent with all of the school’s marketing materials.
Effectiveness for a school’s Facebook page is measured by engagement. Are parents responding to posts? Are prospective parents watching videos? Are grandparents answering polls?
Here are ways to create engagement.
Develop and rotate content about:
- Students: Information about students at the school that promotes the individuals, not the school.
- Events: Information about school happenings.
- Staff/administrators/volunteers: Shout-outs to mission moments, such as amazing accomplishments or new program kickoffs, made possible by staff, administrators, volunteers and others.
- Relevant trends: Articles from respected third parties on topics that are relevant and valued by your primary target audience, such as a new trend about children’s eating habits and long-term health or the cognitive, lifelong benefits associated with learning a second language.
- Feature only high-quality photographs.
- Make sure all content is up-to-date.
- Include photos and quotes from school leaders to demonstrate their accessibility and the school’s transparency.
Most importantly, measure engagement. Consider every post a test and monitor engagement. That will guide your content development.
Marketing a Jewish day school is challenging. Start with research to hear what’s important to your target audience. Then, test what you learn, refine and test again.