I know I promised something on brain research and the sense of smell, but that’ll be next week.  The topic of this week’s Marketing Matter has to be understood so that next week’s makes more sense.

One of my favorite Steely Dan songs is “Do It Again.”  It’s one of the few songs I can think of that has an electric sitar (rather than a guitar) playing the solo in the middle of the song.  The lyric, however, provides a very important tenet of marketing – repetition.  With repetition, processes get easier, even habitual.  As far a faith-based schools are concerned, the inclination is either to try something just once, and if it is met with little success, the activity is scrapped in search of something new.  How typical for us living in the 21st Century – we want it, and we want it NOW!

The other danger is that something is constantly repeated, to the point that it becomes traditional, and if there are attempts to change it, they’re met with cries of, “But we’ve always done it this way.”  This is why the title of the article is “Do It Again.”  If the action was to be repeated regardless of its success, then it could be more appropriately titled, “Do It Again and Again and Again and Again and…” You get the idea.

The “Let’s try it once” approach is seen in Development circles, where a new activity takes place, such as a gala event.  If the event doesn’t raise a significant amount of money out of the box, then all the time and planning is seen as a waste, and the possibility of continuing the event’s evolution into a yearly happening is jeopardized.

Granted, if something is an utter disaster, then serious consideration needs to be given to immediate reassessment.  But if a planned event is met with minimal success the first time around, that needs to be the sign that the event should continue.  Minimal success is still A SUCCESS!  The planning was already done once, so the wheel doesn’t have to be completely recreated (as Steely Dan sings of that “Wheel turnin’ ’round and ’round”).

In terms of marketing, though, the effectiveness is sometimes not so evident, primarily because a benchmark of success was not set as the methodology was put into place.  For instance, a school may plan to post 100 yard signs, and hope they get 25 more students for the coming school year.  If the enrollment doesn’t increase by 25, then it’s deemed that yard signs don’t work.

The problem is a confusion between advertising and marketing.  How long were the signs visible?  A month?  Six months?  Where were they posted?  In areas where there are many children waiting with parents for the local public school bus, or in yards where people said they’d put a sign for your school, even though they may not have children in the school, and may be several blocks off the regularly travelled thoroughfare?

Additionally, what other “advertising” activities are done to support the signage?  Does your school have a great Web site, or does it use a Web page that the church or parish allows it to have?  Does it look “outdated?”

Do you do a direct mail postcard to families with young children in your area, or do you just hope people will call and want to enroll their children?  And, in respect to both of those items, what do the yard signs say?  Do they have your school’s Web address on them?  It’s great if your address is short and easy to remember (like www.jp2school.org) and, it’s a really great Web site design, too!  But if it’s something like www.saintspeterandpaulschoolnorthhamptom.org (not a real site), that’s not a yard sign, that’s a banner.  Even if you could get it to fit on a yard sign, I guarantee some people will miss the “double h” that’s in the address (and I’ll bet you went back to take a look).

A marketing plan is important – and it starts with an excellent Web site, since today, the Internet is the first place parents with young children go for information.  It may even be time to revamp yours.  You may have one that looks great and is very inviting on the computer, but has print that is unbelievably small on a mobile device.

Yes, just when you thought your Web site was all set to go, it now needs to look great and be very inviting on a tablet or smartphone, or even a touch-screen laptop.

Also, make sure you have at least three marketing strategies that work together (for instance, yard signs and direct mail to direct people to your Web site, and Word of Mouth is one that’s unspoken, but more effective than anything).  Then, measure “exposure” success – NOT enrollment success.  When people call the school, ask how they’ve heard about it.  If they respond with one of the three strategies, track those responses so you can evaluate effectiveness.

As for enrollment, “That’s a whole ‘nuther ballgame” that starts after successful marketing tactics have accomplished their goal to generate inquiries to your school.  Marketing gets parents and students to contact the school; marketing and enrollment work together to get them in door; knowing why parents want their children to experience the education offered at your school and engaging them with emotionally compelling follow-up will build your enrollment.

And that’s where next week’s article’s focus on brain research begins.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2008-2023 (Original Publication Date: 20081103)