Even though most school leaders know the importance of a Web site today, schools I visit STILL ask how important is their Web site.  One, in fact, has their Web site for the first time, as their Web presence is no longer just a page on their parish’s Web site.

Let me clear about this.  If you can do just ONE THING regarding marketing, it’s investing in a Web site.  It is the face of your school on the Internet – which is where today’s parents go to FIRST when investigating educational options for their children.  I used to say “parents of young children,” but that was until children of Millennial parents were entering high school.  The vast majority of parents with children enrolled in the PK-12 experience are Millennials – and high schools are experiencing what elementary schools experienced starting about 10 years ago!

Further, if you have a Web site that simply “looks” like it was made 5 or so years ago, the organization it represents is not taken seriously.  Especially today in schools, where parents are looking for schools for their children who are members of the Digital Generation (the iGeneration, or Digital Natives), a Web site that “looks old” means your school isn’t tech savvy – even though it may very well be.  Remember, perception is reality.

Perhaps one of the reasons some schools have neglected their Web presence is that they don’t want to, or don’t have the resources to, update it constantly.  One school told me some time ago that making sure their Web site is up to date is a lot of work, especially it means that somebody has to update all the time.  Another said that they give their Web updates to a parent of one of the students, and since the parent is busy, they make the updates whenever they can.  That’s relinquishing control of your school’s 2nd most important marketing strategy to someone else.

What’s the first?  If you’d like to know, drop an email to [email protected] with the words “The most important marketing strategy” in the subject line.

Think of it as you think of your car.  You don’t just buy a car and put gas in it to be able to have it get you where you’re going.  You need to take it for inspections, perform maintenance, change the tires and shocks when they wear out, replace the wipers and air filter, and repair it when it breaks down.

You check the gas gauge daily, should check the tires for air pressure and wear regularly (at least weekly), and wash it so that dirt and salt don’t eat away at the finish or cause the undercarriage to rust out.  Soon, as more and more hybrids take the road, you’ll have to charge it daily if you drive it every day.

Your school’s Web site needs to be updated regularly – at least once a week, but ideally, daily.   When new content is posted, a link to it would be sent to your school’s parents or marketing CRM.

Your Web site also needs to be responsive in design, automatically adjusting itself to provide the optimal viewing/interacting experience based on the device which the viewer is using.  A Web site that looks great on a computer may not provide the same type of experience on a tablet or on a handheld/phone device.

Even those companies that say their Web sites are responsive may not be totally responsive based on the user expectation.  I recently saw one school’s site that adjusted to the mobile phone, but only partially.  The only way to get the full effect was to turn the phone on it’s side to a “landscape” view rather than the “portrait” view of how most people use their devices.  Just that little “hand twist” is enough to drive a parent away before they even experience your school in person.

Even if you have a great Web site for your school today, it needs to have “Landing Pages” for links that are included in your marketing materials, development appeals, or other special calls to action.  QRs (Quick Response icons – those black and white squares that direct smartphone users to Web addresses) and shortlinks shouldn’t just connect to the main page of your Web site.  It should connect to a page that thanks the visitor for seeking out more information, provide some information, and then capture their contact information so you can contact them with more information!

For instance, the goal of marketing to increase enrollment in your school is to increase the number of inquiries (or “leads,” as they’re referred to in the business world) to your school.  To determine if your marketing is effective, you must track the number of leads/inquires you generate.  You’ve decided to put a QR code on every piece of print material you have, which includes all the posters you’ve made for your school that are in locations where people gather in the marketplace.

If a viewer takes photo of the QR code with their mobile device, it could link to a “Landing Page” of your Web site that has a video about the school embedded in it, and then fields for them to complete with their name, address, phone and email so that you can continue to communicate with them, and follow-up to schedule a personal tour of the school.  You could even ask if they’d like to schedule a tour, but don’t make it a required question to answer, especially if this is the first time the visitor has contacted your school.

Even though you may think that you’re using technology to market your school via a Web presence, simply connecting the QR code to the main page of your Web site does nothing to capture visitor information.  If you don’t capture that information, then there’s no way to track the effectiveness of your marketing, and it will be very difficult to defend further marketing expenditure, let alone grow enrollment for your school.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2014-2024 (Original Publication Date: 20140707)