Some schools I visit STILL ask how important is their 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. 19-20 is the school year children of the Millennial generation will hit the 9th grade full force…and high schools will experience what elementary schools have been experiencing for the past 9 to 11 years.
Also, a Web PAGE that the church or parish your school is affiliated with gives is simply not an acceptable Web presence today. Why? in 2019, 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 that have only a Web page is that they don’t want 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? That’s another topic for another day.
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, the new content should be tweeted to your school’s followers. Again, another topic for another day.
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 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. For security reasons, QRs (Quick Response icons – those black and white squares that direct smartphone users to Web addresses) and shortlinks (like the ones used in Twitter tweets) have fallen out of favor, but banner ads like those provided through Google which your school may place on other Web sites 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. So, let’s say that your sponsoring churches or parishes run a banner ad for your school on their Web site which says something to the effect of “Educate your child’s mind, body AND spirit! Find out more about St Polycarp School!” If a visitor clicks or taps the “I’m Interested” link, 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 “I’m Interested” button or link 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, 2014-2019 (Original Publication Date: 20140707)