One of my new year’s resolutions was to exercise more…at least walk more, since I spend so much time in the car or on a plane…at least until this past March.  At Christmastime about 5 years ago my daughter gave me a device that connects to my phone with an app so I can focus on the change rather than focus on the results.  Now, if I carry my iPhone with me at all times, it will track all my steps automatically.  Remember, according to Jack Dixon*, if you focus on the results, you will never change; if you focus on the change, you will see results.

When I was travelling, the local gym as well as the treadmills I walked on in hotel exercise facilities faced television screens with various content.  One of the screens at our local gym has a music video channel with a crawl across the bottom of the screen.  The crawl provides commercials for local businesses and public service announcement for local events.  It’s one way the gym has established itself as an involved member of the community.

Some older folks frequent the gym, so it would make sense that some of the messages are targeted to their needs, and products and services that they utilize.  There are also a number of young moms there – in fact, so many young moms that the gym has a child care section so kids can be supervised while mom’s there.  Realizing that, I would think there are area businesses which target young women with toddlers which could take advantage of the crawl advertising service – like local Catholic or Christian school.

A faith-based school has a target audience – women age 25 to 39 with young children.  Most faith-based schools place their marketing materials in churches affiliated with the school, which is a very good place to place them.  However, it’s not the only place where they should be placed.

Where will your target audience be exposed to messages about your school?  The Yellow Pages?  Hardly.  TV?  Not a bad idea since you can identify target audience and your local cable sales representative can suggest placements that will maximize exposure of your school to that audience target, but it’s cost-prohibitive for many smaller schools which need to grow or face closure.  The Internet?  Absolutely!  Your school needs not just a Web presence, and not even a “good” Web presence, but an excellent web presence!  One that’s modern-looking (lots of white space and pictures with fonts that don’t have serifs), interactive, responsive (that is, adjusts to the device it’s being viewed on), and updated regularly – and today, that means daily, since there should always be something new and exciting happening at your school!  And during this pandemic, there’s ALWAYS something new that can be shared with your constituencies!  If you’re going to spend money, make sure it’s on your school’s Web site first!

But where are those other places you can take advantage of to market your school that won’t cost you a significant sum of money?  Try placing your marketing brochures and posters in gyms, doctors’ offices and nail/hair salons.  If you’re in an area that’s growing, then realtors are also an excellent resource.  Even if the area is not growing, but there are still people moving in, this could still be a viable source of potential leads.  Supermarkets are also a good location for placements of your school’s marketing materials, especially if they have a community events/announcements corkboard.

Some Christian schools have told me, “We only accept children from our affiliated churches.”  That’s great!  Are the church congregations are growing?  Are they welcoming families with young children?  If the answer to both of those questions is “no,” now you have identified 3 problems – a shrinking school, a stagnant congregation, and a lack of young families.  Note that time and time again, even though we try to solve problems like this one at a time, problems must be solved by keeping “the system” in mind, since every action will have an effect on the other issues the school is dealing with.  There are no “silver bullet” solutions.

As an example, a letter to the editor written in response to announced school closings in New Jersey several years ago stated the administration there has said that “it’s all about the money.”  May I be so bold to say that it’s NOT “all about the money.”  It’s all about the money…AND the facility…AND the teachers…AND the learning environment.  It’s all about ALL of it, and all of it makes up  “the experience” of the school.  The money is certainly an element, but the quality of education, the support of the parents, the demographic composition of the community, and the processes the school has in place to engage individuals with the mission and vision of your school, as well as to steward parents through the process of enrollment and supporting their decision to become and remain a part of the school community all work in concert as a system.  If your school does not have those well-defined processes in place, individuals who take ownership of the process as their responsibility, and the necessary tools to track and analyze success in these areas, then it’s easy to see why your school may not be growing as it should.  Finding places where your school’s target market gathers or waits and putting information about your school there could be a good first step to expand its reach and spread the good news about your school.

*Jack Dixon is the author of the award-winning historical novel, The Pict, and an historical novel, Jerusalem Falls. His fascination with history inspires him to write stories that bring historical characters and events to life. He lives in Delaware County, Pennsylvania.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2011-2021 (Original Publication Date: 20110207)