School Marketing Planning That Doesn’t Suck – (With Worksheets)

As I sit down to write this, I am determined to get small schools away from sucking at marketing. A school marketing plan should be elegant, beautiful, simple and actionable, but most importantly… not suck.  

Creating a marketing plan for your school shouldn’t be difficult. By evaluating your competition, find your value, identify your people, and figure out how to target them you will be able to grow your school.


School Marketing Plans that dont suck

How To Evaluate Your School’s Competition.

To correctly market your school, you first need to know who else is out there. Your approach should change drastically depending on how many schools there are in a 20-mile radius surrounding you.

Go to your school’s physical location and search for the following terms.

  1. Best (Insert school type – Elementary, high, or Christian) school near me.
  2. Schools Near Me
  3. Top schools near me

NOTE: make sure you are at your school when searching for this. Google will pull local results based on your location.

Write down each school that pops up. Use this template to track all the schools in your location in google sheets. Try to revisit it and update it each year, or at least every couple of years.

Make note of School Type (private, public charter or other), Religion, Tuition, Enrollment, Top Marketing Assets, and Secondary Marketing Asset. A marketing asset is something they list on their website as being valuable. Lots of schools love the fact they have small class sizes and push this on their website. Others promote their sports programs. Just try to get a feel fro their primary and secondary promotional materials.

Lastly give them a score of 1-5. 5 Bing WOW this school is amazingly good and 1 being they really don’t know what they are doing.

Find Your Schools Unique Value Proposition

You have scoured the web for other schools nearby and maybe even given a few a phone call. Now it is time to define what your unique Value proposition is. What makes you special?

Create a list on paper or on your computer of everything that you do exceptionally well. What do your class sizes look like, how do your classrooms look, do you have a sports program?

Try to be as extensive as possible.

Now compare this list to the list you previously created of other schools in your area. Where are the gaps?

Figure out what the schools around you are doing worse, less of, or not at all that you are rocking! Circle these traits on your paper.

Are there any places that you could improve? This is not a school strategic plan so we are working with what we got but when it is strategic planning time, remember that this list is not static.

If you are unsure of your unique value proposition, here is how big brands craft theirs and a list of brands who use their unique value propositions to generate lots of money online,

Remember that your school is a brand!

Identify Your Families (using our donor identification worksheet)

You have a list of competition and your unique value. Now it is time to identify which families value those traits and what do they like. 

Use our Donor Identification Worksheet to help track the personas which we are going to identify. 

Find it on our Resources Page or y clicking below.

List your Ideal Families Values (Step #1)

Does your ideal family value childcare? Education? How thier money is treated? Fame? Notoriety? Your list school’s value proposition will help with this, but go deeper.

You can draw on your current list of families to identify these values or start by creating a brand new list. The goal here is to get all of your thoughts on paper and build a list of who your ideal family is.

Who is your Family? (Step #2)

What is the ideal demographic of your family? How old are the kids and how many kids will they have?

This list includes age, gender, marital status, kids, number of kids, occupation, annual income, and interactions.

Interactions means, what does their day look like, who or what are they interacting with. Are they on their phone all day long or are they older and prefer to read the newspaper? These are the granular questions that help you identify who you are trying to target.

What are your families passionate about and what do they love? (Step #3)

This is one of the most important pieces of our Donor Identification Worksheet. It deals with what your ideal family really cares about. Do they like to go down the beach on the weekend or prefer a night on the town? You need to list out what they love to do and what they are passionate about as a whole.

With this, you are able to build your online family persona!

Where do they learn? (Step #3)

We now are getting into the nitty-gritty of things. Where is it these families learn from? Are they getting their information from Facebook? Googling the internet? Books? What type of books?

“Why do we care,” you ask? Because if we know where people are learning we can work on getting in front of them and sharing your value proposition. Do you see how this is circling around?

A few examples might be. Social media, Local paper, church bulletin, community news board, NY times paper, and religious podcasts.

The more specific you can be the better you will do when it comes to taking action on these steps.

Objections – Why would someone say NO? (Step #4)

List out all of the information you can about why someone would not want to come to your school. Be as honest as you can. These objections will assist you in building your marketing plan.

A few examples might be. They care about sports but we do not have any sports programs. Our facilities are not as nice as (insert school). Our student-teacher ratio is too high. You get the idea.

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How do we target these people

By now you should have a pretty good idea of where you stand in your marketplace. You have identified your competition, figured out what makes you special and tracked down an ideal hypothetical family that you want! Now how do we find them?

Targeting is something that people spend their entire lives working on but we are going to make this super simple and basic.

There are three ways to target your local families. Answering Questions, Ads, word of mouth, & Social media.

Answering questions about the upcoming school year on your website is by far one of the easiest things for you to do. Creating lists like “The 10 things you need this school year” “The best elementary school backpack” and “how to pack the perfect lunch” will draw in families with kids to your website as well as families who are in your area that are just poking around.

Since we know where people live and what they are doing from your previous marketing research you could just pay for coverage  with ads but if you do not have a proven system I wouldn’t suggest this. It can be a time waste and money waste if not done correctly. If you wanted to learn more, send us a message here with your problem and we might have something for you.

Word of mouth only works if you do something worth sharing. Events are a great way to do this! Host a dog show, throw a party, invite your local community to a concert! There is plenty of ways to get some notoriety and have people start talking about you, but the best way by far is to just start a referral program where is a family mentions a current family they will get $300 off their next bill for referring someone. Trust me people will start talking.

Social media is also a great way for people to learn more about your school and the greatest way to spread socially is by sharing great content that people care about! Just be sure you know who you are targeting and use language that those people would like to have!

If our targeting section feels a little dry, do not worry! We are creating an entire blog just on targeting criteria! We will send you information soon on how we are targeting amazing families! in the meantime have looked at our technology post? 

About The Author - JJ Reynolds

JJ Reynolds has worked in the digital marketing world for nearly 8 years. Including digital asset creation, public relations, digital advertising, and web analytics.

Founder - Mediauthentic & NonProfitMarketingEssentials