It’s the beginning of June and maybe, just maybe, you have some money left in your marketing budget.
If you do and need to "use it or lose it" by June 30, here are some brilliant ideas to spend it on that were generated by school marketing experts I contacted on your behalf. Since a few ideas came from more than one source, I didn't’ attribute the suggestions, and instead list all of the contributors at the end of the post. Their advice will help set you up for a bang up 2017-18 marketing year and make your job easier as well.
The first idea that came from more than one idea-generator was for school marketers to be aware of the option to split the costs of any initiative over two years. If you have money left in this year’s budget, but it doesn’t cover the cost of the service you need now, ask the provider if you can pay some now and the rest in the next fiscal year, but start the service immediately. Most folks who work with private schools are accustomed to this request and will be happy to accommodate you.
So here we go...
Seek Project-Based Advice
The great thing about project-based advice is that you know how much it will be at the get-go. Just be sure your agreement stipulates what you’ll get for your money.
Engage a signage expert to audit your campus signage and way finding, upgrade where needed and/or create outdoor banners to give the campus a fresh feel in the fall.
Plan development marketing strategies, a calendar and tactics for your capital campaign or annual fund with the help of a fundraising and/or marketing consultant. It’s not too soon to start thinking big about your donors and how you want to look and sound in the upcoming school year.
Create one or more strong, print collateral pieces with the help of a graphic designer and writer that will increase your campus visits and boost your brand.
Build your school’s story with the help of a marketing and branding expert who specializes in private schools. Craft the perfect language that not only describes your school’s unique strengths, but also targets your preferred audience.
Plan a summer marketing retreat (this you can do on your own without outsourcing). You'll be able to unplug from the office, spend some time thinking big, recharging the batteries, and exploring new ways to bring your school's brand to life.
Get an SEO audit and/or update with the help of a consultant who will make sure your school shows up in searches with website optimization, and your brand is discoverable on SERPs and social media.
Consult with school brand design pros to review your admission or alumni materials, and provide an evaluation for what’s working and where can you improve how you’re bringing your brand to life visually.
Boost your professional development and hurry to sign up for a conference that will keep on giving long after you’ve come back home. FinalsiteU! Annual User Conference (which welcomes both Finalsite clients and non-clients is a fabulous option that isn't just about websites, but about marketing as well. Or check out the AISAP Annual Institute which is geared toward admissions professionals but has many sessions focused on branding and marketing.
Craft your tour guide messages with a professional writer who will develop on-brand talking points or create fun tools with dos and don’ts that can be shared with student ambassadors in the fall.
Start video or photography pre-production planning. Put part of the money down on a photoshoot or film to use for next year’s marketing and communications. Start your shoot list, begin your script, and scout the campus with the photographer. Maybe other departments have leftover funds and can kick in to this project that benefits them as well.
Hire a photographer for a specific project, such as capturing the emotions of graduation if it’s yet to happen, photographing the quintessential senior “college sweatshirt” photo, shooting the head of school’s new headshot, or newly arrived faculty members. If the photographer is local, a half-day shoots are economical.
Seek Hourly Advice
There are many advantages to hiring a consultant on an hourly basis. One is that you can agree on a fixed amount (or "not to exceed") to get a specific project accomplished or a laundry list of smaller items. You're not signing a major proposal that needs to be approved by the Head of School and the Board of Trustees. Your one-time invoice will be an efficient use of your budget and, because you're not signing a six-figure proposal, you're not "bound" to this consultant. Instead, you're getting to know them and perhaps they will be a good fit for you next year.
Hire a copywriter to refresh a specific page or pages of your website that are most frequently visited (check your analytics), pages with a high bounce rate, or pages connected to your critical marketing initiatives. You could spend a few thousand dollars and completely transform your site’s impact.
Get started on inbound marketing with an eBook or whitepaper for your target audience (e.g. Parenting from Afar for a boarding school or How to Choose a Private School for any private school).
Discuss marketing challenges with a school marketing professional and ask for top-of-mind suggestions in a phone call. This can be a two-hour conversation and billed by the hour. Depending on your budget, the consultant take the phone call much further and make recommendations for strategies and an action plan with cost estimates for next year.
Get GDPR compliant with guidance from a consultant. No one wants their website shut down mid-school year!
Get help with your paid media campaigns. If you’re guessing how to run Facebook ads, the money you spend with an expert could actually make you money (and get better results) in the long run.
Update your style guide (or get one!) with a graphic designer.
With a tip of the hat to the contributors
Thanks to everyone who contributed brilliant ideas and brain food to make school marketers' jobs easier. We hope they help you make the most out of your final purchases for 2017-18.
Emily Cretella, Cursive Content
Haily Feldman, Mixed Digital
Rod Lemaire, Mission Minded
Mia Major, Finalsite
Laura Pedrick, Laura Pedrick Photography
Ryan Smith, Ryan Smith Photography
Rob Norman, InspirED School Marketers
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