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 parents of young children go to FIRST when investigating educational options for their children.
Before moving, this does not mean a Web PAGE that the church or parish your school is affiliated with gives you simply to have a Web presence. If you’re still doing that, and there’s no plans to change it, make plans to close the school. Why? Today, 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 that 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. 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 and cause it to rust. 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, ideally daily, too. 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. That means that it automatically adjusts 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. For an example, be looking for a new link on the SchoolAdvancement.com site. It will connect to a new blog call EDU-CAT-ION (we may even have t-shirts for it). It will use a template called “Responsive” to demonstrate what a responsive site does. We hope you’ll find it interesting, and will share the information with your colleagues in educational technology and administration.
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. Many times today, 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) connect a person whose interest has been piqued by some type of advertisement or appeal to the main page of the organization’s Web site, leaving the visitor to try to find the information they were interested in on their own. Also, banner ads that 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 leads, or inquiries, 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 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 (Original Publication Date: 20140707)