At this point in history, the phrase, “Think Outside the Box,” probably sounds trite, since people have been saying it for around 30 years. Yet, I hesitate to say “Think Inside the Box,” because that’s what causes isolation and sometimes stifles creativity. Just as we talk about the faith-based school as a ministry, a business AND a school, all types of thinking are needed – linear, process and systemic, as well as the visioning type of thinking that results from brainstorming/”big thinking,” and “deep thinking.” It can be argued that each of these five types of thinking could have an inside the box and outside the box component.
Today, let’s look at outside and inside the box thinking as they pertain to marketing your school.
First, outside. I’ve spoken with many schools that are trying to attract new students by putting brochures for their schools in their affiliated church’s or churches’ Narthex, and may be contacting other places of worship that surround them to attract students from those congregations. The problem is that much of this type of marketing is the equivalent of “preaching to the choir.” Remember that Jesus told us to “Go out into the world and spread the Good News.” We are an evangelization people. So let’s evangelize. Put those brochures in places in your community to attract new students and new families. The top four places: supermarkets, doctors’ offices, gyms and hair/nail salons, with reala. These are places where young mothers “wait.” Interestingly, supermarkets may soon be off the list, since self checkouts and “order online and we’ll bring your groceries to you” services are becoming increasingly popular among Millennials.
Second, inside. Take a look at what is unique and remarkable about your school. Make sure that is in your brochure. One school I like to highlight has a “buddy” system in place where older students are paired up with younger students to put responsibility and care for the community into action. One school doesn’t have a gym for a basketball team, but has created a jump-rope team for heart health and physical fitness. It also functions as a marketing vehicle for the school as they tour locations throughout the community. The members of the team went to Great Britain when the first worldwide competitive jump rope competition took place. One school has a high school student come in to teach sign language to elementary school students so that all the children are fluent in ISL when they leave the school. When silence is necessary in the school, students are still able to communicate with one another, too! Remember – you may think something is not remarkable simply because your school has been doing it for so long that you consider it to be a part of what your school does. However, if you ask your school’s parents what they find remarkable about the school, you may discover it is precisely those things that keep them involved and their children enrolled in the school. If it resonates with parents that much, I guarantee you it’s what other parents that are not a part of your school community are craving for their children and for themselves, too.
And keeping them engaged with your school is the first step to growing your school’s enrollment.
But wait a minute – brochure? Really? Today? With social media, Web sites and mobile devices? Absolutely! Something has to spur their interest. It might be a recommendation someone receives at the gym that has them pick up their mobile device. It might be a new family moving into the area that passes the school on the road and prompts them to pick up their mobile device. And it might be that brochure on a table that makes them say, “Wow – I need to check this out,” and they pick up their mobile device.
Also, notice that they “pick up their mobile device.” They don’t wait until they get home to check your school’s Web site on their computer. Once they get home, there are groceries to put away, clothes to fold, kids to feed, mail to open (and toss) and so many other things demanding their attention that they’ll forget…which is why they need reminders, and your school’s Web site must look GREAT on a mobile device. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter how much it cost.
As for “Then Do,” that’s the next step. You may have to change your thinking, but the new thinking must then be put into action.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2009-2019 (Original Publication Date: 20090309)