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Data-Driven Marketing for Private Schools: How to Start

Strategic data-informed marketing helps align marketing with the priorities of independent schools. Most marketers track and review data related to specific marketing channels to improve their marketing activities, like clicks, views, and impressions, to measure website performance, social media engagement, and PR. In addition, institutional and external data can inform marketing for private schools to help an institution's broader goals. Continue reading to find out how data-driven marketing strategies can amplify marketing communications and digital marketing efforts at your independent school.


What are data-driven marketing strategies?


Let's say your independent school wants to grow enrollment. Marketing can take this direction, evaluate their marketing, and create and spend more to attract families.


Or, you can evaluate marketing results plus institutional and external market data to create data-driven marketing strategies that inform where you should focus your marketing efforts so you are marketing in more targeted and efficient ways.


How to start creating data-driven marketing for private schools


Before you dive into every data point you can find, create a plan. Otherwise, you'll get overwhelmed or go down a rabbit hole and get off track. To get started with this approach, prioritize one opportunity your school wants to explore and follow these steps:


1. Outline your goals.


Any opportunity you evaluate will need to be linked to the broader institutional goals, so be clear about outlining those at the forefront. For example: increasing revenue by 10% via new student enrollment.


2. Identify questions you have related to your goals.


Next, identify questions to explore that will help you create smarter marketing strategies connected to your goals. For example, you may wonder if there are new markets you should be reaching to increase enrollment.


3. Evaluate and collect data. 


To uncover answers to your questions with data and not just guesses, you will want to assess the available data sources and gaps in data to help you answer your questions.


Internally, you can look at student and family data, prospective student data, and conversion rates along the enrollment funnel. Externally, census data or state demographic data may be relevant. If you don't have data that you think would be helpful, collect your own data from online surveys, focus groups, or reports developed with third parties. 


4. Review and analyze the data points.


You can easily get overwhelmed pouring through all of the data you collected. Reflect back on your original goal and questions and review the data from that point of view. Identify positive and negative trends and commonalities among data sources.


5. Identify insights.


To develop insights, try to find the meaning behind the trends and commonalities you find. Instead of showing a data dump, tell a story with your findings. If applicable, you may want to use the data to create benchmarks to revisit each year, like conversion rates along the enrollment funnel.


6. Create marketing strategies


Use the insights you uncovered to create data-driven marketing strategies for your private school. Test your new ideas, review results, and continue to optimize your marketing.


Example of a data-driven marketing strategy for a private school


Let's say your PK-12 school has been in operation for 20 years in a suburban area. The school focuses on its experiential learning curriculum.


Your institutional goal is to increase revenue by enrolling more students. To align with that goal, marketing needs to identify where to focus in order to be most efficient with their limited resources and budgets. If marketing runs broadly targeted online advertising or social media, it will be harder to bring in quality inquiries because marketing efforts speak to everyone. The more relevant the messaging and marketing activities are to a prospective family, the more chances you will get their attention and contribute to the goal.


Using a data-driven marketing approach to focus marketing, start by answering the question: what, more specifically, is unique about the school's experiential learning? Look at how competitors are talking about their schools and find ways that you are different from them. Review responses from family surveys and alumni testimonials to find commonalities. Also, review your SIS to see which families stay with the school the longest so you can find more families like them.


By analyzing this data, you might uncover a theme around experiential learning associated with the outdoors. Families emphasize your outdoor programming, and you notice families that stay around have students participating in your wilderness expeditions, environmental science projects and trips, outdoor sports and adventures, and summer camps.


With this insight, marketing has an interesting target to focus on. They can create ads and marketing materials highlighting photos, videos, quotes, and messages related to the outdoor aspects of the experential learning and find places to advertise to those families, like outdoor school directories, associations, or newsletters. 


When approached with a plan, data can contribute significantly to successful marketing for private schools. Data-driven marketing creates targeted campaigns that resonate with potential families, highlight the school's unique strengths, and drive interest and enrollment.



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