Every School is Saying the Same Thing (How to Stand Out)

Today’s episode is inspired by a post that a friend of mine David Willows put on LinkedIn a few weeks ago. In the blog post, he’s talking about breaking up the cliche, monochrome writing that is neither useful nor transformative that inevitably winds up on every school’s website.

I’m coupling this inspiration with another post that came across my feed from Will Patch who is the senior enrollment insights leader at Niche. In his post, Will talks about finishing up secret shopping schools and received so many of the same old generic emails all lacking the WHY should attend. 

So, this is my take on this topic. Every school is saying the same thing.

Actually, most businesses in general are saying the same thing. I think there are a few reasons why, and I think there are a few things we can do as school marketers to shake up the norm and have a massive effect on our school’s enrollment rates. 

Why so Generic?

First, why this generic text - or copy - is the norm?

To start, I think we don’t realize how important good copy really is. I think to a certain extent we’re all wearing rose-colored glasses when it comes to our school. We know all of the good things about it, all of the things that set it apart, and how much our staff works to go the extra mile, so we assume that other people (people who have never had the opportunity to see the school the way you see it might I remind you) know what we know. In other words, we think those things are obvious to the public. So, we tend to simply leave them out. 

Secondly, I think copywriting is an art form that has been either commoditized or deemed invaluable.

In the early days of advertising, copywriting was everything.

The copywriters made the ad agency go around. They were some of the highest-paid people on staff.

Today, copy is everywhere and you can get it for cheap. .01 or less per word in most cases.

Check out a freelancing site and you’ll see. In my opinion, copywriting should remain a high-ticket item because it is the most important piece on a website when it comes to driving new leads.

More important than design, in my opinion. If you’ve ever been to a sales page on a site than you know why.

They are often very simply designed – maybe with a few pictures here and there to support the text, and super long – stacked with copy – hitting all your pain points than solving them, overcoming all of your hurdles, and getting you to imagine what life would be like with and without whatever they’re trying to get you to buy just before they hit you with an unbeatable guarantee and an undeniable offer.

There’s a reason they’re set up like that, it’s because those designs make more money than the heavily stylized pages with mediocre copy.

Lastly, I think we’re all playing a game of follow the leader

I think we’re all looking at the school that we think is successful and essentially copying, but tweaking of course, what they have on their website or in their marketing.

The problem with that is that the school that we’re looking to for inspiration is looking to another school for inspiration who is looking to another school for inspiration – all thinking the school that they’re looking to knows what they are doing and is doing it for a particular reason – because it works – not realizing that most schools have no merit and have done no testing to prove that this particular web copy works best or this specific email content works the best.

Thus, we all end up saying the same thing.

If you want to know what copy works best for you, you need to run split tests or A/B tests.

You can do this on your website, on your ads, and on your emails, and nearly all of your marketing materials can be split-tested.

Tools like Google Optimize will make it really easy to test out different variations of your web pages so if you’re not already doing that then that is a great place to start. 

How to Write Copy Your Readers Will Act On

So let’s talk about how to stop writing copy that goes in one ear and out the other and how to write copy that moves people closer to enrolling in your school.

Here are a few points that I like to follow when I’m writing anything that is meant to sell:

  • Don’t sacrifice clarity for cuteness. Too often schools will use cute phrases because they think they’re catchy – and that’s what marketing is all about – just to leave people more confused about what the phrase means or what the school stands for. Always go with clarity over cuteness

  • Use specifics whenever possible. Rather than say “We have a high graduation rate” say “Our graduation rate is x% higher than average” – people trust and believe specifics

  • Drill in on pain points before you solve them. The more pain you can cause the more relief your reader will need and the easier it will be for them to take your medicine 

  • Use future pacing to get people to imagine what life is like if they attended your school. Get them to imagine life in the short – first week – mid – first year – long term – 3 – 4 years – and future – 8 years+ 

  • Use proof wherever possible and as many different variations of it as possible. Picture handing your prospective family a 5lb stack of proof, that’s what you want to convey to your reader 

  • Use storytelling to get your point across. People know that you’re trying to sell yourself to them so they read any of your marketing materials with their guard up. You can break through that guard by packaging your sales message in a story. Before you write anything ask yourself “what am I trying to say” then ask yourself, how can I convey that in a story? For example, having an after school program might not be a big deal but packaging that in a story about a caring parent who beat himself up for having to work extra hours and needing to keep his kid in aftercare for a season who was relieved when he picked up his kid because that kid actually wanted to STAY in aftercare packs a bigger punch.

Let's Recap

I hope some of these tips will help you mix up the copy on your website and in your marketing materials. Let me know what you think about this topic – send me a message on LinkedIn and we can continue this conversation I really love interacting with you all. 

Until next time,
I’ve been Nick. 

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