At the time of this post, things are feeling a little bit strange in the private school industry.
It seems like we’re really starting to find our footing again in this post-COIVD world, yet the global economy and the COVID bump starting to come to an end both threaten to shake up the rocky ground that we’re just starting to find.
Most private schools have been in unprecedented good times because of the way the public school system in general has dealt with the pandemic.
For the first time in a long time, waitlists were LONG and marketing to get new students was pretty much unnecessary (in the minds of some).
So, what trends in private school marketing will emerge in this new season and in the years to come?
We’ll dig into the results that Niche put together in their 2022 PK-12 Enrollment and Marketing study and discuss some of the current trends and trends that I think could be emerging for private school marketing in the near future.
Trends in Private School Marketing
Increase in Digital Advertising Spend
The first trend that is appearing to take shape is an increase in digital marketing spending. Niche found that last year over half of the schools surveyed increased their digital marketing ad spend while only 4% of schools reported decreasing their digital ad spend.
Of course, the pandemic brought pretty much everything online (a trend that I don’t think is going anywhere BTW).
Due to lockdowns, curfews, and the like schools and businesses were all forced to adopt online experiences at a rate we have never experienced before.
It’s no secret that people were online more than ever too.
This study shows screen time increases between 60%-80% in adults compared to pre-pandemic levels.
So, it makes sense that more advertising money flowed into the digital platforms, that’s where the people were.
What’s interesting about the current season we’re in as a country and a global economy is that the stock prices of these popular digital advertising platforms (google, meta, snap) have all been affected by the threat of a recession.
They have all stated that one of the causes of declining revenue is less advertising spend on their platforms.
They’ve also forecasted a loss of revenue in the future for this same reason.
All of these advertising platforms operate as an ad auction.
What that means is that depending on how many other advertisers are targeting what you’re targeting, and how much those advertisers are willing to spend to access that target audience, the cost for that access will change.
This means one very important thing for marketers and specifically private school marketers.
By having fewer advertisers less money is being spent on these platforms thus, the price to access audiences will be cheaper.
Therefore, 2022 – 2023 could bring in even more bang for your buck on these digital marketing platforms.
Because of the next point, I think schools will continue to shift their budgets from traditional advertising and marketing channels to digital platforms in the years to come.
I also think more schools will need to either hire a full or part-time marketing specialist on staff or look to agencies or freelancers to run these campaigns.
Because digital marketing is new territory for most schools, they will need experts in this field.
Niche’s study found that 43% of schools had no dedicated full-time marketing employee and over half had no dedicated part-time marketing employee.
Private and independent schools will need to invest in labor (either staff, agency, or freelancers) if they want to continue to successfully use digital marketing in the years to come.
Enrollment Marketing Trends
Increase in Digital Marketing Effectiveness.
Taken right from Angela Brown’s keyboard;
“When asked about the impact of their digital marketing efforts, digital was the clear front-runner compared to traditional marketing—4% of schools said that digital marketing was less effective than last year, 34% said it was about the same, and 64% said it was more effective.”
So, schools spent more money on digital marketing AND it’s been more effective compared to the previous year.
This is why I see a bigger push into digital marketing for the foreseeable future (no shock there).
But, take this with a grain of salt. Attribution (crediting the marketing source that delivers the result) for traditional marketing has always been kind of challenging.
Digital marketing (largely Google Ads and Social Media Marketing) makes this easier because a simple pixel on your site will let you see exactly what source brought in the lead, email, phone call, form submission, tour appointment, etc. Still, with that factored in I’m sure digital marketing is the clear winner.
As privacy policies continue to change, and in most cases shift the way that tracking and data collection is done, digital marketing will seem more confusing and foreign than it already does to schools.
Schools without a part-time, full-time, or agency managing these platforms for them may feel the urge to go back to what they know – traditional marketing.
This will only create a bigger growth gap between them and the schools in their area that invested in the talent to do digital marketing the right way.
I think this plays out a few years down the road, say 2025, once some schools have cracked the code on digital marketing and have been reaping the benefits.
The next few years will either be a time for smaller schools to finally catch up to the bigger ones around them OR it will be a time for the giants to become bigger and widen the gap even more.
These are only a couple of bits from the report that I thought were the most useful as it pertains to private school marketing trends to emerge in the next few years.
Generally, I think the biggest marketing move that private schools can make right now is to invest in talent so they can make better use of their digital marketing budgets and campaigns since digital has proven to be more effective than traditional advertising.
The schools that get a handle on this today will be the ones to catch up to a few years down the road.
I also think the COIVD bump continuing its decline puts more pressure on private and independent schools to get their advertising campaigns running like well-oiled machines ASAP.
A lot of schools have relaxed their enrollment efforts over the last couple of years.
When the times are good, marketing is easy but the times are changing and schools need to get ahead of the curve if they want to attract new families.
They’ve also got a lot of really good research and resources available here. I highly recommend reading the study for yourself.
Big shoutout to Angela Brown for putting this data together, it’s great work!
Send me a message on LinkedIn and let me know what you think about my predictions. Also, what parts of the study jumped out at you?
Until next time,
I’ve been Nick.