Branding and marketing are critical to the success of any educational institution, whether you’re a nonprofit public school, a for-profit preschool, parent organization, academic or alumni organization or a school club. You need to attract students or members, raise funds for capital improvements or operations, and encourage involvement in your academic initiatives. Get a head start this summer with the following education marketing tips and tools.
Create a strong brand identity
Branding is as essential to educational institutions as it is to major corporations. Educational branding fosters positive public perceptions, reinforces your message through repetition and encourages community and alumni support. A strong brand helps increase school enrollment and spurs involvement in academic clubs and other organizations.
Businesses base their branding on USPs, or unique selling propositions. It’s what differentiates them from competitors, and it’s the primary reason customers choose them over other options. Your educational institution should likewise develop a USP that resonates with your audience.
Answer these questions:
- What benefits can students, parents and club/organization members expect from your school or organization?
- How are you different and better than competing colleges, universities, preschools or clubs?
- How can you incorporate school pride into your branding, specifically for fundraisers and alumni organizations? What is your shared identity?
- Why should parents join your Parent Teacher Organization, students join your club or alumni join your organization?
Once you’ve identified your USP, you can develop an identity that visually and textually represents your educational institution and reinforces the ideas behind it: your colors, tagline, mission and logo. Then, you need to consistently place branded materials in front of students, parents, alumni and the broader community.
- Branded academic planners
- Letterhead and envelopes
- Business cards for staff members and club/organization officers
- Embroidered or screen-printed shirts and hats for staff, students, parents, clubs, and groups
- Branded coffee mugs, water bottles, tumblers and stadium cups
- Banners and signage placed outside your school, in high-traffic locations, and at fundraisers, career days and other events
- Branded pens, pencils, markers, crayons, highlighters, erasers and rulers
- Branded pencil/school supply cases
- Calendars featuring your logo and photos from your school or club
- Memo pads
- Branded lunchboxes and coolers
- Backpacks and duffel bags
- Laptop skins and sleeves
- School spirit pennants, streamers, foam hands, signs, sticks, rally towels, stadium seat cushions and noisemakers
- Branded awareness wristband bracelets
- Car flags and bumper stickers
- Other branded education promotional products: keychains, USB flash drives, hand sanitizer and more
Encourage involvement in your academic initiatives
You probably already have a core audience: enrolled students and their parents, alumni and club members. Employ educational marketing best practices to engage these audiences and maintain their support over time.
- Posters and flyers. Place posters and flyers throughout your school to market meetings and events.
- Monthly newsletters. Mail monthly newsletters to keep students, parents, club members and alumni informed. Spotlight top students, alumni and donors, share helpful tips and resources, and reinforce the idea that your educational institution is the preferred choice.
- Invitations. Mail invitations that invite students, parents and alumni to your events.
- Start clubs and programs. Academic clubs, hobby clubs, fitness programs and other initiatives can foster a sense of community, increase involvement and ultimately boost future fundraising efforts.
- Engage with parents and alumni. Start a PTO and take recommendations seriously. Work with alumni to improve the educational experience.
- Start a student advisory group. Ask students to form an advisory group that helps you deliver a better experience.
- Host events. From career days and conferences to family fun nights and intramural sports, your educational institution can host events that boost enrollment and foster school spirit.
Attract new students or club members
Your educational institution needs a strategy to attract students; if you manage a school club or group, you need a strategy to attract members.
Create different strategies for different audiences. For example, a college might print one brochure to promote its school to students and a different brochure for parents.
- Direct-mail postcards, brochures and booklets. These print marketing materials reach targeted audiences when they’re making important decisions about their futures. They’re ideal for preschools, private schools, colleges and universities that seek to increase enrollment.
- Posters, flyers and banners. Promote your educational institution, club, group, or parent organization in high-traffic public spaces with posters, flyers and banners.
- School tours and welcome kits. Invite prospective students and parents to tour your school. Make sure everyone leaves with a welcome kit that includes a brochure or booklet as well as promotional items such as coffee mugs, shirts and hats – all items that will increase exposure when prospects use or wear them. Package your welcome kits in branded bags or boxes with decorative ribbons.
- Public programs. Offer programs designed to get your target audiences in the door. For example, a community college might offer a free public SAT prep course, which presents plenty of opportunities to market to a well-targeted group of students and parents.
- Career days. Invite prospective parents and students to attend career days in which they can go from booth-to-booth to learn more about educational opportunities for a variety of careers.
- Ambassador programs. Launch an ambassador program that rewards students and alumni who recruit new students to your school or club.
Raise funds for your educational institution
Tuition and club dues aren’t always enough to cover everything you want to do. Fundraisers can help you market your school or club, complete capital improvements and enhance the learning experience. Consistent branding and community involvement will help you raise funds; add in dedicated fundraising efforts and you can raise even more.
- Donation letters. Send letters to alumni seeking donations for specific initiatives. Target your letters as much as possible. For example, a university that wants to build a new law library should start by reaching out to former law students.
- Events. Host a concert, festival, conference, seminar, trade show, workshop, family night or bake sale to raise funds for your school, club, parent organization or student group. Charge an admission, seek paid vendors and sell sponsorships to turn your events into major fundraisers. Advertise your events with posters, flyers, direct-mail marketing, digital marketing and social media.
- Corporate sponsorships. Create fundraising packages designed to illustrate how your school benefits the community and related industries. Send them to companies and seek donations for your scholarships, capital improvements and other initiatives. Again, targeting is key. A design school should start by seeking sponsorships from design and architectural firms.
- Community sponsorships. A perfect idea for public elementary schools and high schools, you can launch a direct-mail postcard, branded letterhead or brochure marketing campaign that seeks donations for major school improvements or special programs that enhance student education.
- Sell promotional items. Print a catalog packed with useful items, each branded with your school’s logo, colors and name. Ask students and parents to share your catalog with friends and family (offer a reward program for top student sellers). Ideas include toys, calendars, apparel, drinkware, food gifts, office supplies, car flags, school supplies, tech gifts, outdoor and camping gear and other items. Deliver sold goods in gift bags or branded boxes to lend a sense of exclusivity.
Use these marketing tips and tools to develop a winning strategy that helps your educational institution attract new students, encourage involvement in school activities and raise funds for your school, club or organization.