The question I’m asked a lot is: How much should I spend on digital advertising for my school?
My answer: It depends.
Seven years ago, $200-$400/month was sufficient for Google search and display and Facebook and Instagram combined.
Since 2016, the number of companies targeting parents and their kids has dramatically increased. In 2021 alone, the educational services industry in the United States more than doubled its advertising spend going from $1.9 to $3.87 billion.
With the added competition, and money pouring into the sector, ROI-driven futurecasting and goal-specific microbudgets are recommended for effective enrollment marketing.
So what’s the answer, Trevor?
Well, you’re going to cheat anyway and look down the page, so here, straight from Anastasia Chichinadze, Truth Tree’s Director of Operations.
“At a basic level, we typically recommend between $400 – $700 per campaign as an average monthly spend. That includes Google/YouTube and Facebook/Instagram.”
What’s in a campaign, how many do I need, and how do I know how much to spend in that range?
I’m glad you asked. 😉
For the below scenarios, let’s say you are a K-12 tuition-charging school.
What’s a Campaign?
For the sake of this blog, a campaign is an omnichannel strategy determined by enrollment goals or marketing goals, as they are not always mutually exclusive. For example, a campaign to fill seventh and eighth-grade seats is an enrollment goal. A marketing goal would be better brand awareness among families at feeder preschools X, Y, and Z.
To achieve the goal, the campaign would include the ad copy, landing pages, images, video, and, of course, which platforms to use (Google Ads, Facebook, TikTok, etc.).
Prioritize Your Campaigns
Using the above example, you’ll likely prioritize a “7th and 8th-grade enrollment push campaign” because you’ve got $330,000 of seats remaining.
However, you also have other marketing and enrollment goals to address, such as:
- All-school general awareness
- Admission event-specific
- Entry grade kindergarten
- Entry grade 9th-grade
- New bus route
To run all of the above campaigns, seven in all, would cost between $33,600 and $58,800. That’s not likely to be in your budget.
To prioritize which campaigns to run, we must factor in a dirty phrase, ‘What’s going to yield the most revenue.’
Example: If you need 40 new kindergarten students and only 30 new 9th-graders, the priority is clear: kindergarten with its 3.5x greater lifetime value.
Platforms Per Campaign
Which digital marketing platform will help you achieve your goals?
You guessed it, it depends.
If you’re a school that relies on referrals from educational psychologists, you should consider targeting them with LinkedIn ads.
To bring attention to your “cool” high school, consider using TikTok ads because you can target ages 13 and up.
I still firmly believe in the Big Two – Google and Facebook/Instagram, so they should always be heavily considered in your campaign plans.
Budget Per Campaign
Now time to find out what kind of returns you can expect with a $400 vs. a $700 per month budget.
According to Ahrefs Keyword Explorer, the cost-per-click (CPC) for the keyword: for kindergarten is $5.00 vs. $3.00 for high school.
(Professionally, this number is way too high, however, if your CPC is below 80 cents, your targeting may be off, or you’re keywording your school’s name).
At $700 a month, you can expect 140 clicks on your kindergarten ad. Is that enough? If not, you may want to cut down on the budgets of other campaigns or eliminate them.
If you missed it above, $400-$700 per month should be the average ads spend for your school’s digital marketing.
While there is no one-size-fits-all answer to the question of how much to spend on digital advertising for a school, by prioritizing enrollment goals and implementing a targeted and ROI-driven omnichannel strategy, schools can achieve effective enrollment marketing with a reasonable monthly spend.