by Trevor Waddington, Founder & President, Truth Tree
Your visual brand is a powerful representation of your school’s ethos, mission, and services. Digital display ads range in size, presentable content, and placement.
So how can you effectively market your school in small spaces when parents are not likely actively searching for a school at that moment?
The answer is it’s tough, and we see ads all the time that pack WAY too much stuff into an ad space you’d need a Hubble Telescope to read.
At Truth Tree, our display ad strategy is pretty simple and usually follows this pattern:
- Say hello
- Build awareness
- Say hello again (retargeting)
- Demonstrate value
- Say hello again, again (more retargeting)
- Optimize the user’s valuation
Based on that strategy, here’s why we like them, how they work, and how we use them for our school and camp partners.
Cost – When someone clicks on your school’s search ad, it’s done so with intent. Meaning, they searched for, “private school near me,” for example.
Display ads for enrollment marketing purposes are a strategic disruption, so the click value is lower. That is why display ads are 4 to 5 times less expensive per click than search ads. So, if you are on a budget and have a great deal or hook, display ads can provide tremendous ROI.
Reach – For the last few years, the number of people and the time they’ve spent online has skyrocketed. So when you know 90% of internet users worldwide will see a display ad, you have the formula to engage hard-to-reach parents. These current non-customers may not have considered your school or camp because they did not know you existed or did not know a school or camp like yours was even a thing.
For example, one of our partners, Applewild School, has a trailblazing program for 8th and 9th-grade students called Prospect Studio. It is designed for students who need more preparation for high school. The minuscule audience that could take advantage of this opportunity, combined with the large-scale unawareness of such a program, made search-based ads ineffective. But, being able to hone in on a parent’s online footprint (e.g., searching: “tutor for my 8th-grade son”) and SHOW them the program gave Applewild a better chance of getting students for the program.
Brand Awareness/Ad Formats – With display ads, you can demonstrate creativity to its utmost and showcase the facilities, the teachers, and students’ happy faces. They say, “you never have a second chance to make the first impression.” At Truth Tree, we painstakingly choose the right visual for the right audience. Encompassing these ideas and knowing that the ads have to be fitted not only to each parent’s interests but also to their screens, we’ve been able to position responsive display ads that are getting more clicks per impression compared to industry standards.
Truth Tree: 0.89 – 2.01%
Education Sector: 0.53%
Placements – Setting up display campaigns allows you to choose precisely which platforms/websites you’ll run your ads. Tailoring each of our campaigns’ placements closely, we can focus on the websites that are suited for or are in the interest of prospective parents of our school clients.
Hold the phone because not all websites are equal. You can push ads for private schools on Niche and Private School Review. However, placement is key.
On Private School Review, ad placements are above or almost above the fold, as circled in blue. On Niche, the first Google Ad placement is 2-3 scrolls down (depending on how aggressively you scroll 🙂 and only shows banner ads, which are not our favorites (we’ll save the reason for another blog).
Targeting – Advertising to parents with kids who can reasonably afford you is crucial. Just as important is you will want to target prospective private school parents researching and actively considering an independent education or a summer experience for their children. If you can create a disruptive ad that appears 3, 4, 10 times to a user in an online session where other school and camp ads are not, 😊. When creating that target audience, sit down with your team (or our team at Truth Tree), think of your “best parents,” and go through the audience filter and reconstruct him/her/them.
Retargeting – School Marketing Commandment #1: Thou shalt covet thy current students before seeking new ones. Plus, it’s cheaper. Likewise, it’s easier and less expensive to target people who have already expressed interest in what you offer. By properly tagging and pixeling your site, you can show ads to those who have visited your site fantastically. And our favorite part, you can show them ads based on their journey pattern through your site.
For example, let’s say they come to your site, follow a prospective parent’s typical journey, hit the tuition page, and bounce within seconds.
No worries, because when they hop over to Urban Belle, they may see this.
We know all this seems like a lot of work, time and struggle. Being in your shoes, we’d very likely feel the same way. But with the info above, you are ready to make digital display ads an integral part of your school digital marketing strategy.