6 Tips to Get the Marketing Budget You Need for Your School

By Liz Yee, Truth Tree and Tara Britten, Digistorm


As a private school marketing or admissions director, you might be considering whether it’s time to take the leap into digital marketing. Nearly 70% of private school parents start their school search on Google, but more than 90% of them will use Google at some point during the search phase to gather information about the schools they are considering. It’s vital that your school is front and center when parents start searching.


In short, YES. It’s time to start investing in digital advertising.

So, you’re sold. Now it's time to get the head, the board, and all the budgeting decision-makers to realize that marketing (digital or otherwise) costs money and it’s worth the investment. For some school budgeters, it’s clear that the school needs a new roof–no questions asked! But a new roof isn’t on the checklist for prospective parents. Allocating dollars to a digital marketing strategy is an investment just as much as the new roof. And successfully marketing your school’s program requires attention (financial and otherwise) just as much as your school’s facilities or programs. Without a strong marketing and admissions strategy, all budgets (including those all-important campus facilities line items) will dry up, and soon.

Ready to pitch digital marketing to the purse-string holders?

Look no further! We have 6 tips to help guide your internal discussions and hopefully, get you on the right track for digital marketing (and budgeting) bliss.


1. Talk About Your Competition

Nothing gets a Head of School more tuned in than hearing that your competitors have an edge. Do a bit of research to see which schools are investing in digital marketing: illustrate how they are engaging with prospects, writing interesting content, or how informative their website is. And if you see that their digital presence is lackluster? Even better! Consider this an open door to get out in front of those schools and position yours as the obvious choice when parents start searching.


2. Revamp and Evaluate Your Budget

This is an important step and one you’ll want to complete before you sit down with the administrator with the purse strings.


Digital marketing isn’t going away any time soon, and in fact, the schools that haven’t taken the leap are already behind. It’s time to get on board. With that in mind, take a close look at how your past marketing efforts (and budget) were used (and the subsequent results).

For example, perhaps you spend thousands of dollars to advertise in the local newspaper or parenting magazine, and you have no way of knowing whether it had an impact on your brand awareness or even generated interest in your school. Plus, you’ve now spent money on an ad that might not necessarily be seen by your specific target audience.

We know that parents are getting younger and younger, and they are less inclined to look at printed materials, especially when searching for a school. That budget can be easily reallocated to a digital strategy that will be more easily targeted to the right audience and measurable. Take a scalpel to your budget to identify where you can save money or reduce expenses in order to invest in a targeted strategy that will have a stronger return on investment. It can be quite convincing to purpose simply repurposing an existing budget (rather than asking for a bigger budget).


3. Explain How It Works. You need to have a high level and clear understanding of digital marketing so that you can explain the importance of moving in this direction. Some Heads of School will be zoned in on results, and others might ask tactical questions, such as:

  • Who in-house will implement our digital strategy? Are they knowledgeable? Do they have the time?

  • What support will be outsourced?

  • Is this SEO? Is this PPC? Or both?

  • Is this considered advertising?

  • Is this the same as our social media plan?

  • Will this solve our website problems?

  • How do we get started? How long will it take to get this up and running?

  • What results should I expect to see? When will we see results?

Looking for another great resource to get the conversation started? Take this free, 7-question quiz to identify which digital strategy is best for your school’s marketing and enrollment goals. You can use these insights to help shape your pitch!

4. Show That It Works

It’s a big investment, so your boss will want details about what to expect and what kind of results your digital strategy might garner. Focus on showing statistics that illustrate prospects filling the top of your funnel, such as:

  • More Relevant Website Traffic: Your school’s website is the foundation of your digital marketing strategy. Layering in new digital tactics will likely result in a steady increase in traffic to your school’s website. The goal is to attract students and parents who don’t know your school but are searching for one.

  • More Qualified Leads: Driving more traffic to your website is one benefit to investing in a digital strategy, but ultimately, you want to be attracting mission-appropriate families who are interested in a school like yours. If you're offering content, resources, and events to parents who are likely interested in your school, you should see an increase in parents downloading content, filling out a form on your website, attending a tour, etc. More digital attention means more inquiries, more applications, and (hopefully!) more enrolled students.

5. Consider What Other Resources You Might Need

Investing in digital marketing can go in a lot of different directions: ads, content marketing, email marketing, SEO—oh my! With that in mind, it’s important to think through what add-ons you might need to incorporate into your digital arsenal. Specifically, many private schools have not yet invested in an admissions database or communication platform (school Customer Relationship Management system) to easily connect with prospective parents as they move through your admissions process.


Collecting new leads is essential, but without quality follow-up and nurture, they’re unlikely to turn into new enrollments. This is where technology can help create better, more personalized experiences for prospective parents--an invaluable tool in today’s competitive market.

For example, the ability to create tailored messaging for every prospective parent (at scale, might we add) is a huge advantage for your school. Are they interested in your school’s extensive extracurricular offerings? Or perhaps, they were drawn in by your state-of-the-art science laboratories? Personalization is about much more than just being able to add a “Hi {First Name} to your email — it’s about finding opportunities to add value and foster greater connection at every stage of the admissions journey.

Additionally, many school admissions and marketing teams are under-resourced or juggling multiple hats (Hello, recess duty!), so adding automation is another win-win. Having the tools to automate outreach, daily tasks, and nurture prospective parents will save a bunch of time and effort—leaving more time to focus on what matters most.


6. Who Makes the Pitch?

If you have already set up Google text or display ads, and have dabbled in Facebook advertising for your school, then you are likely ready to pitch the idea of an increased budgeting investment to your boss. In most cases, however, school marketers have found their Head of School might be inclined to hear from an expert fluent in the art and science of inbound digital marketing. And, they might be open to outsourcing this work, too (Bonus: time savings and a new partner/support for you!).

Let’s do this! Do your homework and prepare yourself for this essential conversation. This guide will take you from start to finish, and soon, your head of school will be singing your praises at those board budgeting meetings.