Hidden Gems vs Gems: Why Some Schools Remain Hidden

School fading away in background with text that reads: Hidden Gems vs Gems: Why Some Schools Remain Hidden - Truth Tree knows school marketing.

By Liz ZweigleDirector of Sales and MarketingTruth Tree

This post on LinkedIn got a lot of views. And that got me thinking…

Screenshot of LinkedIn post about the hardships school marketing and admissions teams face when their school has low visibility, is unknown to their target market: in short, they are a hidden gem. Image shows the text of the post and an image of a yellow diamond with "Hidden Gems" beneath it.

When I was a school marketing and admissions director, trudging along, tearing my hair out, trying everything I could to help my school, there were hundreds of schools all over the country doing the same thing: fighting the hidden gem fight. The struggle to stand out is real. And let’s face it, it can be a lonely road.

I get it. Feeder school outreach, alumni networks, Google ads, events–you name it, I did it. But despite best efforts, many schools find themselves stuck on a hamster wheel, witnessing stagnant or declining enrollment figures.

Does this sound familiar?

After talking with hundreds of schools through my role at Truth Tree, I started to ask myself, why do schools keep telling me that they have a well-established program, nurturing and highly qualified faculty, and state-of-the-art facilities, and yet, they are seeing inquiries drop, enrollment declining and families saying “I had no idea that your school even existed”? 

Here’s what I discovered: 

  • Demographic Shifts – Schools that have been thriving for 100 years are finding themselves in the shadows. COVID-19 has accelerated the demographic shift, with hundreds of families leaving the area and more coming in, But those families are making different choices about their schooling options. With such radical changes in the population, families may not even be aware of the school’s existence, making it difficult to attract them. Some schools, once pillars in the community have suddenly been labeled as “hidden gems.” And the schools that have been struggling with visibility for decades are feeling the strain even more. 
  • Limited Marketing Budgets: This is a big one and can have that “chicken and the egg” paradox that keeps schools spiraling and stuck. The number of schools that tell me they are waiting for “enrollment to increase so we can invest in marketing” makes my brain hurt. And I get it. Budgets are tight and there are only two levers a school can pull: more revenue (tuition) or cut costs (firing teachers). With that being said, it’s concerning to me that schools don’t understand the importance of investing in marketing to dig your way out.
  • Limited Online Presence: In the digital age, a school’s online visibility is paramount. With 70% of parents starting their school search on Google, a weak online presence means your school basically doesn’t exist. Or worse, because it doesn’t pop up high on the Search Engine Results Page, your school comes off as “not a good program.” Google, after all, has trained us to know that “the best” results rank higher. A weak (or nonexistent) online presence can continue to tamper with a school’s visibility and also affect a school’s credibility, making it harder to gain the trust of prospective students and their families.

The good news is that with some targeted work (and investment) hidden gems can stop being hidden.

Seriously.

It’s possible. 

But it’s going to require some focused attention and financial investment. It’s the old adage, you’ve gotta spend money to make money. It applies to schools, too. And especially when your market is changing, enrollment is dipping, and you’re starting to see things get a little scary, it’s time to take action and turn things around.  

Increase your digital visibility, stop being hidden, and show families why your school is a gem. 

Are you ready to take your school from “Hidden Gem” to “Gem”?

Our team is standing by to help you do what we’ve helped so many “Hidden Gem” schools achieve: Gem Status.

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