Private Schools & Camps Do Marketing All Wrong

You remember Shulamith. Last year, when the girls high school in the 5 Towns was wondering how to get their first ever applicants for their very first year in existence, I made them a series of videos that they showed at the open house. After their open house, they had 14 applicants, up from zero.

How To Add $1 million to Your Bottom Line

This year we have been commissioned to work on a year-long video advertising campaign to catapult Shulamith High School for Girls to the next level for its second year running. And so far we’ve done just that. Their application numbers are in, and where they had 14 applicants for their first year, they have 89 new applicants for their second year.  If they end up with 43% enrollment (the national average according to NAIS), this would represent an increase in annual revenue of  just over $1 million if they charge what seems to be a median tuition of $26,000 per year.

I’d say that’s more than a catapult; it’s a rocketship.

Here’s our video that they showed at the open house:


Everyone Gets It Wrong

Now let me make it clear up front: All schools, universities… maybe even most nonprofits have been downright ineffective in growing their numbers and growing their brands.

Yes, that is a big statement. You might say that sounds quite arrogant. Just hear me out.
Not only have most of our clients gotten it wrong, but more so, WE got it wrong too.

Fanatical About Growth

When we started over 10 years ago, we were just another video production company making videos and video advertising. Nice, but we were mostly focused on how pretty the videos looked, etc. Then, a few years ago, clients started to come to us not just for the pretty videos but also for ideas and story concepts. Because every piece of video has some sort of story right?

And we became really good at it.

We’ve now moved onto the next stage.  For the last two years we have been fanatic about growth. Not just our own, but primarily the growth of our clients. We track every bit of growth of our clients and can say that we bring in millions of dollars for our clients, $1.35 million on average, to be precise. And, there will be another future post on that with real world examples. So stay tuned for that.

The Obvious Mistake We ALL Made – Till Now

But today I want to let you in on something we discovered that should be so obvious, yet even the big agencies don’t catch it.  During the process of creating concepts for Shulamith High School and other clients, we surveyed Shulamith’s 9th grade students and their parents to better understand how the potential applicant thinks and on what they base their decisions.  We asked them why they decided to come to Shulamith even though it was a brand new school and it’s risky being the first class, the guinea pigs.

But, then two survey questions brought us surprising answers that will change the trajectory of advertising for schools and camps going forward.

We asked: Who made the decision to come to Shulamith, the student or the parents?

When we analyzed the data we found something super fascinating. When the girls applied to the school and then enrolled in the school, they would answer that both they and their parents made the decision together.

BUT for applicants who applied and were accepted to the school but decided not to attend, 80% of the time it was the girls’ decision alone to not enroll.

So, you might ask, “…AND?”

Parents Are Out

What we learned from the survey is that in today’s world,  it’s not the parents anymore who make the decision to go to a certain school, but it’s really the sole decision of the girls. Parents play more of an advisory role in those decision processes. It seems it’s easier for a child to convince their parents to go to a certain school than for parents to convince their kids! And, that’s what the survey tells us. If a girl doesn’t want to go to Shulamith High School, even if their parents would like to see her go, there is no way of forcing her to do so.  It’s the applicant who decides whether or not to go to a certain school or university or sign up for a specific program or not.

So, now what’s then the problem?

Don’t Market To Grown-Ups

The main problem is that 99% of institutional marketing is geared toward parents and grown-ups. Have you noticed the stiff and boring brochures, the overloaded websites with scores of text that no one will read? Leave alone all the boring and smart-sounding video and TV ads. It is all geared toward GROWN-UPS. YESSSS. GROWN-UPS. Isn’t that stupid? Their marketing uses the language basically from GROWN-UP TO GROWN-UP even though the parent is unlikely to go to high school again.

If you want a youngster to come to your school, university or summer camp, then you have to speak THEIR language in all of your marketing and advertising.

This is realy a childish here and you must implement it right away if you want to get ahead of your competiton.

So, don’t freak out because your marketing is bogus at the moment. We just discovered this and we will change and implement all of this going forward. And so should you do too.
When you plan your next website or brochure, really ask “Who this is for?  How do they speak?” And what do they really want to get out of whatever you offer? Not what YOU want them to get out of it, but genuinely what they are interested in. Then you have a chance to win and make a big splash and change the world.

My wife the American would say: If a tree falls in the woods and no one notices, then it didn’t fall.


P.S. You can watch last year’s video for Shulamith here:

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