You know that today’s parents are highly research-oriented. They use every means possible to assess a “buy” before they make it. Take a car, for instance. Prospective new car buyers do extensive research before even doing a test drive. They ask friends (word-of-mouth); ask their mechanic (professional advice), look online at Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book (reviews); ask Facebook friends (social media); visit car manufacturers’ websites (self-promotion). Finally, they go for the test drive (campus visit) and ask the dealership (admissions officer) a boatload of questions. Then they start the process all over again as they narrow down their choices.

It’s pretty much the same as choosing a school for their child. While many would argue you have little control over the first research tools on the list (a topic for other another blog post), you do have immense control over your website—your most effective marketing device after word-of-mouth and a campus visit.

You also know that fewer and fewer prospective parents have an independent school background themselves. This means it’s incumbent upon you—the school— to educate them on the benefits of independent schools in general and your school in particular. This is a tall order with the first “barrier to sale” being a huge one: tuition.

Make your website show that you’re worth it.

Why would a parent pay [fill your tuition in here] a year when:

  • Their child is only 5?
  • Their public school is “free?”
  • Their child is doing “ok” where they are?
  • Their public school is rated well in the state?
  • Their impression of private school is rich, white kids?
  • They don’t want to send their child away to boarding school?
  • Your school is far from their home?
  • Their child doesn’t want to move schools?
  • They don’t believe in private education?
  • They think your faculty isn’t as qualified as public counterparts?
  • Your school doesn’t have a winning [enter sport here] team?
  • [Enter the rest of objections here.]

You know the answers to all of these questions. And you can back your position up with proof points. Use your website to tell that story. Prove your school is worth the tuition you charge. Prove your educational experience is different.

I’ve taken five Blackbaud K-12 websites —Sewickley AcademyKent Place SchoolDerryfield SchoolProctor Academy and Sonoma Academy— to illustrate how it’s done in 7 steps.

1. Show the benefits of an independent school education.

Parents who are products of public school only know public schools. They don’t know what they don’t know about independent schools. Show them on your website.

http://blog.sewickley.org/what-is-an-independent-school

2. Show why you’re different.

It’s often difficult for parents to understand why your school is a better fit for their family than the other school down the road. Show them what makes you different. Here Kent Place School not only shows the benefits of a girls school with the help of the NCGS, but also directly addresses the prospective student showing that her experience at Kent Place will be different from other area schools in their “Advice for Brave and Brilliant Girls.”

http://www.kentplace.org/Page/Admission/Advice-for-Brave-and-Brilliant-Girls

3. Show what you stand for.

Each and every school has its own ethos and pedagogy. When families choose your school, they choose to be a part of your “club” and join in because they believe what you believe and want to share those beliefs with other like-minded families.

Proctor Academy’s homepage makes it clear what they stand for. They are not a ditto-sheet kind of place. They stand for a different kind of education. This one photo says it all.

http://www.proctoracademy.org

Sonoma Academy shows what they believe on their Mission/Philosophy page. (These statements are more fully fleshed out on the page.)

  • High School is too important a time to leave up to chance.
  • High school students have extraordinary capacities that are ready to emerge … or could go dormant.
  • Teens need a rich, challenging, multifaceted program to fuel their natural curiosity.
  • Teachers can make or break a teen’s natural curiosity about the world and drive to know him/herself.
  • Teenagers profoundly influence, and are influenced by, their classmates.
  • College admissions are the most competitive they have ever been.

http://www.sonomaacademy.org/Page/About/Mission–Philosophy

4. Show outcomes.

You’re a college prep school, right? One of the primary reasons parents choose an independent school is to get their child into the college of their choice and to have their transition to college coursework be seamless. While most of you display your college list, few of you do more than that to show the results of your college counseling. Take a look at Derryfield School’s page where last year’s seniors tell us which school they chose and why. The why is fascinating and tells a fabulous story about the student, Derryfield, and some pre-conceived notions.

http://www.derryfield.org/Page/Academics/College-Counseling/Welcome

5. Show proof points.

Why should a parent believe what you say about all the fantastic things your school does for kids? Just because you say so? Make them believers by using a proof point such as statistic, research, a testimonial or an award….whatever….to back yourself up. Here Sonoma Academy puts their stats on college counseling right on the homepage.

SonomaCollege.jpg

http://www.sonomaacademy.org/page#At-A-Glance

6. Show answers to tough questions.

Whether it’s concerns about boarding school or tuition, busting myths about private schools, or resistance to uniforms, get out there and address the tough questions.

Here Proctor Academy calms prospective students’ fears about living with a roommate:

http://blogs.proctoracademy.org/what-you-will-learn-from-your-roommates

Here Derryfield gives parents encouragement by showing a chart of aid available to families with varying amounts of income — some of which might be surprising to prospective parents.

DerryFA.jpg

http://www.derryfield.org/Page/Admission/Affording-Derryfield

 7. Show why you’re better than the competition (like Thumper would).

Your school may go head-to-head with one or more competitors or a class of competitors such as public schools. Sometimes it’s appropriate for the school to look the competition in the eye and state why they’re better, preferably with proof points. But by pointing out the positive and not on the negative. Here Derryfield School—a day school—points out that a family can get an excellent independent school education and have their child home for dinner each night (not away at boarding school).

 http://www.derryfield.org/page/Passion–Purpose/Home-for-Dinner

 

Make your content count toward your goals. Prove your value to prospective parents. In order to do so, keep this one question in mind: Why are you worth it?

 

Many thanks to Peter Baron for inviting me to be a guest blogger on the Blackbaud K-12 Blog where this post originally appeared.

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