You probably know by now that students aren’t going to fall through your doors and enroll in droves just because your school exists. As each year passes, more trade schools and other alternative career training centers open and compete for the same prospective student body you are trying to attract. So how do you stand out?
Start by answering a few simple questions:
- What can you offer that others can’t?
- Why should students enroll in your program?
Prospective students have pain points.
- What are they?
- How can you attract them to your website?
- How can you educate them about your great programs and keep them coming back to you for more information?
Speak directly to their pain points.
It seems obvious once you say it out loud, but believe it or not, most schools’ marketing strategy is to talk about what they have, not how they can help.
When you’re thinking about how to communicate your marketing message, imagine you are talking to your ideal student. What would you tell them about your school and programs that can help them solve problems they’re facing when choosing the right school?
Maybe your ideal student has a full-time job but they want to better their career.
Are your class schedules flexible?
Do you offer full and part-time options for the same training program?
Maybe they want to start training asap.
Do you have a waitlist for your programs?
Maybe they can’t afford to pay out of pocket, but they want a new career.
What are your payment options for training?
Do you offer financial aid?
Build a Customized Marketing Strategy
It’s important to continuously build your brand. There are many trade schools competing for the same group of students, and you need to stand out. You want to find your audience, figure out where to reach them, create the right valuable content to share, and show them how you can lead them to success.
A general marketing plan is not enough.
1. Understand Your Audience
The first step to improve your trade school marketing is to understand your audience. Remember that ideal student I mentioned earlier? Keep them in mind 100% of the time when you are thinking about who to talk to and what to say. Start with local high schools and focus on the students who are considering a path other than a 4-year university.
Why is trade school more appealing? Simply put:Shorter time from education to career.
- Significantly lower cost than college.
- Ability for on-the-job learning.
- Gain a lifelong skill that will be relevant in the future.
- Opportunity for growth and advancement.
Many high school students feel pressured to attend a four-year college program, even if they know it isn’t right for them. Your job is to understand that group and show them there is an alternative.
Another potential audience is workers who are unhappy with their current employment situation. Many feel stuck in a career they don’t want or are unable to find a job in a field they thought they’d like. There is a way to change course, and you want to show them the way.
2. Put Your Content Where Potential Students Are
Once you understand your target audience, the next step is to put your content where that audience will see it. The majority of people you want to share with are on social media. What platforms do they use most? Where are they looking for advice?
- Build a community on each relevant social platform.
- Post consistently.
- Always respond to comments and messages.
- Only have one account per platform.
- Keep your brand and messaging consistent across all platforms.
- Use promotions to grab attention.
- Post videos, stories, and “go live” as much as possible.
3. Improve Your Website Experience
A website needs to be user-friendly, whether your customers are viewing it on a smartphone, tablet, or computer screen. If your site is not optimized for mobile and desktop views, you are losing out on leads and conversions. If a website isn’t easy to use, customers simply won’t use it and will move on to a website that is user-friendly.
A responsive website is a site that changes the layout to offer the right experience based on the device that is being used. This means readable text, adequate space for tap targets, and no horizontal scrolling. Load time for pages needs to be quick enough to keep interest as well. Consulting with a web designer to optimize your website experience is a smart investment.
4. Communicate Regularly with Email
To stay relevant, it’s recommended you keep in touch with prospects through regular emails. Fortunately, you can utilize some great email marketing programs to automate the emails you send out. Additionally, by collecting email addresses from interested prospects, you have a solid way to communicate with your pool of potential students in addition to engaging with them on social media.
When someone opts in to receive emails from your school, they are giving you permission to send them communications, so take advantage of this opportunity. Instead of always being on the lookout for new prospects, woo the prospects who have already shown interest. It takes multiple touchpoints to take a person from prospect to student, so the more you reach out, the better your chances are. There are some things you can do to optimize your email marketing strategy:
- Be personal. Take the information you have from your opt-in database and use it to personalize emails with your prospective students’ names.
- Send them an email relevant to their interests. If you are sending an email about your health care programs, don’t send it to prospects interested in early childhood education.
- Be consistent, but not overwhelming. Reaching out once a week is usually a good strategy. More often than that and you will be nothing but inbox clutter.
- Bring value with the messages you send. If all you ever send are ads and pressure to enroll, you’ll quickly find yourself in the auto-delete pile. Share blog posts, videos, interesting news articles, photos from job fairs, and other information your target audience will find interesting. Prospective trade school students want to hear about what they can do with their degrees and their potential earnings, so focus your content on what they are looking for.
5. Create Videos to Share on Social Media Platforms
Your target audience will likely prefer to watch videos to learn more about anything, and if you are not yet creating videos, it is time to start. While blogging is still a key piece of any marketing strategy, people are more likely to watch a short video than they are to finish reading a blog post early in their buyer’s journey.
Optinmonster did the research and found that those who use video in their marketing strategy get an average of 66% more qualified leads every year. These are your potential students, and the more you show up on their Facebook video feed, Instagram reels, and other social media, the more they will remember your name. These videos don’t need to be long or elaborate. Most of your target audience is watching videos on their smartphones. Wordstream suggests that the best length for a video ad is 6-10 seconds, and a 60 second video sharing something interesting about your school can make a big impact. Videos shouldn’t necessarily replace your written content, but it can greatly enhance what you are already putting out there.
Wordstream also shared this little stat-nugget: businesses who use video grow revenue 49% faster than businesses who don’t. As digital marketing continues to evolve, many of the current trends are favoring video. People watch an average of 16 hours of online videos per week.
In higher education, 86% of universities have a presence on YouTube. There is no reason why trade schools shouldn’t be video marketing as well. Through video, you can show off your school’s personality, allowing viewers to connect with you and have a clear vision of what it would be like to attend. Engaging with your ideal prospects will be well worth the effort.
Some ideas for video content include:
- Campus Tour – Let your target audience see what you have to offer.
- How to Enroll – Show, don’t tell. Your potential students will respond well to seeing the process in action.
- Alumni Interviews – It’s the ultimate before and after. These “customer testimonials” allow your graduates to share how your trade school changed their life.
It’s true. Schools need to put creative efforts into their marketing strategy if they want to continuously increase enrollment numbers. You may have a great school with exceptional programs and an incredible faculty, but prospective students aren’t going to seek YOU out if other schools are seeking THEM out.
You have to put yourself in the mix and be clear about what sets your school apart, what value you bring to the table, and basically spell out why they will succeed if they choose you. Don’t tell them, show them through an original, well-executed marketing strategy tailored to your ideal student.
These proven tips should inspire you to focus a little more on how you are marketing your school, and give you plenty of ideas you can do to increase your enrollment numbers. However, partnering with a digital marketing agency with experience in creating and managing successful marketing campaigns for schools like yours will push you further and faster than you have time to do yourself. Let us help. Contact Neon Goldfish to set up a call to discuss how we can help you strengthen your marketing strategy and increase your enrollment numbers.