Database Marketing for Christian Schools and Colleges
If you haven’t been maintaining and using a database to keep track of past and current students and their families, you may want to consider it.
Believe it or not, keeping a detailed database is an indispensable marketing tool that will put you light years ahead of any competition your school faces in the market place.
If you use a database properly, you can keep in touch with current families and past, while categorizing them in an order that is helps you keep track of their interests, geographic location, age, dates they attended your school, etc.
A good database can also help you keep track of any responses that you may have had concerning advertisements your school has run.
The main thing you have to keep in mind about using your database as a marketing tool, is that you are not simply looking at students and families as simply names and numbers, but as individuals that either attended your school or showed interest in it.
A Real World Example of Using Database Marketing
Let’s take a step back and think about this method for a second. Most private Christian schools and colleges have sports programs. Each year, your school hosts a sports banquet which is a pretty big affair.
The banquet is a fund raising event that helps to bring in funds for supporting your school’s sports teams. Let’s assume, for this example, that you’ve been diligently creating and maintaining a database for several years now.
Since you’ve been keeping detailed records on families and your students, you know which students were involved in sports programs in the past and if their parents were involved coaching, performing fund raising activities, etc.
Rather than just contacting student’s families that are currently coming to your school, you could use the database to send an invitation to alumni that were on sports teams when they attended your school.
Many of those alumni are now very successful individuals that not only wouldn’t mind paying to come to your event, but also would like to donate or contribute something more to the school.
Can you see how powerful this tool can be when you use it properly?
Finding Good Software Is the Start
If your school’s budget is very thin, you can start super cheap by using Microsoft Excel to create a database. Or you can simply use Microsoft Word even if you just want to keep a listing of current and past students.
Outside of those two cheap methods, I would recommend purchasing software from any one of the many professional companies that specializes in selling school database management software.
I would also advise that you ask any of the dealers of this type of software if they have a free trial of their product, so that you or your staff may be able to try it before you buy it.
It would probably be smart to try at least five to ten database packages before making a final decision to purchase one. You’ll want to see which system fits your budget and you’ll also want to see which piece of software is easiest for administrative staff to learn and use.
So, make sure you pick the best software you can at the onset, so that you can easily use it to keep track and stay in place with your key players.
Building and Maintenance of Your Database is Critical
Once you have a program that works for your school, make sure you use it. It’s very easy to get lazy and blow off putting in critical information that will help your school and reach out to people that are involved with it.
Here’s a few ideas of what types of data would will help your school:
- The Basics – Of course you’ll have the street addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, (email is still a cheap and super effective way of marketing any business) years attended or attending, etc.
- Activities – I’ve already touched on how this can help you, but think of all of the activities your school has and how you can easily keep track of students and former students that are involved in different activities. That way, if you have any events based on a particular activity, it’ll be a snap to contact people interested in that particular event at your school.
- Grades, Awards and Honors – if you maintain this information and then let students and former students know you remember them, it has a massive impact! If a student was a valedictorian or a salutatorian, and they still get mail, email or other messages from your school letting them know that you remember their achievements, it will leave an impression on them that they’ll never forget.
- Families and Extended Families – This is very important information for you to keep. If you’ve been working at a private school or college, you know that former students will refer your school to their relatives. As a matter of fact, think about how many former students have attended your institution, and if they have any of their kids, nieces, nephews, or cousins going to your school. It’s no accident that they have. So, keeping in touch with these extended members is very important to your school’s overall database plan.
I’m sure you could think about other things that your school can do with information of this type, and it would probably be a good idea to sit down and brainstorm ideas with your staff on this subject at least once a year.
You’ve got to take the Long View
This is a good time to make a distinction between selling a product and selling a service. McDonalds sells products, Walmart sells products, but a private Christian school is selling a service.
Services are harder to sell that most products, because education, even though it’s real and important, is an intangible product that you can’t hold in your hands. (Unless you consider your printed diploma or degree the product.)
Usually, the process of selling an education is a more complicated affair than selling a simple product. However, once the education is sold and the student is now enrolled in your school, he or she is a part of your school family. It is very easy to make them feel as though they are a part of something.
(I recently wrote a 45 page report on this subject, and how you can use social media to create raving fans that will evangelize your school and promote it for free. You can get it by going to my site: www.elmocopy.com)
The big reason why your school should be using a database to market your school is because marketing for the long term is so much more important to a service that’s selling an intangible product.
Selling the services of any educational institution requires vigilant and consistent marketing that needs to be done day after day, month after month, year after year.
The kids you’re teaching today will either leave your school, or graduate from it, and the impression you leave on them will stay with them for the long term. How much bigger it will be if you stay in touch with them and let them know you remember them?
The Big Marketing Lesson You Must Never, Ever Forget: The easiest people to sell your services to are people that have already used your services!
If former students loved your school, and you’ve been using a database to keep track of these individuals and contact them, THEY WILL MORE THAN LIKELY SEND MORE BUSINESS YOUR WAY!
Another Real World Example of How You Can Use a Database
If you’re a college and have had graduates leave your school or graduate, you can easily keep track of former students and what their primary course work consisted of.
If your college developed a new graduate course on computer forensics, for example, then you could send an announcement out to everyone that took computer courses from your school.
You could then send an email announcement out that would talk extensively about the course and how it would benefit those former students. Not only that, but these students would probably be pretty excited if you college was hosting a computer fair, seminar, or other event.
Using a Database Can Save You Big Marketing Dollars
One of the great marketing benefits of using a database to market your Christian school, is that it can save you marketing dollars. If you have parents and students that come to your school, or even call it, a smart practice would be to collect as much contact information from them.
Once you’ve placed those names, addresses, phone numbers and email addresses into your database, you’ll have an exact list to send your marketing message to, rather than waste a lot of money arbitrarily marketing to a group of people that may not care about private schools.
Not only that, but you can contact these individuals over and over again in using various methods mentioned above, so that they will come to recognize and become familiar with your school and what it can do for them.
What Your Database Can Reveal About Your Prospects
Once you’ve got your database together, you can use it to see what demographics and similarities there are between the families and prospects you’ve collected. You can easily see what correlations there in:
- Similarities there are with families that have stayed with your school for a long time. This information will tell you what benefits you should focus on in your marketing materials.
- Areas of interest are your parents and students are focused on the most. Is it technology? Sports programs? This will help you know how to address
- What you should spend money on in improving your school. If there is a large interest in a drama department, you should make improvements there that are very beneficial to your school.
- Errors and deficiencies your school may be making. If you keep track of why students have left your school in the past, it may reveal deficiencies that you didn’t know existed. If you have lost a large group of students over the last few years, keeping track of these reasons in student records would be a big help.
- Survey information. If your school can give a survey once a year, you could also keep that in a database which would reveal a load of valuable information about your school. This material could be used to help you identify the benefits you need to create effective ads and websites that address the needs of potential students and their families.
It’s All About the Relationship
You want to create relationships. You aren’t trying to create ads and marketing pieces you’ll only use one time. The average person sees about 30,000 to 40,000 ads a year, and will need to see your school’s name at least 5 or 6 times before it starts to register in their brains.
The best way to beat these odds is to create long term relationships with families that are in your target market. You should keep in mind as you use a database to market your school, is that it can help you create a long-term relationship with your students, families, and prospective students.
The more they hear from you, the more they’ll like, know, and relate to you. And the more they like, know and relate to you, the more they’ll respond to your marketing efforts.
As a matter of fact, they will become raving fans of what you have to offer and help you promote your school for free.
Here’s another great example of how to use your database creatively to keep and build relationships. You’ve built your database, and in it you have all of your student’s and former student’s birthdays and other important dates in it.
Wouldn’t it be great to send these students (even if they’ve graduated or moved on) a birthday card or an email wishing them the best on their birthday? Who does that? If you don’t think this sort of thing sticks in a person’s mind, guess again. Techniques like this are very effective.
The cool thing is, big companies can’t use these types of tactics because they’d go broke. You have a much better opportunity to connect with your audience than big companies, and you need to do this if you want to create long term relationships.
Action Steps to Database Marketing
Hopefully, by now, you see a reason to invest a little time, money and effort in using a database to market your Christian school.
Here is a list of things you can do to get the ball rolling:
- Go online and search for school database software. Make sure you look at more than just one or two packages before making a decision to buy. Also, see if you can get a trial package to test the software first.
- Once you buy and install the software, get your key personnel up to speed on how to use it, and input all of the current data into the software.
- Make sure you keep track of what students were involved in, and what they accomplished at your school when they attended. Remember, students that graduate or have to leave your school can still be evangelists and raving fans of your school. They have friends, relatives, and eventually, kids of their own that may go to your school.
- Once you have a system in place, take a look at the demographics and make up of your students and former students and their families. See if you can spot correlations and similarities than you can use in your marketing.
- Conduct surveys and keep the results in a separate database. This will be vital to knowing what key benefits your school will need to present in all of your marketing materials.
- Use the information in your database as often as you can. Sit down and brainstorm all of the different ways you can use it and take action!
I’m sure that you can think of different ways you can use this software to market your school. If you have any ideas you’d like to share with us, please feel free to do so in the comment section.
If your school is considering running ads, using email marketing, direct mail or any other form of marketing communication, and would like some solid advice, please feel free to contact me.
I’d love to discuss with you how to use the power of words to quickly grab the attention of your prospects and get them to read your marketing message seamlessly.
To Your School’s Continued Success!
Mark “Elmo” Ellis www.elmocopy.com elmo033057(at symbol)gmail.com (859) 797-9560