Should I Try to Match My Competition’s Advertising (for Private Schools)?
In addition to guest posting on the UpCity blog, Nick Laiuppa Marketing is featured as one of the Top Digital Marketing Agencies in the United States. Check out their profile!
Where do you draw the line between inspiration and copying? How do you take what you see other schools doing and make it your own? It’s a question that school marketers everywhere wrestle with every single day.
In the ever-so-busy world of private school marketing, it can be easy and tempting to simply do what the other schools are doing or use a template. But, I believe nothing is more dangerous to a school’s enrollment strategy than doing just that. In this post, I’ll unearth why copying your direct competitors (or indirect competitors) is so dangerous and the alternative routes you can take to improve your ad campaigns, build brand awareness, and increase enrollment.
Why Do School Marketers Match Their Competitors’ Advertising?
School marketers wear a bunch of hats. From photographers to social media managers and graphic designers, the list goes on and on. It’s only natural that something has to give. In a lot of cases what gives is the creative part of the job. Stretched too thin, as they often are, school marketers default to looking to what other providers are doing for ideas. Sometimes, however, those ideas end up becoming directly copied and all the schools wind up with the same watered-down digital marketing strategy, selling points, and landing page designs. You all offer a similar product, so figuring out how you can stand out is key, not copying what someone else is doing.
The Dirty Secret of Copying Your Competition
Here’s the truth, no one knows what they are doing (unless they continuously test).
Here’s the other dirty secret, no one continuously tests.
Marketers think that the big schools have it all figured out. So, they look to the big schools for the “right” way to do their marketing. Small businesses, medium businesses, and enterprise-level corporations all do the same thing. Everyone is looking to the person or business above them to see how to do things the right way. Well, unless that business (or school) is always running A/B testing, they don’t know what the right way is. What I’m saying is the benchmark for success could be much higher.
Marketing is too often done based on feeling rather than research. The evidence is everywhere. Websites are designed to look good, not to get potential customers to convert. If you think I’m kidding then ask your web designer how much experience they have in marketing and why they laid out your site the way that they did. Don’t worry, it’s likely your competitor’s website falls victim to the same issues.
Looking to other schools for “the right way” to do marketing is not the formula for a competitive advantage. Often, it’s the formula for going in the wrong direction. If you want to gain market share the best thing that you can do is to work with someone that understands marketing to develop and test customized campaigns for your school.
What To Do Instead of Matching Your Competition’s Marketing
Matching the next school’s marketing will just make you a less good version of them. The way to go about marketing your school is to find what makes you unique and drill that home. That is how you’ll get the attention of your target audience and turn them from prospects into students. Here are a few tips to give you a competitive advantage over the next school:
- Use competitor analysis to figure out how you can stand out in the industry. Differentiation is key.
- Create a value proposition and an unbeatable offer or guarantee
- Share proof that you are who you say you are and you do what you say you do
- Always run tests and use the metrics to adjust your marketing
- Use content marketing and social media (give LinkedIn a try!) to present your school as an expert
- Take a stand against an issue
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I get it. The role of marketing in private schools is a loaded one. It’s hard enough to manage your schedule without having to formulate and implement custom marketing tactics; however, matching your competitor’s marketing is doing your school no favors.
Your school will never be better at what they do than they are. So, do a quick SWOT analysis to figure out what makes your school what it is and promote that to your potential customers. Likely you’ll need to use tools like pay-per-click (PPC), search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, content marketing, Google Ads, and social media to achieve the most success with your school marketing campaigns, but, don’t get overwhelmed.
Start by doing a competitive analysis not to find out what to do, but to find out what not to do. Once you understand the holes in the market and the weaknesses in your competitor’s offer, you can form your value proposition and promote it through these different platforms. By doing so, you’ll plant a flag in the ground. You’ll become the big fish in the little pond because you’re the only one that is an expert in ______ or the only school that believes _______. Your prospects will know why you’re the right choice for them and it will make gaining new enrollees much more simple and more effective. Good luck on your marketing journey!