12 Ways to Market Your Online Program
Recently I was given the opportunity to join other school administrators and marketing specialists in a discussion about marketing best practices related to online programs. Here are some of the ideas I shared, many of which could be tweaked to fit your situation perfectly.
A lot goes into marketing strategy when you have an audience as large and diverse as your Christian school does. You need to reach your administrators, teachers, staff, school board members, parents, and students, not to mention the world outside your school doors. If you have an online program or plan to start one, gleaning some ideas about great marketing strategy will be worth its weight in gold.
Promotion Strategies and Marketing Mediums
- Blog – We have launched this blog to educate folks about online learning and other digital learning options. Your school could highlight new courses and the staff who lead your online learning program, it could include features about students’ experiences in online courses, and some posts could explain the benefits of online learning. There are so many other great updates for your target audience.
- Course Catalog – We choose to include this on our website and link to it in our digital newsletter and other communications. That way, as new courses are added and old ones are dropped, we don’t have to throw away unused course catalog publications. Plus, most teachers, parents, and students want it in a format they can access on mobile devices.
- Email (direct to families) – We use Mail Chimp to do a number of email blasts to our member schools’ staff and administrators throughout the entire year. Keeping your message short and clear makes this medium a great option for schools since most parents check email multiple times a day and can keep the information in a place they can reference later. This is often better than snail mail that gets shuffled around on the kitchen counter before being tossed days later.
- Guidance Counselors – Asking your guidance staff members to stay up-to-date on what online programs you have available will keep your school opportunities from getting stale. Your students have diverse interests and complicated scheduling needs. Online courses are often the answer. Counselors need to be the source of information on online learning because it’s likely that no one else is spending as much time focused on class schedules.
- Informational Webinars – At the start of our program, we offered monthly digital learning webinars for our schools (they were welcome to invite board members, parents, and staff to join) focused on “introductions to online learning for your school” types of themes, and have now branched into more topics in addition to online learning. These are VERY easy for folks to attend or tune in to later at their convenience.
- Newsletter – We email a monthly newsletter to our schools with updates about our program, courses, pricing, and learning opportunities like upcoming webinars and live events. Often these tidbits link back to our online program website.
- Parent Meetings – We have offered schools virtual parent meetings when they begin to get serious about offering online courses at their school. We do this via webinars where we walk through “What your student will experience” and “Why take an online course?” kinds of information. Your school could easily host virtual meetings as well (we use GoToMeeting and Google Hangouts) or host some in person to educate parents about what online programing you have available and why it is a great option for the student.
- Social Media (Facebook, Twitter, etc…) – We do have Facebook and Twitter, but as an organization seeking to connect with schools, they are definitely not our main source of communication. When marketing for a preK-12 school, I used social media as a VERY powerful communication tool to parents and students… but growing the followings in those areas takes time. It’s really worth the effort once an initial group has connected. It gives you one more platform to share information your parents and students ought to know!
- Website – We have CSIonlineAcademy.com dedicated to driving folks to the most updated information about our online course programs. Having a dedicated website or webpage on your main site is really important for marketing to your current and potential families.
- Promotions and Incentives – When our program was first launching, we offered bulk enrollment incentives and referral bonus incentives to attract new students. These were great to help us get rolling.
- Staff and Faculty Training – Educating schools’ staff and faculty about what’s available and why they should also promote the opportunities to students really helped our program grow. We offered professional development one-on-one and in school groups to educate folks.
- Meetings with Admissions Staff – We taught admissions staff how to sell online courses as a great addition to traditional programming being offered at their school and helped some schools understand the money-making opportunity for the school if they offered online courses to home school students.
A bit of advice: Try a couple of these marketing suggestions first and then expand your reach. It’s always best to get good quality messaging out there to targeted audiences rather than utilizing the “spray and pray” method of blasting all sorts of messages. Talk through your plan with someone who has marketed online learning. He or she will probably have some great tips and ideas for things that shouldn’t be repeated; this one conversation may save you lots of time and money.
Do you have other tips you could share? What marketing methods have you used successfully? Let us know! We welcome your input.