What We Learned Through Digital Marketing for a Private College Prep School That Will Work for Your Industry

+ What We Learned Through Digital Marketing for a Private College Prep School That Will Work for Your Industry


Writer: Scott Cassidy

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As a digital marketing agency, it’s important for us to build upon our experience, rather than reinvent the wheel with every new campaign.

At Pastilla, we apply proven methods as a baseline across a variety of industry verticals. These proven methods make way for exploration and experimentation for big ideas to take a campaign to the next level.

Our client, Frederick K.C. Price III Schools, a private K-12 college preparatory school located in Los Angeles, has been with us for just over two years. While the school has an impressive 30-year track record with a 100% graduation and 100% college acceptance rate, Price’s enrollment rate was minimal. The school tested a handful of traditional marketing efforts with few results.

As Price sought to remain open, Pastilla stepped in with a series of Digital Marketing efforts to help give them a fighting chance. With so much on the line, this high-pressure campaign left very little time to test and optimize ads. Our digital ads, alongside a powerful brand film created by our production partner, Fe Brand Films, led to a total rebound for Price. The school received a significant donation allowing them to press forward. Today, Price is hiring additional staff to manage the surplus of students enrolling into the school.

The successful outcome came as a result of a dedicated team working alongside the school’s administration for months to determine the ideal messaging, target audience, and best approach to reach the school’s demographic. Along with social media marketing, our work also involved strong performances from graphic design, web development, and video production.

With this process, many businesses can learn to adapt our learnings to their respective clients and industries. Here are our best tips to bring about high level digital marketing campaigns with stellar results:

Start With What You Know

In the case of Price Schools, we initially didn’t know a lot. We understood the schools values, their enrollment numbers, and we knew the message that we needed to tell – their 100% graduation rate and 100% college acceptance rate. But, what we didn’t know could fill a room; No existing data, no history of digital marketing, no audience insights, no leads gained from their website, and we didn’t know their full enrollment process.

So what is a digital marketing agency to do when there is no previous data to work from? We built it. Our sister company, Fe Brand Films shot a promotional film to tell the school’s story and message, which we could then use in a social media campaign, building a simple landing page on their existing site and running a live campaign on Facebook to gain audience insights, optimizing for new student leads.

This is the same method we’d recommend to any company just getting started in digital marketing. You can’t entrust your company’s success to assumptions. You also can’t entrust your business to blanket marketing advice you’d find on message boards. You need to trial run your campaign for your service or product with an aim to understand your competitive landscape, know where your audience is, and even what creatively resonates with them. Even knowing which simple calls-to-action work best with your audience is greatly important, whether it’s “apply today,” or “contact us.” Only you can know what’s best for your exact audience, and the best way to confirm what you know is by gathering data.

If You Want Your Marketing To Work, Your Sales Funnel Needs To Work

Once the new student leads started rolling in through the website, we found that only about 1 in 10 of those students would convert to an enrolled student. Not having worked so closely with a school prior, we didn’t know off-hand if that was good or bad, but the stat got us thinking. How many schools are these parents actually interviewing with? Are they all interviewing with 10 schools and only giving us a 10% chance? Especially with Price’s competitive fees, it certainly seemed a bit dramatic. We asked a few parents what they thought, and discovered that they might only talk to 3 or 4 schools before selecting their favorite. So where were we losing?

Price does need to qualify the leads brought in, so it’s a combination of pieces that lead to a final enrollment. But from our perspective, we aimed to minimize the number of drop-offs from parents during the enrollment process. After all, if multiple families bow out before they enroll, then none of our ads matter and the school suffers anyway. So we dug into the school’s enrollment process and found opportunities to help simplify the process even further.

Our solution? Calendly. (We have not been paid by Calendly to say this.) Calendly is a web app for scheduling appointments. You may have used similar tools to schedule a haircut, a dinner reservation, or a doctor’s visit. For us, Calendly has done 2 things; It eliminated the back and forth between the school and interested parent, and it also further qualified the lead as being serious enough to schedule a visit right then and there.

In marketing any business, it’s important to think holistically and ask, “If I’m not pulling in the new business that I should, how can I think differently?” You might be seeing that your website is getting 10 times as much traffic, but no new leads. Or maybe your ad has been seen 100,000 times but only clicked on a few dozen times. Or maybe new leads are coming in, but it’s difficult to retain them long enough to actually do anything with them. Whatever the case might be, if you really want your marketing to work, your entire sales funnel – starting from ads – needs to work. Regularly assessment and amendment of your funnel as part of your optimization plan is certainly recommended.

Try Something New

Here comes the fun part. Something we’ve omitted until now in this article is that we created an awesome music video using the raw talents of the students at Price.

We pitched this idea to Price as part of a “Marketing Blitz” requested by the school. We were able to use the video as marketing creative on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube.

The idea was big and to say the least; It worked! The students and their families were excited to share it with their social communities, and our digital campaign kicked into high gear. This was truly a turning point in our ad campaigns and has played a huge role in not only new students seeking out the school, but it has given more pride and energy to the current students and families supporting Price.

Do we recommend that every business should make a music video? Definitely not. We’ve seen some before and they are… not great. Just because one tactic works for one business, that does not mean that it would work for every business. We utilized the school’s most valuable asset – a competitive performing arts program – and let them show us why Price Schools is an exciting place to get an education.

If and when you talk to us about your marketing needs, you’ll hear from us over and over about the importance of data in marketing. Data is scalable knowledge. If we know that we can put $500 into Facebook and get 10 leads, then we expect that we can put $5000 in and get 100 leads. But once you have your baseline, and when the opportunity presents itself, GET CREATIVE. Where can you shine a little brighter than your competitors? Maybe your company has a mascot that can do TikTok dances. If you’re a lawyer, you can start a podcast to review local court filings. Maybe you run a car body repair shop, so you run a highly-publicized day of free gas.

Meeting baseline expectations might be fine in some cases, but chances are you want to see accelerated growth in your business and start making significant ROI sooner than later. In the case of Price Schools, there was always an expiration date hiding in the shadows if we didn’t make calculated improvements and calculated risks at the right time.

Go forth with this knowledge and thrive! Or contact Pastilla and let us do it for you.