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Four clever online marketing tips for schools


Samantha Razook Murphy, founder of the all-girls summer and after-school program Curious Jane, shares four important online marketing strategies from a Google workshop

online-marketing
One takeaway from the marketing workshop was how important it is to have compelling video content on your website. (OlegDoroshin / Shutterstock.com)

When I founded Curious Jane, a Brooklyn-based after-school and summer camp program for young girls, my goal was to empower girls to be more active in learning and problem solving—to experiment with science, design, engineering, and, above all, to have fun!

But as our programs grew and we looked for other ways to expand our reach beyond already-loyal families, we realized the need to broaden our approach to getting the word out about our mission.

We get excellent word of mouth, and girls have a great time when they join us—but we also want to find creative, new ways to reach families with an interest in the kind of programs we run.

Earlier this year, we were thrilled to be one of 12 small businesses selected to receive a grant from Chase through its Mission Main Street Grant program, which is also sponsored by Google. As part of the award, we got some priceless insight into how to succeed online in a marketing workshop held at Google’s Mountain View, Calif., headquarters.

From our trip, we walked away with a few online marketing tips that we found extremely helpful—and these tips can benefit schools and other education programs looking to reach their audience in new ways as well.

(Next page: Four useful online marketing tips)

Experiment with video

One takeaway from the marketing workshop was how important it is to have compelling video content on your website. Just as our kids are fascinated by visuals, grownups and web users are also enticed with information presented through video.

Think about ways to capture visually the feeling your students get when they’re learning something new and exciting, or interacting with instructors, or socializing with one other. All of these are important images that come to mind when we think about high-quality education programs, and educators should imagine ways to bring these visuals to life to showcase their programs online.

Adding compelling video content to your website not only helps parents better understand your mission; it also helps people find your programs online more easily. Adding relevant tags, labels, or descriptions to the videos gives you more searchable content and lets you further promote your programs through social media.

Moving forward, using a portion of the grant money we received, we will be focusing on creating some fun, “sticky,” how-to videos of the girls making some of the design projects from our roster of classes (Gadgets + Gears, DIY Your Room, Wired 101, etc.).

Consider remarketing

Another important takeaway from our Google experience was the concept of remarketing. This is a technique in which you reach out to audiences who have expressed interest in your programs through prior website visits, and it requires having good insight into your website audiences.

Educators should explore free website analytics tools (such as Google Analytics) that can help identify who is visiting your website and who is searching for your programs online—and then consider ways to follow up with these folks directly.

Give online advertising a go

During the workshop, we learned more about Google AdWords and how to use this tool, which is a cost-effective way to display ads that appear alongside search results.

Through Google AdWords, we’re able to create ads for our specific audience of parents. And because there is no minimum budget amount, we can spend as much or as little as we want on campaigns. You pay for these ads only if people click on them and visit your website, and you can target web searchers by a specific geographic region as well.

In the past, we tried modest campaigns with little understanding of the tool. Now that we have more knowledge about the platform, we’re going to give it a go again, knowing that Google has support mechanisms to guide us through the process, and we think we’ll get positive results.

We’ll be able to really target our programs to the parents most interested in finding creative, unusual learning and academic opportunities for their children. Our focus—through camps, after-school programs, and workshops—is on girls and design. Marketing tools like Google AdWords can help us get that message out online, beyond our website.

Dive in, give it a try!

Video content, remarketing, and Google AdWords—all of these are worth exploring. And a full-on, super-expensive, grand plan isn’t required; we plan to explore and sample what works for us and would encourage other educators to do the same.

We’re all united in the same ideas: we share a passion for learning and creating great experiences for young people, and know the importance of experimenting with marketing techniques and reaching our audience in new ways.

Samantha Razook Murphy is the founder of Curious Jane.

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