Education marketers find there's no 
longer any room for an off-season

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Childtime Learning Centers targets moms with direct mail and social media
Childtime Learning Centers targets moms with direct mail and social media

Educational institutions have moved beyond sending prospective students and their parents only a periodic letter affixed with the school seal to promote their programs. Education industry marketers are communicating frequently with both parents and students to acquire and retain customers, and they're using a mix of traditional, 
e-mail and social media to do so. 


Schools, including learning centers for children, are combining direct mail and electronic methods to engage consumers in addition to the enrollment period and keep parents up to date about their child's progress. Stacy 
DeWalt, CMO at Learning Care Group, says her brand strives to provide a "360-degree view" of the company to parents. 


"We've used direct marketing for both 
acquisition and throughout the lifecycle to keep parents excited and to let them see the development of the children, and we've used personalized marketing to show that growth and keep mom close throughout the relationship," she says. "The educational needs of families have changed, and the socioeconomic needs of families have changed, so finding the right channel to communicate with mom, given the way her media consumption has changed, has made direct marketing a greater part of our acquisition strategy over 
the past two years."


The company, which operates Tutor Time, Montessori Unlimited and Childtime Learning Centers, has enhanced its direct marketing strategy by communicating with consumers much more frequently than in the past. It abandoned what was a largely seasonal approach to reach prospective customers partially because parents have more educational choices now than in the past and because they are better informed, DeWalt adds. 


Social sites reap sales leads

To acquire sales leads and to promote its library management platform, Follett Software has sponsored numerous webcasts on edWeb.net, a free social networking site for educators, as well as planned its own librarian-specific social network. Click to read the case study.

"Years ago, a new school would open, there would be buzz, and the school would be filled. There are more choices for moms today, and they do more research," she says. "We started using the philosophy that seasonal marketing would not be enough. We moved to approaching moms wherever they are in the decision cycle, and marketing for the full year." 


Education marketers are also finding that analytics and consumer research are essential as they target consumers on an ongoing basis. The interactions that a parent has with a school influence the decision-making 
process on whether to enroll a child, or 
move him or her to another institution, 
notes Kara Quinn, marketing account director at Vertis Communications, which works with Learning Care Group.


"A major differentiator from the past is being able to track and target the decision making process throughout the buying 
cycle," she says. "The household, usually the mother, decides differently about education. There is much more of a relationship with a brand and that brand experience." 


Quinn adds that consumers also expect educational institutions to personalize their communications more than other companies. "In retail, maybe you can target an area's 
residents and cover a strategic area," she says. "For child care, when you deploy direct 
mail, it can't feel mass. It has to feel customized and local, so the mom says, 'Oh, that's less than a mile from me.'" 


Higher education institutions, which target the customers themselves as much as parents, are communicating with prospective students through more individualized messages. St. Edward's University launched a website 
segmented for individual groups, such as current students, alumni and prospects, and began sending high school students customized e-mail messages, says Paige Booth, VP of marketing and enrollment management at 
St. Edward's University.


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