Digital marketing is an indispensable asset for enrollment growth in today’s world. And with the need for enrollment boosters growing each year, every private school should take a closer look at their digital marketing strategy to make sure they’re getting the most out of it.

Digital marketing covers everything from search engine optimization (SEO) to social media marketing (SMM) and search engine marketing (SEM). It can help more families find your school online, plus it can help you establish a stronger online presence and build an instantly recognizable school brand.

We sat down with Trevor Waddington, founder of Truth Tree Consulting, to get his tips and advice to help you make a big impact with your digital marketing strategy.

Here are some of his top digital marketing tips for your private or independent school.

Meet Trevor Waddington of Truth Tree Consulting

Trevor has worked as a social studies teacher, a coach, and was part of an admissions and marketing team. He started Truth Tree Consulting five years ago, when he was still working boots on the ground in schools. Truth Tree works with independent schools on enrollment management market research. They excel in digital marketing and, more specifically, helping schools master search engine optimization (SEO), search engine marketing (SEM), and social media marketing (SMM). 

5 Transformative Private School Digital Marketing Tips

We sat down with Trevor to get his perspective on how independent schools can best leverage the power of digital marketing. Here are our top five takeaways:

  1. Digital marketing is making its way to the forefront of enrollment strategies, but one size doesn’t fit all. Be sure you’re measuring the ROI of your efforts to justify the investment.
  2. To be successful in digital marketing, you need an established website, brand, and value proposition. You’re unlikely to find results from digital if you skip past these foundational pieces.
  3. Schools at different stages should focus on different aspects of digital marketing, but even schools with a small budget can dip their toes in digital marketing in a way that will have an impact. 
  4. Social media can help build brand awareness, but may not be the most effective way to market your school if you’re looking for more enrollments.
  5. Along the same lines as number four, start with the end goal in mind before deciding how and where to invest your digital marketing dollars. 

Dig Into the Details of Private School Digital Marketing

Q: Digital marketing seems to be a big discussion point for so many private school marketing and enrollment teams. Are you seeing the more schools allocate portions of their budget for digital marketing?

Trevor: Digital marketing is making its way to the forefront of enrollment strategies, but it has to be justified by your ROI. We can’t lean on many of our traditional channels anymore. More and more schools are making the switch to digital and pushing budget that way versus towards print or direct mail. 

You can track pretty much everything when it comes to digital marketing and really be able to substantiate your ROI and decide if it’s worth it in a data-driven way. We talk to schools all the time about ROI and ask things like “What are your KPIs?” and “Is digital marketing a good ROI for your school?” We’re always asking not just about the quantity of clicks and inquiries, but also the quality of them as well. Without the quality they’re not going to enroll in the school or give you tuition dollars thereby justifying your digital marketing. 

digital marketing data

Q: When should private schools invest in digital marketing? What shows you a school is ready to put money and budget towards it? 

Trevor: To be successful in digital marketing, you need an established website, brand, and value proposition. We’ve turned down clients because when they come to us and say “Hey, we want to do digital marketing,” but the voice, the website, and the value proposition aren’t yet established. In that case, it is much more difficult for a school to get the results they want. If we see that there are gaps like that, we recommend the school first find someone to help them nail their brand. From there, digital marketing can be a megaphone or microphone for the brand that’s already in place.

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Q: If a school has a small budget but wants to dip their toes in the water of digital marketing, where should they start? 

Trevor: For a school that’s not in dire need of enrollment growth, I would say SEO is the best place to start because how you rank organically is either consciously or subconsciously how people rank the school. For example, If I find you on page two of my Google search for schools, I might think you were a better school then the one on page three. Investing time in SEO can help you move up in the search rankings and improve the appearance of your school over time.

If you are in dire need of increasing enrollment or have a small budget, I would recommend SEO and SEM as your number one and two. Let’s say you need five new students in the next month, people don’t go to Facebook or Instagram looking for or hoping that there’s a school ad. They go to Google. They type in “private school”, or “private school near me.” And they’re not going to go beyond page one or maybe page two. If you want to be found and you want immediate phone calls and emails and form fills, you need to focus on search engine marketing one hundred percent. 

digital marketing for schools

Q: What are the benefits of focusing on social media marketing and when should a school use it? 

Trevor: Social media can help build brand awareness, but it may not be the most effective way to market your school if you’re looking for more enrollments. Social media is a great way to build your brand in front of parents that may be looking in a year or two for your school. It can help put you on the radar. But while a platform like Facebook is great for brand awareness, people don’t go to Facebook looking for private schools. 

If you want to use Facebook and Instagram to get the word out about your school you should start with a targeted audience and promote specific parts of your program or school. For example, you may want to promote your dual immersion language or the sailing program.  Someone out there is interested in those topics. It’s a matter of finding what’s going to appeal to certain people over time, but you won’t often get immediate action out of social media. 

Q: How can schools make a big impact with digital marketing? 

Trevor: Always start with the end goal in mind. Our mantra is “we help schools design their enrollment”. We ask schools, “if you close your eyes, what does your ultimate enrollment look like? What do the students in the classroom look like? What are they doing? How are they operating?” 

That’s pie in the sky to some degree. You may not be able to say exactly how many girls or boys you want, or what exact percent of diversity you’re shooting for, but you can establish key roles or people that may be missing- like a lead violinist for the school orchestra. Once you know that, you can put out an ad that appeals to a family that has somebody to fill that spot in your orchestra. You can accomplish a lot more than just filling seats with mission appropriate students if you can take digital marketing to that next level.

Q: Thanks so much for taking the time to connect with us. Where can schools go to find out more about Truth Tree Consulting and connect with you? 

Trevor: You can find us at We’re also on Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn. We’re here and we’d love to work with schools that are looking for help with their digital marketing. 

Thanks so much to Trevor and Truth Tree for taking the time to share his insights on digital marketing with us. If you want to learn more about marketing your school, check out chapter five in our Admission Refresh Ebook.

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