The Firemen Called
Years ago Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston (Schechter) received a request from the local Fireman’s Fund to place advertising in their annual ad book. No one likes to turn down local safety services, but was this the right use of their limited marketing funds?
At the time the school had considered ads on a case by case basis. Each marketing opportunity rekindled internal discussions on how to market the school. Further conversation with school officials indicated that some felt their existing tagline failed to resonate with its community and to differentiate the school from others.
Should they run the ad?
Beyond Fighting Fires
With the school’s approval, I widened the assignment scope to developing guidelines on which marketing vehicles to use and when. I interviewed school administrators, teachers, and parents to understand what they loved about the school, what had attracted them and what they believed the school was trying to achieve. Using the insights from these interviews, I:
- Developed a marketing strategy for the school which would create positive buzz among its internal school community (the school’s best advocates!) as well as reach prospective parents and referral sources;
- Recommended a broader range of more current and less expensive marketing tactics;
- Facilitated brainstorming with Schechter’s External Marketing Committee to develop potential new taglines;
- Conducted research on the prospective taglines among target parents to provide insight to the committee that would help them select a winner (“Learning & Values for Life”).
Following the engagement, Schechter had a year of stellar enrollment and several more of solid enrollment. A new marketing team took the recommendations and created award winning marketing campaigns (three awards for outstanding day school marketing from the Partnership for Excellence in Jewish Education (PEJE) in 2008 alone!) Through consistent use, Schechter has come to own and embody their tagline. And with all due respect to the firemen, they didn’t run the ad.
Post Script: An Admissions Emergency Erupts
In 2009, Gan Yeladim, a Jewish preschool that shared the Schechter school facility and that feed many students into the Schechter population, closed suddenly. Schechter’s admission office lost one of its prime referral sources. I conducted market research that helped the Schechter administration understand what Jewish parents sought in a preschool environment and how successful Jewish preschool directors built and managed their programs. With these insights, the Schechter Board approved the decision to open a preschool. Using many of my recommendations, Schechter opened its new early childhood program, Gan Shelanu, with full enrollment in September 2011.