"You talkin' to me?"
It's funny how a quote from "Taxi Driver", a 30 year old movie, has evolved into an inside joke for our family. In essence, though, it's also the story of day school marketing.
"You talkin' to me?"
Most Jewish families focus their early years of parenthood seeking out the best early childhood education options for their family. And there are many: Jewish, nonsectarian, Montessori, and a variety of others. Interestingly, Jewish early childhood programs are so successful in many communities that almost 70% of Jewish toddlers enroll.
But when it comes time for elementary school, day schools don't effectively target their prospects. You talkin' to me?
While "Taxi Driver" doesn't directly hold the clues to solving the targeted marketing issue that Jewish day schools face, the entertainment industry does hold clues we can all learn from.
While the major networks no longer control and dominate television the way they used to, there is still tremendous power in their numbers. Their format, however, has its limitations. It's no coincidence that broadcasting has brought us interview shows that routinely book Olympic gold medal gymnasts, Snoop Dogg, and one of the three Japanese Iron Chefs all on one night.
This blanket-style marketing - covering all demographics - is very effective if you want to sell Coca-Cola or a new Toyota, but it has limited impact on selling a Jewish day school.
On a school-by-school basis, broadcasting is a little like your widespread publicity efforts. Most schools dream of appearing in their local major paper - after all, who wouldn't want to be in the Los Angeles Times or the Boston Globe? While the outcome could be extremely positive, it probably won't directly impact your student enrollment or your fundraising efforts. Why? Your message will reach some of the people you want to touch, but the vast majority of the audience will be far outside your core demographic.
For "broadcasting" efforts to be effective, you simply need to do the proper follow-up. Whenever there is an article or a news story about your school - distribute it. Talk to your audience - your donors, current parents, prospective parents, and community leaders.
Without this additional step, you're simply talking to yourself.
In our home, we have almost 100 television channels - and that's because we only buy the standard cable package. Most of our friends have almost four times that. In fact, there are now television channels for just about everything: cooking, exercise, shopping, redecorating your home - heck the Oxygen channel even tried a show in 2003 called Meow TV for animals to watch while their "parents" were away at work.
This seeming insanity isn't really crazy. It's an acknowledgement that we don't all want to watch the music awards show with Country, Rap, R&B, and Alternative Rock all fused together. People have specific interests - and entertainment is working to meet every demographic's or psychographic's unique need or desire.
For day schools, "narrowcasting" is a critical approach to your achieving your marketing goals. Can you determine which swaths of people you are trying to reach? Is it Jews? Is it parents with 3 and 4 year olds? Is it middle school students who are enrolled in Jewish day schools? Is it their parents? Is it Jewish Federation leadership?
Narrowcasting strategies involve targeted ads, flyers, postcards, direct mail, phone calls, generating positive word-of-mouth, and a variety of other tactics. And unlike the "broadcast" messages, these are calibrated to directly impact your target audiences. This can not only help you with effectiveness, it can also help you with cost containment. Many of the best narrowcasting opportunities are inexpensive, and when good partnerships are developed, they can also be many times more effective than unfocused broadcasting.
You've probably never heard this term before, but you've undoubtedly seen it. YouTube and Revver are just two of a handful of major websites that allow individual users to make their own video content. Thousands of people have become content creators and millions more have become viewers.
Go on any of the major sites or splintercast portals and you'll find something that is made specifically for you. This is far more focused than narrowcasting - and aside from the video format itself - it almost holds no resemblance to broadcasting.
Actually, when it comes right down to it, Jewish day schools need to do an awful lot of splintercasting. After generating results with your narrowcasting, it's time to close deals. Whether you are in active discussions with prospective parents or engaged in hand-to-hand combat with a prospective donor, it's this type of one-to-one marketing that is so critical to your success.
While this will definitely include your view book and marketing materials, this stage is also likely to focus on your customized school tours, your personal interaction with the prospect, follow-up, and the word-of-mouth your current parents and prospective targets hear.
No one ultimately sends their child to a school because of a big PR story (broadcasting). But together with targeted ads (narrowcasting), your school can drive new inquiries and reach out beyond the low hanging fruit. Ultimately, however, unless the school delivers on the promises you make when you splintercast (ex. academic excellence, Jewish values, a caring community), you'll never fully succeed.
Each school's goal should be to reach every qualified Jewish parent with appropriate messages and actions. Instead of hearing, "You talkin' to me?" let's get prospective parents or donors to say, "I want to talk to you."
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