These days, you can find a signage advertising a school at almost every corner and every turn. A few years ago, the number of private establishments engaged in education here in the Philippines was pegged at almost 14,000. Imagine how much that number has increased by now.

The growth of this sector means schools must be doing something right. Apart from creating awareness for different learning methods, educational institutions are also upgrading to learning management systems, which enable students and teachers to perform their work more efficiently.

Of course, as with any business, marketing a school is an integral part of its operations. “Without marketing, it would be very difficult to sustain a school, especially with such a dynamic market,” says Richard Estuesta, a member of the board of directors at Mindbuilders Preschool in Las Piñas.

Apple Cruz-Santos, president and administrator of Expressive Minds Early Childhood Center in Quezon City, calls it a “crucial process” to reach out to parents of potential enrollees. Posting on social media and closely monitoring every phone or email inquiry have proven effective in encouraging parents to visit their school.

What marketing lessons can we learn from the experience of these schools specializing in early childhood education?

Lesson # 1: Marketing is not a one-way street.

“Contrary to what most people think, marketing is not just about selling yourself but also being attuned to your market’s needs—and serving those needs,” shares Marah Vasquez-Estuesta, administrator at Mindbuilders Preschool. Instead of simply trying to gain business, a school should also be able to understand what learning programs or methods parents are looking for. The school can then look into offering these programs, or suggest something better.

Lesson # 2: Word of mouth is most effective.

Both Estuesta and Cruz-Santos agree that word-of-mouth advertising works best for their respective schools. Parents may read your advertisements or browse through your website, but it doesn’t end there. Says Estuesta, “Even after reading all about your school, parents would still try to look for another parent whose child went to your school in order to get feedback.” That, he says, is the best kind of advertising you can get as parents themselves become ambassadors of your school.

Lesson # 3: Social media and technology works.

Cruz-Santos recognizes that social media is an effective tool to reach potential clients. “By constantly promoting the school through social media, we are not only able to promote our programs and services, but also highlight the value of placing a child in a school where their individuality is recognized and respected,” she relates. Vasquez-Estuesta agrees, adding, “Make sure you have a well-curated content of relevant activities that you share with parents to show that you are giving them the value proposition you are offering.” As schools realize the importance of establishing their online presence, having access to a powerful, fast, and affordable campus-wide Internet has become a top priority.

Equipping the academe with technology that helps it run efficiently is also important. Automated administration tools and advanced learning management systems (LMS) benefit both the students and the school administrators and faculty.

Lesson # 4: Honesty goes a long way.

“We aim to be true to our brand,” says Cruz-Santos, who makes it a point to elaborate on the programs and activities for every age group as proof of how the school provides a holistic learning environment for students. “This sparks the parents’ curiosity to reach out to us, and [eventually] decide that we are the school for their child.”

Keeping it real is important, Vasquez-Estuesta adds. “The moment parents sense that your statements are scripted or angled to market how good you are, it might not work to your advantage.”

Lesson # 5: A strong parent community is your best ally.

According to Estuesta, parents these days are more involved in their children’s school life. They go beyond the usual parent-teacher conference and participate in outreach programs, parent-child camps, and other activities organized by the school.

After all, education has always been a collaboration between parents and the school, and it is the school’s duty to create opportunities to engage parents. Therefore, having a strong parent community is one of the strategies for increasing student enrollment. You can rely on parents to answer questions about your school, defend it when needed, and recommend it to others—all based on their personal experience and the experience of their children.

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