With the constant challenges of how to increase enrollment in your private or charter school, good “intel” is key. The more you understand about the marketplace and where your school sits within it, the more you’ll be able to create effective strategies to enroll more students.
A “SWOT” analysis of your school and your environment can reveal incredibly useful information to help inform your marketing plan and future enrollment campaigns.
What Is a SWOT Analysis?
SWOT is an acronym for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats—the four critical components of self-awareness for any business or organization. Strengths and weaknesses deal with the internal aspects of your organization—those elements that you can control and improve upon. Opportunities and threats have to do with the external factors in your environment—those things over which you have no real control, but which you can and should respond to.
Conducting an honest assessment of all four of these elements gives you a clearer understanding of your school as an entity and its position in a competitive marketplace, letting you know where to best target your energies as far as marketing.
Conducting a SWOT Analysis for Your School
To perform an effective SWOT analysis, we recommend gathering the key members of your leadership team for an unhurried meeting, possibly with a third-party business consultant present to help guide the conversation and make sure all bases are covered.
Collect and review any current research about your school. For instance:
- Surveys completed by parents or students;
- Academic results;
- Enrollment data; and
- Student retention rates.
What gets measured, gets managed. The more data you have, the easier it will be to paint an accurate picture.
During the brainstorming phase, ask key questions about each of the four elements and write down people’s responses. Some examples of what these questions might look like:
- What are the main characteristics that drew parents to enroll their children here?
- What do the students and parents seem to like about our school?
- Which of our marketing campaigns have been most successful, and why?
- In which subjects do our students most excel?
- What are our greatest tangible assets? (e.g., facilities, equipment, faculty, etc.)
- What are the primary reasons parents remove their children from our school?
- What are our most common complaints?
- What are our greatest internal needs (e.g., finances, equipment, software, etc.)?
- In which subjects are our students performing the worst?
- Which neighborhoods in our community are seeing the greatest influx of new residents?
- Where do parents and students within our target demographics spend most of their time?
- How can we leverage marketing tools like social media, email, direct mail, etc. to connect to our target market in this area?
- Who is our competition in the community? What are they doing to recruit more students? Are any of our students leaving to enroll in those schools?
- What cost factors might be making it more difficult for us to compete? (e.g., cost of software, materials, upkeep)
- What economic challenges might people in our community be facing? Is the cost of enrollment cost-prohibitive, and why?
- Are there new charter schools opening up in our area that might draw students away from our school?
Compiling Your SWOT Analysis
Once you have successfully identified the primary strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, these are compiled into an organized list that is easy to understand for further reference—most commonly presented as a four-section grid. All future marketing plans, campaigns, and other actions can now be geared toward addressing at least one of these four sections, namely:
- Building on your strengths;
- Shoring up your weaknesses;
- Responding to opportunities; and/or
- Protecting against threats.
By performing a SWOT analysis and creating an action plan based on the results, you’ll have a clearer understanding of where your target market is and how to reach them more effectively. You’ll also know how to play to your strengths and “lean in” to what attracts students to your school, and how to communicate those strengths to enroll more students like them.