33. LinkedIn and Digital Advertising Tips for Schools with Angie Ward

In this episode, we are joined by Angie Ward, Digital Marketing Strategist for Schools, Camps, and Education-centric Nonprofits, and Founder of Enroll Media. Angie reminds us to get back to basics so that we can find direction and purpose in our marketing. Giving us insights into the trajectory of LinkedIn and its success for small school marketing, Angie reveals key insights into how over she has uplifted 250 colleges, universities, and K12 schools with result-driven digital marketing solutions.

About Angie Ward:

Angie has spent the last decade helping schools identify their enrollment marketing challenges in order to develop and execute a strategic campaign designed to achieve their goals. With a knack for digital strategy and analytics, Angie has helped over 250 colleges, universities, and K12 schools with result-driven digital marketing solutions. When not working with schools and staying up to date on the latest Google changes, Angie can be found spending time with her friends and family (especially her kids and chickens!) and enjoying all that her wonderful home state of Massachusetts has to offer.

Find Angie Ward:

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Show Transcript

Tara: Welcome to Mindful School Marketing. I’m Tara Claeys. 

Aubrey: And I’m Aubrey Bursch. Today we’re joined by Angie Ward. Angie has spent the last decade helping schools identify their enrollment marketing challenges in order to develop and execute a strategic campaign designed to achieve their goals. With a knack for digital strategy and analytics, Angie has helped over 250 colleges, universities, and K-12 schools with result-driven digital marketing solutions. When not working with schools and staying up to date with the latest Google challenges, Angie can be found spending time with her friends and family, especially her kids and chickens. And enjoying all that her wonderful home state of Massachusetts has to offer. Welcome, Angie! 

Angie: Thank you, Aubrey. Thank you, Tara. I’m happy to be here. 

Tara: Hi, we’re so glad you’re here. Thanks for joining us. Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself? That was a great intro. 

Angie: Yes. Thank you for that intro. Oh, well, let’s see a little bit more about myself. So, you know, as a business owner I am busy and I’m working with a lot of schools day today, but you know, for fun as you mentioned kids. So we’re raising three kiddos in our, in our household. So there’s never a dull moment. I am part of a book club and I really just love spending time outdoors. So on a personal front, those are some of my hobbies. I’m fortunate we live near a mountain too, so the family and I get up on the mountain skiing and whatnot quite a bit. But otherwise, yeah, you know, I’m just really loving enroll media group and working with independent schools and working with different vendors, such as TLC design and Easy School Marketing. It’s been a really great space to work within, and I feel very fortunate that I’ve been a part of it these last few years.

Aubrey: I love that you live near a mountain and that you have chickens personally. So I’m a bit jealous, but I’m, I’m so glad that you’re here with us on the show because we, well, because you’re you, but also because we love having digital marketing experts on our show. So I’m going to dive right in, if it’s okay with you. 

Angie: Yeah. 

Aubrey: Can you tell us broadly about what digital marketing includes and where small independent schools should be focusing their energy these days? 

Angie: Yeah, absolutely. Well, digital marketing is, you know, my passion I’ve worked in marketing most of my career. And so enroll media group provides me the perfect opportunity to take education- something, obviously that’s very meaningful to most people, but to me as well, and combine that with digital marketing to help schools reach their enrollment goals. So it’s a perfect match of the things that I love to do. When it comes to digital marketing specifically, what I love about it is that it’s always changing. So it kind of keeps you on your toes. But there’s also a lot of tried and true digital marketing strategies, that we specifically help schools with. And those are things, you know, as basic as optimizing your digital properties, I mean, your website is your greatest marketing asset, as you probably know. And you know, really helping schools to optimize that website, take advantage of the free tools that they have is really important. So whether you’re you work for a school or any institution or organization. You want to maximize your marketing budget. And so there’s tons of free tools out there that we really try to help schools with things like Google Analytics, Google My Business, different social media tools. So we’re constantly trying to help schools find different tools out there that can help them maximize their budget that are free, that can help them do their job easier, because when you’re running a school, you know, you’re wearing so many hats. I can’t tell you how many times we’re talking to a school and they’re on recess duty while they’re trying to figure out how to post something. And so we really try to just keep it easy for schools. 

Tara: Yeah, I love the free tools that Google offers. I mean Google search console is one of the most amazing tools, like undiscovered tools. I think that, that’s out there and Google is the big elephant in the room. I mean, you can’t, it’s like a love, hate relationship, right? That we have with Google because they’re constantly changing things and we kind of are really tied to, to Google. But I’d love to hear more about other platforms in terms of digital marketing. Specifically, we wanted to talk to you about LinkedIn today and how LinkedIn can help schools with as part of their digital marketing strategy.

Angie: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I’m with you, Tara. It is such, you know, Google really does dominate search, obviously it’s the largest search engine in the world. They’ve got a ton of great tools. I feel like I could talk about Google all day long. But I love talking about these new platforms as well. So LinkedIn has grown so much in the last couple of years, part of it due to the pandemic, right? Everybody’s updating their LinkedIn profiles or they’re moving jobs or they’re just networking more virtually. So LinkedIn, what I love about it is that it’s really up to date. People don’t tend to keep an old employer on their profile for very long. You know, they’re constantly connecting with new people, updating their latest credentials, certificates, alma mater, where they’re working. So when you have a platform that’s very accurate, it provides you an opportunity to identify your target audience a bit more. So schools are using it organically to connect with alum, to engage their current communities just to, you know, obviously to recruit talent, and hire professionals at their school. But the shift that we’re seeing schools make is in addition to posting more organically, for various needs, recruitment retention, alum, advancement, development, but they’re also seeing it as an advertising platform. So that’s where, you know, Enroll Media Group really comes in. And what I find really interesting is that you can use this platform to identify different pockets of prospective families. So maybe they work in certain feeder companies for you. Maybe you offer a tuition discount to people who work in certain professions. Maybe you’re really interested in breaking into a new sector. So we work with a school in Florida who actually it’s targeting a specific area that is building a bunch of insurance being financed, financial organizations. And so they really want to get in front of professionals who work for these companies, but moving to Florida so that they can start to consider their private school ahead of their move. So it’s really great. When you can start to tap into these employers and the people that work there to try to find your target audience.

Aubrey: I love that. First of all, I’m a big fan of LinkedIn. Second of all, I love the potential there. I think there is just, I really, I don’t know about you, but are you thinking there’s going to be more and more of a shift to LinkedIn advertising as we move forward and as that platform becomes, I think more, more popular?

Angie: You know, I wish I had a crystal ball, but if I could guess I’m going to say yes, there is definitely the data is pointing towards, you know, LinkedIn, just continuing to grow. We have a dedicated LinkedIn agency rep that we talk to regularly and there’s a lot of growth. And on the advertising side. For schools in particular, I think there’s a shift happening with, with social media, I’m sure as you guys have seen, you know, there’s some ethical concerns with traditional social media platforms that schools are facing. And so they are looking for new ways beyond just Facebook and Instagram to reach their target audience. And so I do think that LinkedIn is one of those alternative platforms that schools are looking to put some time and money into, which is great. Cause I personally liked LinkedIn as well, personally, just as a user. I think it, the, the quality of the content that I see just, it seems to be more relevant. And it seems to just resonate with me a bit more than some of the other social media platforms I’ve been on. And as a prospective parent, I would say that, you know, I really think there’s a trust factor on LinkedIn, because you know about the people behind those posts, where they work, who they’re associated with. It’s a little bit more of that trust factor than some of the other social media platforms out there. 

Aubrey: That’s so true. And that’s what I’ve heard other schools speak to as they’re looking at expanding to LinkedIn. So thank you for sharing that. Can we switch gears a little bit? I’d love to know like schools are thinking about, okay, advertising, where, where do we go? What do we do? On your end, where do you see the biggest challenges when schools are starting this online advertising and marketing and how can they measure success? 

Angie: Well, you kind of hit on two important things. You know, what are schools doing when they’re getting started is I think a lot of them, they get overwhelmed, they think, oh, we gotta be on TikTok and we gotta be on Google and we have to be here and we have to check this box and that box. And instead of checking the platform-specific boxes, you really need to start with your goals. And with any marketing you want to know your audience. So think about who it is you’re trying to reach. And maybe LinkedIn is not the platform for you based on, you know, enrollment data and target audiences and personas. Maybe in order to find prospective families, or, to maybe, you know, think about it as in this way, maybe to reach your specific enrollment goals, you need to look to a different platform. So always start with your goals, always start with your target audience and then decide what channel makes the most sense because Facebook advertising, TikTok advertising, LinkedIn, for every school it’s not going to fit their enrollment marketing needs. I would say when it does come to enrollment and top of the funnel, not necessarily re-enrollment or retention, but when it comes to top of the funnel awareness building and engaging, I do think schools need to start with optimizing their free assets, first, their website, making sure they’re paying attention to SEO. That is a long-term investment. If you need more of a quick hidden campaign to really fill that funnel. Google Ads is really kind of our go-to recommendation. I mean, this is a platform to go back to Google. This is a platform that gets in front of parents in the exact moment they are searching. And it’s the number one search engine. So if you really want to get in front of families looking for “Montessori schools near me” and your site isn’t ranking organically yet, or your other free channels, social media [00:11:00] properties, and traditional efforts really aren’t filling that funnel enough for you. I would say, start with a basic Google search campaign. Otherwise, to really get started, you know, start off with your goals, identifying who your target audience is. I don’t conduct market research. That’s not something that Enroll Media Group does, but I highly recommend some basic market research for schools. You know, you need to get a sense of the supply and demand and you know, and what that looks like for each school in each market is a little bit different. So that’s going to help you identify your unique selling propositions, who you want to get in front of, and who’s going to be the best-fit family. So if you haven’t done any market research or market feasibility, I do recommend schools start thinking about that before they just put a bunch of advertising dollars out there on Google or social media.

Tara: Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think market research is often overlooked, especially if you’re kind of in a hurry and, you know, Google is sort of like a quick, you feel like it’s a quick fix, but the market research will also help you tailor your messaging as well, right? To make sure that the ads that you’re putting out there are saying what people are looking for. So you’ve got to do some homework before you go spending your money on ads, or you’re going to waste it. 

Angie: Absolutely. And we see that a lot when a school comes to us and says, “Hey, we’re running all these advertisements, but we don’t think, you know, any of it’s working or we’re not sure if anything is working,” which speaks to your second question, Aubrey, about how are schools measuring success? So what can happen is, you, know, there’s the spray and pray method where you just put a ton of advertisements, impressions out there, and fingers crossed- it reaches and engages and converts the right families. But even if it is, some schools, aren’t able to prove that that’s, what’s driving their inquiries, their open house, registrations their applications. So a big misstep we see is schools not having a measurement plan in place. And a measurement plan truly is how are we holding ourselves accountable for our marketing efforts? And are we achieving those goals? So you need to be accountable for the goal setting and the goal tracking. And just to give a very simplistic example, it could be something like we’re going to create a digital ad campaign for our open house. Well, how are you going to measure if these campaign impressions are driving open house registrations. There’s a few ways to do that. One could be a lead gen strategy on social media. Or Google ads where people simply filled out that event registration form, right on that lead ad, the ad, when you click on it expands, you fill out your information on that form. And then that platform tells you who’s coming in from those ads. And then you can see if they go on to register for the event. That’s one way. If you’re not doing a lead gen campaign, with that lead form dynamically pops up on the ad, you could set up goals in Google Analytics to make sure that you’re capturing that event registration form right on your website. And you want to source your marketing with custom URLs or UTM codes, to be able to determine that the people signing up for that particular open house came from the different advertisements that you’ve launched. So those are two very basic ways to tie an advertising campaign. To a particular goal and not doing those things are all too common in this space.

Tara: Yeah. Thank you for sharing. That is really important. Really, really important to be accountable for your money that you’re spending. 

Angie: Absolutely. 

Tara: I’m going to shift to talk about mindfulness a little bit, because we do talk about mindfulness on this podcast. It’s part of our title and specifically how it applies to school admissions and marketing professionals. How do you define mindfulness and how would you apply it to your work in digital marketing? I think this is a good segue after talking about being accountable and looking at your results. 

Angie: Yeah, I love that question. Well, mindfulness to me really is about, you know, being present and not just thinking about what’s ahead. What’s next? I have a tendency, maybe it’s that entrepreneurial spirit in me to always be thinking about what’s next. And that is actually counterintuitive, I think to mindfulness and just being present. So I constantly have to say, okay, maybe this is new and up and coming, or maybe this new partnership is, is down the pipe for us. But instead of focusing on that, let’s look at today- who my clients are today, my coworkers, my colleagues, and really try to just be present and show up for them the best I can. And that is how I sort of apply mindfulness to my work. And also personally, so instead of worrying about, you know, back to school or the next vacation that we have planned, or how is this going to go, this dance recital or this sports event transitions- instead of always worrying or thinking or planning for those, I really just try to be present in the moment and really just soak it all in. And so I think that’s something everybody really tries to do. I have to really work extra hard at doing that, but I find that when I’m successful at that, I, I, I do a much better job and I, I really am, um, showing up at my best when I can, when I can do that.

Tara: I assume that that then translates when you’re working with your clients- so you model that for them, or do you ever feel like you have to kind of help them focus and be mindful of the, like we talked about the campaigns that they’re doing and the, and not jumping in as we’ve talked about? 

Angie: Yeah, absolutely. We have to trust kind of the process. And we have to know that the leads will flow in. I mean, it is not a, if you build it, they will come, type of mentality. But you know, we really do say this will work. This is a sound strategy. There’s a measurement plan in place. And we look to the data constantly to help optimize our campaigns. But absolutely, you know, we have to just kind of trust some of the tried and true tactics when a client says, “oh, should we do this? Should I be on this? Should I try that are competitors on there?” You know, we can’t, we can’t always just go, go, go and do things because it seems like where we need to be. You know, I, I always say to, our, our partners that, you know, it’s better to be doing a few things really well than spreading yourself too thin in a ton of different areas, because that’s, when you’re not going to give enough kind of statistical relevance to one particular effort to be able to then fine-tune it and optimize. So the same can be said kind of personally, you really, you don’t want to try to be. The best mom, the best business owner, the best at everything all at once, because not, you can’t be the best at everything all the time. So you need to prioritize and you need to trust that what you’re doing is the right thing at that time. 

Aubrey: Ooh, I resonate so much with that as a mom and entrepreneur and all the above things. So thank you for sharing those gems. They really are helpful. And I think schools often do need to trust the process, and sometimes it’s not immediate results- you have to kind of wait and, you know, and really choose the ones that are going to serve your school- not jump on every platform. Thank you for sharing. Uh, I’d like to transition us now to some questions. We ask all our guests. So are you ready? 

Angie: I’m ready. Let’s go for it. 

Aubrey: Let’s rock it. Okay, so what are the most important things you do to grow personally and professionally?

Angie: Well, I would say I do love to read and listen to podcasts, so I like to keep up, well, personally and professionally on things, whether it’s a self-improvement parenting book or a self-improvement book about, you know, running a business or marketing, I’m taking a Google analytics 4 class right now. So I try to keep up with reading and. Podcasts and courses to stay fresh. I also would say, I like to do things that I’m bad at, or I like to do things that I don’t love to do. Right? I like to get uncomfortable. And an example is I used to hate presenting. I absolutely would just, you know, want to just crawl under my desk and not present. But I realized that’s really critical, obviously, too, when you’re running a business when you’re presenting reports to clients. And so I just started doing it over and over every time somebody asks, would you present on that topic? I would say yes, even though I didn’t want to. And then I just got better at it. So I would say, you know, my advice to people and what works for me is to kind of get uncomfortable to grow. And that’s something that I try to do all of the time in, you know, whether it’s a financial task or an uncomfortable board presentation that I just have to do. I get uncomfortable to grow. And I find that that helps my confidence and helps me grow professionally. 

Tara: That’s great advice. Really great advice. I think, yeah, you’ve got to kind of break through new ground to grow and that’s uncomfortable. So thank you for that advice. That’s great. Okay, I’m going to jump into some rapid fire questions. The first one is if you could put one book as mandatory reading in the high school curriculum, what would it be?

Angie: Oh, so I knew you guys would ask this because you ask all of your guests this and I couldn’t come up with one there’s so many. So I actually had to tap into my niece, she’s 15, she’s the smartest high schooler I know. And I said, what’s been the most helpful book for you? And she said Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom because you know, it really hits on some core principles of forgiveness and love. So that was her, her pick for literature. And then I wanted to balance that with sort of a self-improvement type of book that I would recommend for high schoolers. My niece included. And that would be something that focuses on kind of interpersonal skills and development, kind of like a Dale Carnegie, you know, how to win friends and influence people type of book. And it doesn’t have to be that book, but I think in such a text-heavy communication world, that it is beneficial for high schoolers to really try to get comfortable with those social interactions. And you know, reading a book, but you know, not necessarily that book by Dale Carnegie, but reading books about confidence and building and communicating, I think could go a long way. And I know that those books certainly helped me when I was in high school and college. 

Aubrey: I love it. I love that you went to the market, your niece, to find out, you know, what was an influential book for her. So thank you for bringing that and for the balance with the Dale Carnegie piece, because I think that’s true. I mean, so often I’m impressed that you read that in high school and college, because I don’t think anyone introduced me to any books like that. Although they would have been very helpful. 

Angie: Yes. Yes. I agree. I wished I had, when I read it, I want to say I was actually in my early twenties. I wished I had read it sooner. It was one of those books where I said this would have been really helpful, like five years ago. 

Aubrey: So Tara started a Goodreads book list for us for Mindful School Marketing. So we’ll put all these books on there, but meanwhile, I’m like, like have a whole bunch of books that I had planned to force my children to read before they graduated high school. You want a diploma? Here! No, I’m just kidding. 

Angie: That’s great. 

Aubrey: But I feel like there’s such great, you know, great stuff here. So next question. What is one app you couldn’t live without? I’m so curious to hear your answer. 

Angie: I wish I had a really creative answer for you. It’s probably the same answer everybody gives, but it is my calendar. I can’t without Google calendar. I mean, I’m, I’m on it all the time for work and for personal. And of course, calendar, like blocking out times is really important for me and my teammates as well. So I think that actually speaks to the mindfulness aspect. So if I know my colleague is walking her dog, I’m not going to throw a meeting on her calendar last minute right now. Like that’s her time. Likewise, you know, my husband and I have a shared calendar. The kids’ calendars are on there, work. So for me, I just couldn’t actually get through the day-to-day without having that app. And I wish it was something more Zen, like a yoga app or Spotify, but it’s just my calendar. 

Tara: Yeah. Yes, I am. I’m very linked with my calendar as well. And, uh, it is very helpful. 

Angie: It is. 

Tara: Yeah. Okay, back to the books. What are you reading right now? 

Angie: So I’m in a book club as I mentioned, and the book we’re reading right now, I’m almost done is called, Her Perfect Life. It’s actually by a local Boston reporter, Hank Philippi, Ryan, and it’s about a prominent news reporter who has a seemingly perfect life. But as the reader learns, there’s a lot of mysteries to, to this reporter. So it’s a pretty cool. Book. I’m also, you know, I’m enjoying it. That’s sort of my guilty pleasure book club book, but I’m also reading, kind of a self-improvement book. I usually have two going on at once. My book club fun read and then a personal one. And this one is actually called, Raising Good Humans. I . Actually have only, I just started it.

Aubrey: Oh you read it? It’s on my list. It’s on my life. I, my friend has recommended, I just put it on audible. So we’re going to be synchronistically reading this. 

Angie: I’m only one chapter in, but so far I like it and I’ll have to, we’ll have to chat about it.

Aubrey: Oh my gosh. I’m so excited. Okay, yay! That’s so great. So next question. Well, our last question for you, what is one great piece of advice you’d like to leave us with? 

Angie: Hm, let’s see, this is hard. One piece of great advice, I would say for, for listeners, for you guys, for anybody, just stay connected and reach out. And if you are feeling like you’re facing a problem or an issue- instead of just Googling it, reach out to someone. What I have found is that of the people who come to me, whether it’s LinkedIn or email- wanted to run something by you, kind of a weird question, have you run into this? They’re always so glad they did. And I feel the same way. I just reach out to people instead of wondering, assuming. And doing my own research. I’ve been really trying to build up a network, not just in the independent school space, but personally as well where people know, just reach out, because if you’re going through this or have this question, chances are somebody else is too. And I can’t tell you how often somebody will reach out, maybe a school, and say, “can you help me with this?” And I’ll say, “yeah, I just worked with a school the other day who had the same issue.” They’re like, “oh my goodness. I wish I had reached out a month ago. I’ve spent so many hours on this.” So, so reach out, you know, ask for a friend. That’s my advice. 

Tara: That’s great advice. And actually as our, as we wrap up, how can people reach out to you? How can they find you online, Angie? 

Angie: Oh, great. Well, I am on LinkedIn. They can also go to enrollmediagroup.com and they can find us there. And otherwise I think, yeah, those, those two places would be the easiest.

Tara: Great. Thank you so much. It’s really been a pleasure and I’ve learned a lot. Thanks for joining us. 

Angie: Thank you guys so much for having me. It’s been a pleasure to talk with you.

Tara: Have a great day. Bye bye. 

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