February 25, 2019

Four Strategies and Twenty-five Tips for Trade School Marketing


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If every dog has his day, the day of the trade school has just begun.

Trade school revenues grew by 5% to 6% from 2006 to 2007 and by a whopping 12% from 2013 to 2014. The number of students attending trade school grew from around 9.66 million in 1999 to 16 million in 2014.

Right now, trade schools are enrolling students roughly as fast as colleges are losing them. With brilliant high-school students like Raelee Nicholson choosing vocational education over traditional college degrees, it’s turning into a field day for trade schools that are prepared to take advantage of the opportunity.

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Raelee Nicholson, who scored A’s in her honors classes and 88th percentile on her college boards, wants to work as a diesel mechanic .

Is Your Trade School Ready for Marketing?

There was a time when school administrators and teachers frowned upon anything marketing, considering it to be unnecessary and “un-prestigious.” Today, marketing has not only become necessary, but a matter of survival for most schools, and here’s why:

  • The average American family has fewer school-going children than they did 30 years ago
  • The tech-savvy millennial parents and digital-native high-school students expect more transparency and openness from their schools
  • Digital media has made it easy for schools to market themselves effectively, without breaking the bank

For trade schools, marketing is more important than ever because of the surge in the number of people opting for vocational education. Trade schools that are not ready to market themselves stand to lose potential entrants to the schools that are.

Here are some marketing strategies that you can follow to prepare your trade school for marketing.

Four Strategies and Twenty-five Tips for Trade School Marketing

Trade School Marketing Strategy #1: Get Your House in Order

Effective external communication is impossible without strong internal communication. Establish internal communication channels and share your vision and values with your staff and students. A carefully planned and executed communication strategy turns your teachers and students into your most ardent brand ambassadors.

1. Utilize Technology: Small- and medium-sized schools can use applications like Office365 or Google Drive to share ideas and get everyone involved. Bigger schools that have hundreds of students and multiple locations can use enterprise software like Workplace by Facebook for better collaboration.

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Workplace by Facebook gives a new meaning to collaboration.

2. Build Marketing Teams: Identify the people who are enthusiastic about marketing and organize them into goal-oriented teams. For example, you can have a social media team and a blogging team.

3. Publish a Newsletter: Make arrangements to create, publish, and circulate a weekly or monthly newsletter. Feature stories about your students, teachers, and topics they’re interested in reading about.

4. Source Ideas and Content: Use internal communication channels like email to collect ideas and content that you may use in marketing campaigns. Encourage people to share their ideas with your marketing team.

5. Use Surveys to Improve Services: Create surveys using SurveyMonkey and similar tools. Distribute these surveys among your employees and students using email or social media. Collect feedback and take steps to improve the required areas.

6. Train Your People: Identify the training needs of your key marketing staff and arrange training programs that fulfill those needs. Customer handling, branding, and digital marketing are some of the important areas to address.

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Association of Talent Development (ATD) is one of the organizations that help train trainers.

Trade School Marketing Strategy #2: Go for Digital Marketing

Conventional ways of marketing are unsuitable for trade schools because of the high cost and lack of control. You can spend thousands of dollars on a billboard, newspaper ad, or TV spot and never know how many of your target customers viewed it. With digital marketing, you exactly know where your money is going, and you can control it right down to the last cent.  In addition, most of your prospective students are digital natives and consume digital media ravenously.

7. Revamp Your Website: Optimize your website for SEO so that it shows on the first pages during local searches. Publish content that corresponds to the needs of your prospective pupils. Turn it into a “lead magnet” by hosting conversion-optimized landing pages.

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Mitchell Technical Institute’s website features the most important selling points on the front page.

8. Understand Your Student’s Journey: Thanks to the internet, your prospective students know a lot about your school even before they make the first contact. They research your school using your websites, social media pages, and other modes of your online presence. Optimize all such touch-points where your prospective customers are likely to interact with your school.

9. Create Your Admission Funnel: Identify the stages in the student’s buying journey and take measures to ease their transition from one stage to the next, until they finally fill up the admission form. You can do it with the help of marketing assets such as ads, informative web pages, email sequences, and landing pages.

10. Take Advantage of Social Media: It’s hard to find a student who’s not using social media such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Use these channels to reach out to your prospective customers and generate leads.

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The MTI regularly publishes photos of students at work on its Facebook page.

11. Use Email for Lead Nurturing: Create and populate your mailing lists using squeeze pages on your website and social media channels. Follow up and nurture the leads using an email program such as MailChimp, ConstantContact, or other similar tools.

12. Use Paid Advertising: Google Ads paid search is your shortcut to the top of organic search results. Make sure you select the keywords carefully and have dedicated landing pages for the ads you’re running. Use Facebook advertising to generate leads and expand the reach of your posts.

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Trade schools are using Google Ads to drive traffic and leads from organic searches.

13. Say it with Content: Establish a blog and showcase your school’s values and policies by publishing student success stories. Provide solutions to the challenges faced by students and their families. Use videos and photos in addition to text content.

14. Automate Marketing Activities: Automate the lead nurturing sequence using integrated email and SMS. Automation software like MarketO, HubSpot, and others make it easy to automate marketing activities and save tons of time and resources.

Trade School Marketing Strategy #3: Invest in Relationships

Successful marketing is about building and sustaining relationships with your past, present, and prospective students and with your community. Trade schools are an important part of the community and should be visible as such. Strong community-relationships can help you stand out from competitors earn you more references.

15. Sponsor Community Events: Look for inexpensive sponsorship opportunities in your area. Display your branding at the venue to reap image vale and publicity mileage to strengthen your relationship with the community.

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Dakota County Technical College features upcoming campus events on its website.

16. Hold Open Days: Frequently invite prospective students from neighboring high schools, their parents, teachers, and everyone in general to your school for an open day.

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The Pittsburgh Institute of Aeronautics announces an Open House Event on its website.

17. Hold Webinars and Online Events: Reach out to the people who cannot visit your school physically through online webinars. Show them different activities, introduce them to your curriculum and staff, and answer their questions.

18.Use Segmented Mailing Lists: Segment your mailing lists based on existing and potential pupils, alumni, and parents. Send customized messages to build and nurture relationships with each group.

19. Strengthen Alumni Relationships: Having strong alumni relationships helps you raise funds and secure job placements for your students. Stay in contact with the students who have graduated from your school and invite them regularly to alumni events.

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MTI has a page dedicated to the alumni and donors.

20. Market to Students: Share articles and videos that correspond to the ambitions of your prospective students. For example, share tips and resources that help the students secure good jobs.

Trade School Marketing Strategy #4: Build Your Education Brand

A strong brand helps a trade school acquire more admissions and inculcate loyalty. It motivates employees and influences people’s response to your services. Customer research is a crucial first step in brand development. Identify the needs and behavior patterns of your prospective students and create a brand that fulfills their needs and corresponds to their behavior.

21. Focus on Your Strength: You can’t be all things to all people. The best trade schools concentrate on their specialties and build on their strengths. Identify what you do best and create your brand around your core specialty.

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Do a SWOT analysis to discover your core strengths and weaknesses and to prepare for handling threats and opportunities.

22. Create a Visual Identity: Design a unique and professional-looking logo. Select a color scheme. Write a compelling tagline. Use these elements in all your marketing communications such as your website, emails, signage, etc.

23. Deliver a Consistent Experience: More than a logo and a name, a brand is the sum of all experiences that people have with a business, its people, products, and services. It’s important to deliver a smooth and consistent experience during all customer interactions if you want to build a strong brand.

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Branding Mistake: Suncoast Trucking Academy lacks design consistency between its website and Facebook page

24. Promote Trade Education: Promoting a particular category makes you look like the owner of that category. It also helps grow the size of the market. Educate people about the benefits of trade education using your website, blog, and other marketing channels.

25. Establish Thought Leadership: Figure out your core area of expertise and create deep, authoritative, and relevant content that speaks in your brand voice. Avoid self-promotion and concentrate on providing the answers to your prospective students’ most pressing concerns.


The rising cost of college education and the rampant unemployment are fueling the growth of the trade school industry. As Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe aptly (though bluntly) puts it:

We are lending money we don't have to kids who can't pay it back to train them for jobs that no longer exist."

Right about now, trade schools need to be ready to handle the deluge of students heading their way. The schools that are prepared will earn the lion’s share of the market, while the unprepared are likely to miss the bus.

Luckily, trade school marketing is not theoretical physics. It’s simple, actionable, and easy, especially if you know what actions to take, and you have a professional school marketing agency (like JoshMeah.com) to help you execute those actions.

In this article, we hope you found both the actions and the agency!

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