Marketing on a mini budget

You don’t always need a big marketing budget to make your school stand out, say James Leggett and Nicky Adams from MTM Consulting

Having worked with more than 500 schools over 35 years, the creativity of school marketers never fails to amaze us; the most innovative are always the ones who have the smallest budgets to work with. Here are just a few methods of making marketing ends meet.

Social media

Of course. It’s the most effective, low- or no-budget tool for school marketers. Used right it can create some useful chatter about your school and attract the attention of a very wide audience. ‘Boosting’ (paying to spread) a social post is perhaps the cheapest form of advertising you’ll ever come across. Each social channel has its niche and even TikTok is now a place for schools to strut their stuff.


Another freebie. Why not ask families with property alongside a busy road or near a roundabout to display an open-day banner? One school we know asked every parent to put a sticker bearing the school name and logo on their car window if they wanted to access the school site. Liveried school buses are a moving advertisement for your school too.


Hire them out to local groups and clubs or host free events to attract prospective families to the school campus – your school’s spaces can be great earners when they would otherwise be empty.

Anything digital

Avoid the astronomical cost of professional printing (and save some trees). Switch to e-newsletters, e-shots and e-prospectuses – the bespoke tailored varieties are particularly effective and there’s no wastage when they need to be updated.

Online forms are preferable to reams of paper to fill in (and you don’t have to spend hours deciphering parents’ biro). Most correspondence is by email these days so no need to splash out on luxurious embossed headed notepaper either.

Editorial coverage

Persuading an editor to run your school’s news story is like advertising, but better (because readers trust it more) – and free of charge. Add to that the excellent job of social media marketing that many publishers rely on these days to draw readers to their news sites – where the paid-for advertising is – and your news story can be shared around the globe without you parting with a penny.

Just craft an attention-grabbing media release, add a print-quality image and email it to editors of relevant newspapers and magazines, and soon it could be your school a lot of people are reading all about.

Small ads

That said, some advertising is well worth the price, particularly if it is a small ad and a small price. Parish and community magazines are particularly good value – advertising can cost as little as £50 but gets your school onto the doormats of families living in a precisely defined area, which is perfect if you are looking for a way to promote stops on a school bus route, for example.

These are often home-produced, content-thirsty publications, so if you’re prepared to pen a short article on a topic of educational or local interest then the editor may well like to use it to fill a page at no cost to you, but with the chance of attracting the attention of the parents of a future pupil.

Go on the road

Take part in a local event, sponsor a prize at the county show or a race at the district swimming gala. Raising the profile of the school in the local area helps to remind families of your existence and shows that your school is approachable and keen to be part of the community – all for little or no outlay.

Similarly, offering to share your facilities with local state schools, nurseries or groups, or even lend a teacher for a specialist lesson (languages or technology, for example) or session (forest school is immensely popular), is not only the right thing to do, but it raises awareness of your school, its facilities and its expertise.

Get your hands dirty

Use the skills you have rather than calling in the professionals and you could save yourself a small fortune. For example, most website content management systems work in a similar way so it’s worth learning how to add and delete pages, amend menus and change type styles, or even design new templates to tide you over.

Canva is a godsend – marketers are now designing their own decent small ads, social media graphics and snappy animations. Learning to shoot, direct and edit your own video is also a huge money-saver. Necessity is the mother of invention, as they say, and marketing on a mini budget can be a fun challenge to cut costs using the most valuable of marketers’ commodities – cleverness and creativity.

You might also like: School marketing – the new challenges

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