Preparing for Back-to-School: Webinar Replay
Did you miss our webinar? We’ve got the key takeaways and points we covered as part of our live webinar. You can watch the replay down below, or keep reading as we summarize everything we talked about, including strategies you can start implementing at your school right now.
Watch the Replay
What Is the State of the Beauty School Industry Right Now?
Things have been a little bit weird with COVID, especially earlier this year. Typically, what we see is a big peak in January, but this year we saw a delayed bump. While January did do a little better and we did see the bump we expected to see, it wasn’t as big of a boost as we anticipated.
However, what we did see was an exceptional and record-breaking March and April, which then died down after Memorial Day in May. So, that bump we expected to see in January actually happened in spring or the later part of quarter 1.
Because of this, we expect “back-to-school” season to look a little different this year than it has in years past.
What Trends Are We Seeing in Purchases and Consumers?
According to Google, Gen Z and Millennials (coined as “Next-Gen”), are planning on traveling this season. There’s a lot of pent-up demand as they go out to visit friends and family, go out and do what they missed out from last year. They’re traveling and reuniting with those they couldn’t see last year.
The Next-Gen is now looking for experiences. They are looking for things that are new or things that are different than sitting on Zoom calls like they were for the last year and a half.
What Does That Mean for Schools?
Knowing the target generation is looking for experiences means that beauty schools should be changing their type of messaging. Often, when it becomes back to school season, we use messaging like:
- “Go back to school”
- “Choose a new career”
- “Get an education”
While this has worked in the past, schools should be using a more emotional approach to their marketing. They should be focusing on telling potential students to “do something new,” “make it an experience,” or “choose your own adventure.”
Schools should be getting people excited from an emotional point of view, as people are finally able to start coming out of quarantine as they were stuck in their homes for the past year and a half.
How Will Lead Flow Change?
In terms of lead flow, we expect that leads are most likely going to be slower than we’re used to, especially reflecting the smaller bump we saw in January. Especially now, there’s most likely going to be fewer leads as more and more people are going to travel and most likely won’t even think about going back to school.
But, while we may see a slump, we are hoping it will be similar to January’s jump, where the jump back to school may still happen, at least, later as those people who were out traveling may then think about going to school in October or November when it’s colder and it’s not the ideal weather and time to travel.
Currently, we’re seeing leads slow down for all programs and all schools right now, so if your results aren’t what you hope they should be, don’t panic. The Fourth of July is the weekend with the biggest dip in interest and traffic for schools, and this has been extremely apparent after Memorial Day, and it’s been like that all since then.
How To Prepare For Back to School Season
If you want to prepare for that spike in summer, you need to connect with your potential students and what they’re interested in right now. So, while you’re seeing leads down, you can offer the emotional and social connection potential students are looking for when they’re ready to convert.
People look at the school’s photos and their Instagram profiles to see if the people at the school are people they could get along with. They’re looking for their family and their tribe.
There are many stories where students choose to go to a school that’s sometimes over an hour away from where they are because they are willing to sacrifice their time and money to find a place that provides a higher quality education.
If schools can create an experience and an event where they can get people into the building to connect, to have an experience, then that can translate to digital marketing. Knowing that people want an experience, you can take videos, ask students for testimonials, share alumni stories to generate that engagement.
Create that sense of belonging for potential students, show that they can find people they can get along with.
People are looking for safety, flexibility, and full control. Potential students don’t want to put their family at risk when they’re going to school and spending the rest of their time at home. They want to take advantage of flexible scheduling (choose your own schedule), and more and more schools are offering it to their students. That’s huge when it comes to the conversation with your school.
There’s a larger conversation in the workforce where people expect things to change. There’s this idea that we want to “get back to normal” but many industries and business owners and people are using the current environment as a chance to reset and rethink how things happen.
So, schools that offer flexibility and they’re cognizant that people have different needs, especially childcare or balancing other jobs will win over their competitors.
Create an Experience for Your Students
You need to create an experience for those students to show what you have to offer. Make sure you’re still following government guidelines as you are planning experiences, and if you’re in a state that allows you to have something that’s more personal and intimate, the younger generations are ready for it.
When it comes to the creative/ads, keep that in mind with your imagery. In the middle of the pandemic, we started putting people with masks so it was up to date and safe and current. As more regulations are getting looser, it might be important to update that imagery with whatever is going on at your location at this time. People love faces and smiles in that imagery, and situations without the mask and having that smile is going to be a big deal, so you can convey that emotional connection and safety.
How Has the Workforce Changed?
More and more of the American workforce is putting in their two weeks notice and are choosing to quit, which is being coined “The Great Resignation”. While it varies by industry, this also includes those in retail, in the service industry.
As a beauty school owner, you do have to worry about your own staff, especially if you have a high turnover, but what this means for potential enrollments is that there are many more people who want to change their careers.
These are people who are working in retail and customer service and want to do something new. What this means for you is that you may be marketing to different age groups or different backgrounds than you’re used to.
For many of our schools, cosmetology students were often someone who was “fresh out of high school” while estheticians are more likely to be older. While this may be true for some students, it’s not always the case. So, for schools, be open-minded to a different demographic coming through your doors as those who may be older could be looking for a new career.
A Bigger Demand for Skincare
There was a big shift in interest to skincare, and the demographics of who is most likely to visit your school’s website has changed. We used to see the largest group of website visitors being 18-24 years old, but that has shifted to people who are between the ages of 24-30.
While part of that is due to skincare trending, more people are feeling and thinking about themselves and what they want to do after being quarantined.
People are actively looking to treat themselves, get a facial, get their nails done, and those folks are thinking:
“There are so many job openings for the job I used to have, like retail or customer service, all of those people are advertising job openings. If I go and take the leap to pursue my passion and for some reason it doesn’t work out, there’s a job waiting for me.”
So, it feels like there’s a safety net for those people who want to pursue a different career. It makes it possible for them to choose something else if it doesn’t work out.
For example, many estheticians often pursue school as a second career, like they used to work as a nurse or other career in the wellness industry, and now they want to do something else.
But, for those students, even during the summer, they need to feel the social connection, the experience, that now is the time to choose a different career path because there are so many different jobs available.
How Are PPC and Paid Ads Affected By These Trends?
A lot of our clients run PPC, social ads, search ads, and it’s important to do it right knowing how the market currently is.
The biggest part is messaging, talking about having an experience. Typically, we have ad copy that we’ll try to update for the time of year, like fall could be, “Fall in love with school season” messaging like that has generally worked in the past.
But now you have to work in the experience side of things. You have to talk about the atmosphere, the experience, even the career aspect of it, too.
The other thing that’s really important, especially with messaging, is that people over the last year have changed their perspective of what a brand is and what they do.
People don’t want to hear from brands, they want to hear from people.
Making the message authentic and they can hear from people, then that becomes more important. Even more than before, you need to build that connection between your business and the people you’re trying to connect to.
How Should Your Budget for Paid Ads Change?
The answer is to be as flexible as you can over the next few months. Prepare to spend more in the next few months if the demand is there and be prepared to spend, even if the demand is not.
You may also want to consider investing in a different avenue. We don’t see the same spike that we see every year, and it’s important that schools recognize that. But, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be spending money on ads. You can reserve some budget to be ready to meet the demand when it does happen, but you should also be spending with no demand.
Spending even if the demand isn’t there is something we learned last year, when the pandemic was in full swing. We saw a lot of schools who needed to make cuts and pull budgets away, but the schools that kept spending and spent on top of the funnel messaging, they were able to keep their brand and school top of mind for those who were ready for school.
So, when students WERE ready, your school was already actively working toward addressing the concerns students had to make sure your school was actively handling regulations right.
They had your name in mind when they were looking for schools.
One of the biggest things we saw happen last year as our theme at Oozle Media was “keep calm and market on.” Even as we shifted it from heavy conversion budgets to top of the funnel brand awareness, if we look at lead count when people began to come back, it definitely showed positive results.
Schools who were actively spending money on ads won market share, and we even had schools who added budget. For those schools who added budget in highly competitive markets, they saw the opportunity to take up more ad space and obtain more market share that was previously unavailable.
For the future, we have to stay flexible, as we’re still navigating the pandemic. It’s not completely over. There’s still a fear of a variant strain and worry for those who haven’t been vaccinated yet. To combat that, flexibility was the best way for our clients to perform.
While the January dip was a little muted, it did eventually come, and we think we’ll see that for back to school season.
What Impact Did The Pandemic Have on Market Share?
People dialed back on their marketing spend, and people bought ads to fill the space their competitors usually filled. In fact, we currently have clients asking us why they’re seeing a decrease in their site traffic, and the reason for it is because schools aren’t as aggressive in their top of the funnel marketing as they were doing pandemic, because it’s the more expensive ads that they are no longer doing. Their competitors have made it back into the area and it’s become more competitive again.
How Has Organic Marketing Changed for Beauty Schools?
Using Google Trends, we’ve pulled some basic search terms in interest volume, purely from an organic standpoint.
The blue and purple lines are more general like “beauty school” or “hair school.” You can see the dip when the pandemic hit, but you can see an upward progression. However, it’s still not where it was before the pandemic.
But, the thing that’s interesting to see is the more specific type of terms like cosmetology school and esthetician school, those are trending upwards and are sometimes above the pre pandemic period.
Segmentation and Specialization
Esthetician school is on a continuous rise, makeup school is down, and cosmetology school is about where it was previously. The reason for this is because people are more informed about “this is the type of school I want to go to” as compared to people just searching general terms like beauty school.
There’s more segmentation and people understanding what they want to learn.
Before, we talked about “How do we educate people about esthetics?” but a lot of people understand skincare now, so they know to look up an esthetics school.
If you have a specialization that gives you an additional edge, it can set you apart from your competitors. People are more informed and more aware of the opportunities available to them and you should highlight that in your marketing.
The Rise of Local Search
The other thing that has been a trend is the rise of “near me” and Google reviews. Google has gotten increasingly more hyper-local and more able to distinguish and push people who are closer to you.
A lot of times you don’t want to drive more than an hour to go to beauty school, but there are people who will choose to do so if the local school near them doesn’t have good reviews or doesn’t have a solid social media presence. They will pick the other school that is farther away.
Just because you’re the closest doesn’t mean that you’re the best. And people want the best option for themselves.
Google Review Strategy
Asking for reviews, getting reviews, and responding to reviews, is geared toward the end result of the user experience. If you’re able to portray a strong and good user experience online, on Google, through social media, you’re much more likely to convert somebody.
Something else that has surged recently is that Google is pulling keywords from reviews. We’re looking less for the reviews that say, “This is a great school” and more asking for students to leave reviews talking about the program they chose, what they learned, and more. Having those keywords in your reviews is extremely helpful to build your school’s reputation.
Now is a good time to start investing into teaching students how to ask for your reviews.
Your brand, when schools come to us and say, “We want to stand out to a school, we need people to learn who we are.”
What you’re talking about is your brand, and you’re going to unconsciously cultivate your brand, or it’s going to be built by your students who talk about your brand.
Any way that you can get the keywords people are looking for into your reviews is important because Google has added a “people often mention” section. So, get people to leave reviews of specific things that they really liked, whether it’s the program or your services.
Your brand culture matters and if you can push it out to your online space, you’re going to be further ahead of your competitors.
How Will the Beauty School Industry Be Impacted by the Expiration of Federal Pandemic Unemployment Benefits?
For some people, they’re in a really precarious situation, but for a lot of people it’s possible to give the push people need.
Schools that offer financial aid and scholarships, even direct scholarships, it’s going to make that burden a little lighter for students. And, between all of the subsidies and checks, the end of those benefits are going to cause a short-term dip before people start moving and figuring out school is still possible.
And, there’s still a bigger safety net of low-skill labor that anyone can fall back to. Some people won’t want to go to those retail or customer service positions, but because there’s a big market for it, you can easily replace or recede those unemployment benefits by getting a job like that as a fall-back.
We’ll see things be a little shaky, but it’s not going to be a major problem.
Last year was incredible from a data perspective, as we got to see what was happening with beauty schools across the country. We wanted to see what type of recovery schools were making, was it a “cliff,” a “u-shape,” a “check?”
All of us agree, the people who consistently invested in marketing, kept ads on, kept thinking about their brand, stayed present, made themselves available, had a good pay off, and will continue to do so.
In times of feast or famine, the clients who consistently spend reap the benefits.
You have to consistently invest. It doesn’t matter if you’re getting more leads than you’ve ever seen, you should still be spending on marketing and grabbing that market share. Then, when your competitors don’t have the same market share, they won’t have the same advantage that you have.
What Is One Thing Beauty Schools Should Do With Their Marketing Right Now?
We asked all four of our panelists to share their opinions on what beauty schools should do right now.
Parker, Director of Accounts:
Keep investing. Even if a “cliff” did happen, ask your marketing team and account manager to put a campaign or strategy based on the market right now. And, if open houses haven’t happened yet, do those open houses. Get an event on Facebook and share and put some budget behind it and make it an experience! Make a reason for people to talk about you and with you.
Patrik, Director of Organic Marketing:
Have something to get people to know you. And the other half is, if you are not investing in a strategy for Google reviews, you have to do that. Even if you are doing it, take it to the next level, start looking for ways to get keywords and respond to customers to delight them.
You can do it with your students, with your salon guests, if you need help with training, we do a live training we’ve established over many years. Let others tell your story!
David, Director of Paid Ads:
Not the most important thing, but right now, people should be doing a video tour of your school as an ad. Everyone with their own phone could give a two to three minute tour of your school, something simple that’s authentic, even if it’s through your phone to grab their attention. Then, run that video as an ad right now during this slump to keep your presence at the top of your audience’s mind.
It does not have to be polished, your camera on your phone is typically good enough for it!
This is not the most important thing if you do not have good ads, a website, or a strong SEO strategy in place. But for those who do, who have a good website and good content strategy, and are running PPC ads, the most recent thing to consider is:
“People want to connect with a person, not a brand.”
For far too long, we have seen school owners who are completely behind the scenes, but someone needs to be the face of your school. Someone needs to get on camera consistently, being the spokesperson, the voice, the face, the person someone thinks of when they think of your school.
Your name can’t be nameless/faceless, with the rise of TikTok and reels, you need someone who can jump in front of the camera and answer questions and when people visit your school, it’s the person they can connect with.
Want To Invest in Digital Marketing?
If you aren’t investing in your marketing, your paid ads, your website, your SEO strategy, what’s stopping you? Get in touch with our team for a free analysis and get insight on what you can start doing now to get ready for the back-to-school rush. Or, you can get access to over 14 action-packed sessions from The Beauty School Summit on-demand. It’s free.