On the surface, budgeting for private school enrollment marketing on Facebook looks simple. There seem to be just two options: an overall campaign budget for a set number of days or an ongoing daily budget that you can pause or start whenever you need it.
Unfortunately, what isn’t apparent to people new to running Facebook ads, is that how you manage your budget is the critical factor in the overall performance of your campaign.
For a private school building its enrollment marketing infrastructure, the daily budget option is the best choice. I often tell school leaders to think of their marketing system like plumbing because once you have a campaign and inquiry management system that generates inquiries at a low cost-per-lead, you can turn it up and down like a water faucet.
From the hundreds of enrollment campaigns we are managing, we see an average Cost of Acquisition per Customer (CAC) of around $500. Meaning, for every student you want to acquire, you should base your budget using this benchmark if you don’t already have a historical CAC on which you can rely.
The way to calculate your daily budget is to take the number of students you need the ads to generate, times the average cost of acquisition per student (e.g., $500), divided by the number of days you want to acquire the students.
It’s safe to assume that you do not need Facebook ads to fill all of your open spots since you will indeed have a good portion of word-of-mouth inquiries come in as well. I usually recommend planning to accommodate 50% of your available enrollment with Facebook ads.
Twenty enrollment spots are open.
Ten will come by word of mouth.
Facebook ads will fill 10 at $500 each – Total ad spend = $5000
You want these enrollment spots filled in 90 days.
$5000 total ad budget / 90 days = $55.55 daily ad budget.
Once you have your budget defined, managing it requires you to think through a decision matrix that requires knowing how the Facebook Ad platform works.
Here are a few of the variables you need to consider.
The learning phase.
When you first launch a campaign, Facebook creates a pixel profile based on the type of campaign and the goal you must tell it to optimize. Assuming you have added the tracking code to all your web pages correctly, the algorithm will know when people are hitting the goal and continually improve its ability to target the people who are most likely to do the same.
During the learning phase, the cost-per-lead will start at its highest and gradually decrease as the algorithm does a better job of finding the most likely people interested in inquiring about your school.
If managed correctly, you should view this initial investment during the learning phase as money well spent. Without being willing to invest in the campaign’s learning process, you can easily spend five times the money overall to get the same number of students.
Number of Ads
The best way to get through the learning phase quickly and find an ad that generates the most inquiries for the lowest cost is to run as many different ads as your budget allows. We suggest having a minimum of $2/day for each ad you are testing for a private school.
We will generally run 50 unique ads simultaneously, during a 14 to 30-day learning phase with a daily budget of $100/day.
Changes to the budget.
As your enrollment fills up, you can decrease the speed you get more students by reducing your daily ad spend. However, be careful to make these changes incrementally to avoid kicking your campaign back into the learning phase.
For example, if you decrease your daily budget by 50% in one shot, Facebook will drop the optimization profile it has been building and treat the campaign like it’s brand new. This mistake would result in your Cost of Acquisition per Customer (CAC) skyrocketing.
Even though you made no changes to the ads or the target audience, the only way to get back to the same low CAC you just had would be to go through the process from square one.
Learning how to build and test different audiences to which you will target with your ads is a whole lesson in and of itself. Because Facebook knows so much about its users, there are many ways you can define an audience.
There is no one correct answer for any campaign, but as a general rule, if you can, you want to define a target audience that has at least 100k people.
You may have to open the audience as broad as possible for schools in less populated areas, even including people of ages and demographics that you know will not have children. This approach will feel counterintuitive because it will seem illogical to show your ads to teenagers and grandparents.
You have to remember that it’s the Facebook algorithm that is learning based on who engages your campaign and then reaches your campaign’s goal. If you’ve ever done a statistical analysis, you know that sample size is an essential factor. The larger the sample, the better you can rely on the results. Your audience is the sample you are giving to the algorithm, in which it will do its analysis.
Furthermore, the content of the ads themselves will do the majority of the initial filtering.
Consider how unlikely it would be for a single 18-year-old male with no children to see an ad for a local private school, then not only click on the ad but then go to your website and fill out an inquiry form.
So as long as you give the Facebook algorithm enough room to breathe, the design and messaging of your ads will quickly show it who is likely to engage with them, and the learning phase will be off to a great start.
In summary, the technology powering the Facebook ad platform is highly complex, with thousands of brilliant data scientists developing it further every day. And while they make it easy for you to spend money by posting an ad, getting a good ROI takes time to learn which of its many features to use, when and how to use them, and which to avoid.