Participants: Michael Lee, Brian Schaffner, Erin Tungesvik & David Mumm
What would you like us to do for you? What is the purpose and scope of the project (heighten credibility, expand services, sell 2000 widgets, etc)?
Mount Ellis Academy needs a marketing plan and the needed materials to execute that plan. Our goal is to increase enrollment to our sweet spot. That is, we want enough students to be in the black without adding staff. Today, our break-even point is 67 students. We have 61 students today with 21 seniors. We need a freshman class of 30 for fall of 2017. If we continue to add 30 students each year, we should easily reach our goals.
- Year One = 70 students
- Year Five = 80 students
- Ultimately 90 to 100 students
With 90 to 100 students, we can keep class sizes at 25 or below.
Fortunately: The product is good. Mount Ellis Academy is credible. The school is positively perceived.
The struggle every parent faces: Can I afford this? Yes!
Do I want to send my kids away to boarding school? Yes!
- We must develop an annual marketing plan and a sequence of events for every student contact. We must harvest our leads!
- Logo Polish
- Identity Package (Business Card, Letterhead, Envelope and such)
- Website (The website is our second point of contact for most leads, so it is hugely important)
- Direct Mail Postcard Series
- Gleaner / Recorder Ad Series
- Materials for Campus Visits (SWAG)
- Church display (Rack card with backer)
- Local Bozeman face time with pastors and influencers
- Music tours and similar outreach
- Statewide outreach to pastors and influencers
- Continued Website Development (The website never sleeps)
- Email Marketing (To established customers).
- Social Media (Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and more…)
- Facebook Ads
- Google Adwords?
What limitations or constraints do you have (budget, schedule, size, paper, etc)? What elements or colors or other personal preferences must be represented in this project? Where will additional materials that we do not create come from? (writing/photography/illustration etc.) What are examples of projects of this type you have seen that you think are effective? Share samples with us. How does distribution affect budget, creative time, use of color, mechanical requirements?
Officially the school colors are blue and yellow. We often use blue and white. Blue is popular at Mount Ellis Academy.
We did a piece called “Discover, Develop, Serve” that was purple green and orange. Nobody is quite sure why.
So, let’s pick three or four colors to define our brand. Let’s use big sky blue for most of our stuff. Let’s pick a palette that includes blue and white and yellow and ???. White is good for snow and snow sports.
Writing: Michael, Kevin, and some teachers write well.
Photography: Current photography is not well organized yet. James Stewart does the yearbook and has some skills. Seth Ellis (math) is also a good photographer. It may be valuable to hire a pro for a few days.
What are the products or services your business provides? What is the product or service that you want to promote? What are its features? How much does it cost? What is it made of and how is it used? What makes it different, unusual, or unique?
Michael: Mount Ellis Academy provides a college prep high school diploma. We also provide a spiritually uplifting atmosphere and a place where students can grow spiritually and socially.
Brian: Mount Ellis Academy provides a safe place to grow physically and spiritually. Our family environment is key. It’s easy to find MEA family with peers and faculty. Our kids accept each other.
Our mission and vision have been central to our communications. Short version: Discover, develop and serve.
Mount Ellis Academy students are extremely ACTIVE and they get OUTDOORS and into NATURE often. Mount Ellis Academy students camp, hike, climb, bike, paddle, run, ski and snowshoe. You will see a moose. You will see a snowy owl. There are indoor sports too and lots and lots of campus activities every day. ACTIVE is a good word
Mount Ellis Academy can do everything your family is doing and add more to it.
Let’s talk about cost: $17,000 annually for dorm students. If you live in the village. the total is $10,500.
How much does the average student actually pay? Yes, $200 a month is possible. Our policy is that we give every student the opportunity to attend Mount Ellis Academy. We can make this happen. Of our 61 students, 18 had unclosed financial plans. Financial aid is available for motivated students. In 5 seconds or less we must say that YOU CAN AFFORD IT. We’ll make sure you can afford it. We have 114 years of experience in helping kids to afford Mount Ellis Academy.
What makes your business special among similar businesses? What’s your value proposition? Who is your present competition? Whom would you like to be competing with? What similar products or services are currently available and how good are they?
Competition: Locally there are three Christian high schools. They are Petra, Heritage (8 grades), and St. Mary’s. Mount Ellis Academy also competes with other Adventist boarding academies. UCA takes some students from Northern Montana. Dakota Adventist Academy in takes some students as well.
Of course, public school has got to be our biggest threat. Why go to public school? It’s free, so that’s a big point in favor of public school. Many parents also feel that they would like to keep their children close and feel that they can provide for their children better than a boarding academy can.
Public school offers good education, but students get into HUGE school an get lost. Often only elite students can get involved in extra-curricular activities. Any kid who wants to be involved can be involved at Mount Ellis Academy.
You have to work hard to be isolated and lonely at Mount Ellis Academy.
Home school also provides significant competition. Homeschool can be good, but you have to be very intentional to find a social life for homeschool kids. Generally there are two kinds of kids in homeschool: Really excellent and way behind…
Why are we special amount Adventist Boarding Academies? Our outdoor program stands out, We have our own ski hill, we’re minutes from Yellowstone National Park. Our access to summer and winter sports is amazing.
We’re also special because we are focused on christian education, we offer a welcoming family environment, and there are activities every evening and weekend. Our program keeps kids busy, connected, and engaged. Mount Ellis Academy friendships are the good kind,
Target Audience & Market Realities
Who is your current primary audience (gender, age, socioeconomics, employment, geographics)? How much do they know about the product? What are their attitudes toward products or businesses like yours? What motivates them? Whom do you want your audience to be?
What is your marketplace like right now? What are some trends affecting your business right now? What are opportunities you could be taking advantage of now or in the future?
Our target is sixth through eleventh grade students in Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Alaska. We would also like to target Missionary kids and readers of the North Pacific Union Gleaner and Pacific Union Recorder.
Our focus will be on building the freshman class to 30 students. Most of our budget and materials will be focused on sixth through eighth grade students. Of course, eighth grade students are right in the middle of our target.
We should also work to appeal to non-Adventist village students. We have 28 village students now and that number could easily grow.
We do love our international students and their impact on campus life, but it is possible to have too much of a good thing. We’d like to keep the campus culture similar to where it is today. We will not be expanding outreach to international students.
Here’s some information about our students:
- California: 1
- Idaho: 5
- Michigan: 1
- Nevada: 1
- Washington: 3
- Brazil: 5 (for one semester)
- Montana: The rest…
- 2017 - 21
- 2018 - 12
- 2019 - 12
- 2020 - 12
The mix is about 50% male and 50% female students.
What do students and parents know about Mount Ellis Academy?
Student and parent knowledge really varies. Generally the hesitations expressed by students and parents are financial. Some students and parents question the concept of boarding school and others are looking for larger sports programs.
Mount Ellis Academy does a lot of things right. Our outdoor program is unmatched. We offer lots of outdoor options and opportunities. No other school does this. Mount Ellis Academy also offers a uniques small-school family spiritual atmosphere. Personal connections are strong. Long-lasting friendships are a huge strength. Kids are happy and content.
Our international flair is nice. We have lots of diversity. We have hispanic students, Brazilian students, Asian students, and European students. Mount Ellis Academy students learn LOTS about culture from their international classmates.
Mount Ellis Academy has some weaknesses too. We can’t offer everything because we are small. The programs we have are quality.
One trend that is hurting us is that, a few years ago, the assumption was that Adventist kids would go to boarding school. That assumption is no longer absolute. Adventist education is not as valued as it was.
Who are our target parents? That’s a hard question to answer. Our target parents are very diverse! Some are looking for a conservative Christian environment. Others are looking for small school where kids don’t get lost. Some parents are frustrated with kids and they need help dealing with a teenager. Some have seen the success that boarding schools have brought family members. Parents with connections to Mount Ellis Academy are very likely to send their students. If you went to boarding school, you want that for your kids. Mount Ellis Academy also attracts parents who wish for better social environment for their kids. Parents range in age from 35 to 60. Most are in their early 40’s.
An important growth opportunity is our athletic program outreach. When we are involved with local schools, we do find some students who wish to transfer to Mount Ellis Academy.
How will the user be better off using your product or service? Will he or she save time, effort, or money? If so, how much? How important is this product to the consumer? Are there tradeoffs (higher quality, but higher price)? What support do you have for these claims (statistics, data, focus group results, testimonials)?
Mount Ellis Academy students are better off because they get wonderful support as they develoip into responsible adults. They’re given opportunities to lead, to grow, to decide, to discover who they are. Mount Ellis Academy teaches responsiblity. When freshman become sophomores, they are different people. The growth is amazing.
Our smaller classrooms teach kids to get along with a team of 15 to 20 peers. Mount Ellis Academy students learn how to get things done. Lifetime friendships of emerge in part because students are responsible for each other. There are lots of positive adult influences too. Every student at Mount Ellis Academy gets an extended family that will be with them for life. Like a family, we follow up on every kid’s homework. We offer the best kind of caring. We thank each parent for sending us their kid. Each student becomes our kid too.
We supervise, teach, and play with every student. We spend so much time with our kids that it likes violates union rules. :-) We offer small classes, one on one help, guidance and oversight.
It’s also interesting to note that Mount Ellis Academy offers every student work experience. Brent Tungesvik looked at student resumés and saw some stronger than many college students. Work experience is HUGE. Leaning to show up and communicate with supervisor is a lovely experience for kids. Mount Ellis kids can get a job practically anywhere!
Mount Ellis Academy parents are better off because they get peace of mind, academic rigor, and a path for success in college. What’s more, students will find good influences from other students and staff. Our leadership programs teaches each kid to lead (no one gets lost at Mount Ellis Academy. We offer a village of trained staff who understand what makes kids tick. People who choose to work at Mount Ellis Academy because they are mission minded and driven to serve and develop these kids. We like teenagers. We thrive on teenagers. Yes, they are challenging, yes they test our limits. We know teenagers.
Most Important Point (MIP)
What are the top three ranked benefits of your product or service? If you could choose only one thing the viewer remembers from your advertising, what would it be?
- Mount Ellis Academy provides students with the opportunity to know Jesus every day.
- Mount Ellis Academy guides students as they develop as responsible adults. We show them how to succeed in college. We teach success.
- Mount Ellis Academy nurtures connections to students and staff. We are the Mount Ellis Academy Family.
- Mount Ellis Academy kids go outside. Summer and winter outdoor recreation opportunities are huge. We take the classroom outdoors.
Most Important Point:
Our number one marketing message has to be our outdoor program. Mount Ellis Academy students go outside. Of course, we will weave in all the other key points, but the most important point is our amazing seventh classroom: The great outdoors.