Enrollment up in a down economy: How has FMS has been able to outperform?

Enrollment at Fishburne Military School has been at its highest levels since the late 1960s. And that’s in a down economy. How have the admissions folks at FMS been able to outperform their peers?

“We’re really working on trying to do what’s right. We’re treating kids and parents right. And we’re developing a track record and success record that can show parents what we can do,” said Col. Roy F. “Rick” Zinser, the superintendent at Fishburne since 2009.

Which is to say, there’s a mix of good, old-fashioned hard work and good customer service at the heart of the recent enrollment successes.

FMS knows going in that it can’t compete on a level playing field with its peers in terms of its advertising budget.

“It can be hard for people to know that we’re here. We don’t have a $1.2 million advertising budget to get our word out. We have to be a little craftier with the way that we do things,” said Zinser, noting the emphasis on the Fishburne.org website as a key marketing tool.

The reasoning behind that is solid in this wired age that we live in.

“When a parent comes to the conclusion that they need a solution for their son, they do a Google search,” said Zinser, detailing how the Fishburne marketing approach tries to pinpoint web browsing with dollars spent on search engine optimization, content marketing with stories and videos posted to FMS-branded YouTube and Facebook channels and Google advertising.

The stealthy approach has allowed the school to save more than $100,000 on its marketing budget since Zinser’s arrival.

So that’s how Fishburne is able to do a lot more in terms of enrollment with a lot less in terms of its advertising budget.

But it all comes down, in the end, to closing the deal once a family visits. The academic track record, emphasis on leadership training and the bucolic setting all help seal the deal.

“If we can get parents to visit our school and walk around campus and talk with us about what they want for their sons, the vast majority of them will pick us. We’re confident in that,” Zinser said.

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