A new school year is underway and with it comes new challenges—increased competition, tighter parent purse strings and an unknown future with Brexit. With so many challenges and uncertainties, how can you ensure your school’s marketing success in 2020? Start by building a strong foundation.
1. Create Your Persona Profiles
I’m sure you’ve already heard of persona profiles – those fictitious characters that represent your ideal target audiences – but perhaps you’re not aware of how much they can impact the success of your school marketing efforts.
Imagine if from a focus group you learned that your ideal prospective parent’s profile went something like this:
- Age 30-45
- Mainly female
- Working professional
- child’s mental health and wellbeing
- private education costs
- Interested in yoga, pilates, vegetarian diet, environment
- Favourite social platform is Instagram
What could you do with that information? Would it change the way you approach your school marketing? If you were only on Twitter as your social media platforms, I think it would! What about the messages and content that you’re delivering? Would that change? Are you creating any content that addresses their concerns and potentially attracts a new audience? Is your current content focused primarily on existing parents?
Make a point to develop a clear picture of your audience(s). Consider focus groups with existing parents and pupils to gather as much intel as you can. The information you gather will be priceless and should guide your overall marketing strategy.
2. Develop your School’s Content Strategy
Even if it’s a loose strategy, get a content strategy down on paper (or better, online!). Spend an afternoon mapping out a content calendar. The key here is to be creating content for each stage of your Admissions funnel and being strategic about when you deliver that content.
For instance, if parents are looking for new schools in September, October, and January, what content are you sharing during those critical time periods that will
- attract new parents to your school?
- guide them through your funnel?
Take a step back and think like a ‘regular’ company. What are they doing to attract new customers? Well firstly they know the majority of their prospective clients are online, so they’re creating content that addresses their audience – answering the questions they’re searching – in order to be found in search results.
If you go to a tool like Answer the Public, you’ll learn that ‘what to ask at a school open day’ is one of the questions that people are searching for answers online. If I was a school I’d be jumping on that opportunity and creating a blog, guide or video, that would answer that question at those key times of the year. Written well, content like this is what is called ‘evergreen’ – it never gets stale and will always appear in search engine results.
Going back to our parent persona above, we know their child’s wellbeing is a big concern for them. Where does everyone go for answers and guidance? Google! Again, create a blog, guide or video and offer tips on how to help their child cope with the stresses of school around exam time. How will this help you? Not only could your content be found by prospective parents or pupils who are considering a school change but it would be a great resource for your existing parents and pupils, improving those relationships, building your advocacy making it easier to gather parent/student testimonials.
The key to successful content marketing is to marry what your audience wants to hear with what you want to say to. It’s NOT about going on and on about YOU. If you’re providing wise advice and guidance, that will sell your school so much more than any marketing spiel you can come up with.
So, go back to your persona profiles, look at their concerns, those key times of the year, and what makes your school unique and creatively tie those together, delivering the right messages at the right time.
3. Build a Social Media Strategy
There is no doubt the reach and influence that social media has. Globally, the average person is on social media 2.5 hours per day. Savvy companies (including schools) are there as well building their brand reputation and extending their reach. But if you want to make the most of your valuable time (and we all know how little a school marketer has) then you’ll want to have a clear strategy on what your social goals are, again who your target audience is and how you’ll measure your success.
You should be thinking of your social media as a tool to deliver on your overall marketing objectives. For example
|MARKETING GOALS||SOCIAL MEDIA GOALS|
|Brand Awareness||Reach, Shares, Likes, Retweets|
Using a tool such as Google’s UTM Builder will allow you to track your social media campaigns and learn which of your platforms is working best to deliver on your overall marketing goals. Simply fill out the form, share the specially created URL and track your results in Google Analytics (more on that later).
Create a strategy, track and adapt your efforts and you’re bound to see your results improve!
4. Map Out Your Digital Advertising Plan
It’s refreshing to see so many schools finally making the leap to digital platforms such as Google Ads, also known as PPC advertising, and social media advertising. Of course, there is always going to be the odd publication that you’ll want to have a brand presence in (although I’d say this list is getting smaller and smaller), but if you really want to widen your reach and equally be very targeted in your approach, then digital advertising is definitely the way to go. Just as with social media, the key to effective digital advertising is to have a clear plan for each digital campaign:
- What you’re hoping to achieve? Whether that’s general brand awareness or increasing registration, you’ll want to have one goal per campaign to be the most effective.
- Which platforms will you use? Different platforms deliver in different ways so have a clear understanding of how each can work towards achieving your goals.
- Who will your ads be targetting? Define your audience. This is where once again your persona profiles come into play. Depending on the platform you’ll want to know their age, gender, location, children’s ages, language, and interests. You’ll also want to be sure to turn on your remarketing tags in Google Analytics so you can remarket to those new parents that have yet to convert.
- What’s your geographic targetting? Is it strictly local or do you want to broaden your reach? The beauty of digital advertising is every ‘experiment’ is recorded so you can see what works best for you. Nothing is a failure.
- What will you have on your landing page? Lastly, you’ll want to think about the page your ads will send your audience to. Is it in line with your ads? Does it help to ‘sell’ your school? Do you have proper tracking on your (reduced) form? Don’t make your landing page an after-thought.
5. Optimise Your School Website
Optimising your school website isn’t something that’s going to happen over-night but at the same time cannot be ignored as your website really is the anchor for all your digital marketing. No matter how brilliant you are at content, social media or digital advertising if your website isn’t up to the expected standards your whole marketing plan will suffer. A few website optimisation fundamentals:
- Ensure your site loads fast. Okay, parents are going to be more patient than perhaps the average consumer, but why make that first experience with your school a negative one?
- Optimise your school website for mobile. Check your analytics to see the devices your audience is on. Chances are you’ll see more and more parents on their mobile device so you’ll want to be sure that experience is at it’s best. Ensure forms, contact details etc can be easily accessed. If you’re not sure your school website is optimised correctly for mobile, try Google’s free mobile testing tool.
- Have a clear menu site structure. Make it easy for visitors to find your content and for parents to compare your school to others (because you know they will). Sometimes being ‘clever’ with your menu wording or site structure can backfire.
- Optimise for search engines. Being found in search engines is obviously of the utmost importance, and you don’t have to be an SEO expert to do some basics that can help with that. Read my blog 5 SEO Tips That Every School Marketer Can Implement on getting started.
6. Get Friendly with Google Analytics
Lastly, if you want to know how your marketing is doing and more importantly, how you can improve upon it, you’ll need to get comfortable with data in order to determine which of your school marketing activities is actually bringing in results (or at least contributing to them). Before you get yourself too worked up, Google Analytics isn’t as scary as you may think. If you’ve added it to your website already you’re on the right path. Now all you really need to know is:
- How to set up conversion tracking (this is easier than it sounds)
- What KPIs really matter (again, if you know your marketing goals, you can easily find the metrics to track in Google Analytics)
Google Analytics is where you’ll also set up your remarketing and connect your marketing goals with your digital advertising efforts. In addition, once you’ve set up your goals set you’ll then be able to gather valuable information on what your converters look like – their age, location, gender, the devices they use and how they found you. Dig a little deeper and you can find the keywords your visitors are finding you on and how you rank in search engines.
The possibilities really are endless in Google Analytics. You just need to take it one step at a time. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the stats – focus on what matters, what you’re doing that is driving converters to your website and how you can do more of that!
Take it one step at a time and focus on the 6 areas above as the foundation for your school (and digital) marketing efforts. Once you’ve done that, you’ll be more focused on your marketing, resulting in a much higher ROI for your efforts.
As always, if you have any questions or need some additional guidance, feel free to reach out.Ask Me Anything