We get so caught up in promoting our schools that it’s easy to forget about the parents we need to connect with.
‘Megaphone’ style advertising may have worked in Mad Men days, but the world has moved on. In short, long-term success hangs on how long you stay relevant to your school's audience. Here are six things to do to keep you on track.
- Know them intimately
Make it your business to know your audience intimately — because they are your business. Do you know where they spend time online? What about their interests, where they live, what they care about, who they care about? If you haven’t dedicated serious time to finding out who your audience is, then your marketing efforts are simply guesswork. Harsh but true. The good news is there are countless online tools for target audience research, and many are free. Try this list to get you started.
- Speak to their dreams and aspirations
Once you know who your audience is, check that your communications speak beyond product or service features. By appealing to your customers’ dreams and aspirations, you communicate the benefits that your school offers them. Think of Nike and Apple ads — there are no mentions of materials used or what Apple 3D Touch is. The ads speak to lifestyles and goals instead. People have little interest in purchasing shoes; what they really want is to be fit and healthy.
- Fit intuitively into their lives
There’s no use knowing your audience and selling benefits if what you offer doesn’t fit well into their lives. Imagine that crucial moment when a prospective parent calls a school. Now imagine they are put on hold for 30 minutes, then asked to call back another time when the Enrolments staff can help them. That’s an easy handball to your competitors. Parents are busier than ever, so a school that addresses their problem easily and quickly is more likely to win them over. Not to mention the positive word-of-mouth that this kind of customer service will generate for you (which, incidentally, is the best form of advertising).
- Go further than they expect you to
Think of a time when a business not only met your needs, but absolutely outstripped your expectations. How did you feel about that company afterwards? And how many friends did you tell about it? Delighting your customers, however clichéd that may sound, works a treat. This is a great way to build long-term relationships with your audience and grow your school’s relevance. Yes, this is more effort than just doing what’s required; but in the long run, you won’t have to sell so hard with an audience that is already on board and loves what you offer.
- Build a brand community over time
This can take care of itself over time if you address the point above. However, it helps to state it as an official business goal. Building a brand community sounds like ‘ad speak’ but it is based on the same principles as any community. This is about bringing people together who have shared interests and experiences; the only difference is your school’s brand is centre stage. A good brand community example is Go-Pro. They are arguably one of the best brands at user-generated content. Imagine a parent base that is so engaged with your offerings that they want to share with each other. So how can you achieve this at your school? One way is to use your social media page as a community building tool and encourage conversation over topics that your audience cares about.
- Rinse and repeat
Think of this process as an ongoing cycle rather than a once-off checklist. People change over time, as do their circumstances and desires, so you have to constantly be in touch with your audience to stay relevant. Set annual audit sessions and revise marketing goals to realign with your school’s audience and stay relevant to them. Marketing, after all, is not about products and services — it’s about people.
How does your school’s marketing communications stack up? Download a copy of our complimentary ebook to find out:
This blog was written by Tess Palmyre
Account manager Tess has 15 years’ experience working in schools and truly understands the challenges and needs of Australian schools. Her passion for education started during her time as a teacher in Independent, Christian and public schools across Perth and Melbourne. A ‘lifelong learner’ attitude saw Tess complete her postgraduate tertiary qualification in marketing.