Marketing is a vital tool in modern student recruitment. Ensuring your school utilises the most effective way to acquire new students is vital, but; with so many different marketing methods it’s hard to know which will suit your school best. Traditional marketing methods such as word-of-mouth and open days are still prominent promotion tools in the education sector yet, digital marketing is now seen as the most productive form of engaging with prospective parents. The fight between traditional and digital marketing for schools is now showing a clear winner but is just using one form of marketing enough to differentiate your school from its competitors?
There are many traditional forms of acquiring new applicants into your school including direct mail, billboards, paid advertising, and print adverts. One driver that will never die is word-of-mouth within social networks created by parents sharing personal opinions; which can be more powerful than any possible advertisement could deliver. When your target market is in touch with influential advocates of your school, you are more likely to gain social success.
Print adverts in national newspapers are not an effective way of engaging your target audience. It is best to focus on parents that are likely to consider your school instead of casting your net to the whole nation. Direct mail can be useful to focus on postal areas or the use of advertising in partnership with local businesses. The more targeted your marketing is, the more positive the results will be. Open days are a great event to promote in the local area and beyond.
Open days are a great way to give parents and students an immersive experience of what your school has to offer. Every school should have their own creative concept to help them stand out against others on open days. This could be anything from personalised Snapchat filters to virtual sections of the tour. Anything that makes your open day unique will ensure that parents remember your school when it comes to admissions.
The goal of advertising is to get noticed and when it comes to print advertising, it’s hard to judge just how much attention you managed to attract. Print advertising can be expensive and it’s not always effective as it’s hard to track engagement. The benefit of switching from a traditional advertising plan to a more digital-based one in the instant communication you get with parents. Print advertising is used to get people from the print publication to an online engagement method to then be able connect with your school. By only using digital media, you’re shortening how many steps it takes for your target audience to engage with you, and for less money too.
However, more families now begin their search for schools with Google as the digital world allows parents to gain information on a school at any given time. Therefore, it is critical your school website should reflect what your school stands for and the type of education it offers. Don’t make parents struggle to find basic information on your website such as your address, grades served and application instructions. Make sure your application timeline is clear to see along with dates of any upcoming open days. A smooth digital customer experience is also key, your website should adjust itself depending on the device and format the user has at that moment. If your site is not mobile-friendly, then your users will most likely not incur a positive experience.
A strong Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) plan can help your school be at the forefront of a parents mind by appearing higher on the search engine rankings. Your optimisation can be increased by inputting more inbound marketing into your SEO plan. Inbound marketing is done by posting your own content online through your website or social media outlets to help increase your SEO ratings in Google.
Social media is an important part of your online marketing as you can use common keywords searched by parents in your posts to help navigate people to your website. Common questions and queries from parents can be answered and dealt with on these platforms. By monitoring your social media platforms, you’ll be able to learn what is effective with your target audience and what type of content they find engaging. This can be helpful to keep your marketing strategy optimised and effective. Social media is also great for user-generated promotion from actions such as shares and retweets. Over time, the more content you produce, the more it will be shared across platforms and search engines will take notice, slowly increasing your reputation.
Overall your marketing should be a part of your content strategy, whether this is to focus on engaging with local families or improving your social media content marking. Whatever your plan is, you should be looking at incorporating both digital and traditional methods to create a cohesive and collective marketing strategy.
Stephen Spriggs, Head of Education, William Clarence Education