Hey Stick buddies,
Over the past four years, much of my marketing work has been with schools. From developing and implementing a School Bank education programme for a children’s online Bank, to designing impactful student recruitment campaigns and creating transformational marketing strategies. I’ve loved it all.
Taking this passion for working with schools and knowing the context of how student recruitment is a continual headache for many schools, I therefore wanted to write a post dedicated to helping schools optimise conversions (i.e. fill school places).
(Of course those schools inundated with demand can tune out now! This post is designed for those schools experiencing challenges in fulfilling capacity with their student intake).
The approach to converting prospective parents/guardians (getting them to apply) should be structured and with a long-term outlook. You can’t just expect to send them a one-off marketing email and they’re yours. No. This audience needs a carefully crafted series of communications and engagements across a period of time.
Step 1: Tapping into your target audience’s world.
The first step, as with all good marketing practice, is all about stepping out of your shoes and into those of your prospects; moving out of your world and imagining theirs; transferring your mindset from yours to theirs. It involves truly understanding things from their perspective – their day-to-day behaviours, their attitudes and values.
I’m afraid assumptions don’t cut it at this point. This insight has to be real and has to come from the horse’s mouth. So get busy planning how to capture this info – a survey? Focus group? There are lots of ways of doing this.
Step 2: Understanding your target audience’s journey.
The next step in developing your school’s conversion strategy involves understanding the journey that those prospective parents go on when deciding which schools to apply to. This journey can be grouped into 3 basic stages:
- Gaining initial awareness of a school.
- Interacting with a school to find out more.
- Applying for a place at a school.
This journey tends to be lengthy as the decision to apply to a school is a significant one for parents/guardians because in most cases the decision is made only once.
The journey may start with a visit to the school’s website. Less than 5% of first-time visitors to a website however are likely to complete an action such as downloading a prospectus or calling the school. No. It takes time. That first click is just the first step in a long decision-making process; the first step in a whole series of clicks to competitor websites; the first step in an extensive amount of chat with fellow parents/guardians; and certainly the first step in a prolific number of thoughts and quandaries along the way.
Your job as a school, is to support those parents along the way with information that’s valuable to them; information that will inform their decision-making. Being visible and helpful at critical points along their journey will mean you’re not only front of mind, but you’ll be creating a great impression too. Here are some typical marketing activities for each stage of that journey:
- Creating awareness of your school: lead generation, paid social, online ads, paid search, events.
- Interacting with prospects to inform and persuade them: a decent website, content marketing, live video streaming, data capture, re-marketing, school events, virtual events, email.
- Encouraging application for a school place: telephone, email, face to face.
Note, there are no defined points between the three stages – the journey is fluid and prospects should be guided through it seamlessly.
Any communication programme worth its salt however should most definitely not stop there. No. In fact, the conversion point is when the real nurturing should begin, and most importantly should continue throughout the entire duration of their child’s time at the school. Creating loyalty in parents will mean they engage positively with your school. This will most importantly have a knock-on effect with their child’s learning. It will also however create a set of loyal advocates for your school, and will leverage highly-valuable Word of Mouth and recommendation – the most powerful marketing tool in existence. Enhance this, and you’re onto a winner. This is another blog post in itself though!
If you’re a school wanting to discuss your student recruitment activities, get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 07969331164.