When it comes to marketing schools, people tend to have the perspective that it is easier than other businesses. However, people forget, when it comes to independent schools the marketing strategy is different from a state school.
Why? Because not only do you have to sell the school as the best place a child can receive their education, you also have to show what the parents will be paying for.
Unlike state schools, it is the parents buying a place for their child that funds the independent school. This creates another layer to your marketing because as well as the regular inspections and reports, you also have to promote what doors that your school will open, and other benefits, for these children of paying parents.
There are several ways that many schools could improve their marketing approach. And although most are doing a fine job, as with most pupils, there is always room for improvement.
In this report, we are considering the following:
- The challenges that independent schools face when it comes to marketing.
- How independent schools can improve their marketing strategy
The challenges that independent schools face when it comes to marketing.
Rising competition between schools
There are many challenges that independent schools face when they promote themselves, and the first of these is…other schools!
Every business faces the same problem – how to promote themselves above another, similar brand that offers an almost identical product – even Coca Cola and Pepsi have this constant struggle.
And just like these two brands, independent schools have to show off why they are better than the others, and demonstrate why parents should pay for a place with them. On top of that, Bidwells researched the challenges that affect independent schools, stating that one of the biggest problems they have is rising competition from state schools.
Not only do independent schools need to think about other private schools, but they also need to compete with schools that parents do not have to pay for. Independent schools need to demonstrate value for money, proof of increased benefits over state schools and show parents that the money they will spend will benefit their child for the rest of their lives.
Not only do independent schools have to think about their competition, but they also need to understand the social networks that parents will create.
If a parent decides to send their child to an independent school but has a bad experience, then every other parent in their social network will learn about it.
Word of mouth is an incredibly powerful marketing tool but works twice as hard against you if the tide turns.
And in today’s society, parents can communicate everywhere. They meet up at the park, the coffee shop, the gym, but then also socialise with one another over social media. We live in the digital world now, meaning information, opinions and ideas can be shared instantly with other parents – and the only thing that travels faster than good news is bad news.
Independent schools aren’t the only ones marketing their product, it is also the parents who are doing the marketing much of the promotion of the school and its reputation – albeit unwittingly.
When parents visit an independent school, it’s not because they want to know how this school will benefit their child, they are more often just wanting to make sure their decision, that they’ve already made through talking with people, is the correct one for their child.
Having every contribute
David Winfield, an expert from Independent Schools Partnership, states that one of the biggest challenges is channelling employers to play their part in marketing. It might start with the marketing team, as they are the ones to decide what will be shown on the websites, and what to send out to the potential future customers, but ultimately everyone has to play their part.
For the marketing team to show that the independent school have held events where the public has joined in, such as a sporting event, then it means the P.E teachers need to be able to help organise such events and that the school needs to make sure they still organise more events like this.
Teachers need to be able to demonstrate all of the wonderful work that the students have done, for the marketing team to be able to use it to promote the school.
It can be challenging to get everyone on the staff as involved as they need to be, to help market the school because each employer is already under enough time pressure with their own job.
How independent schools can improve their marketing strategy?
Independent schools generally have more money for marketing, meaning they can usually pay for a marketing team to promote their school. But even at the best of times, funding for this is rarely at the level the marketing team would like.
Knowing the audience
The most important piece of information to remember when marketing is who your target market is – and for schools, this is constantly changing.
Twenty years ago the market for independent schools was mainly Generation X parents, whereas now, it is mostly Millennials, with 84% of them not trusting traditional advertising.
What this means to an independent school is that when promoting themselves, they need to be thinking about new and innovative ways to do this. For most of their target market, this means scrapping printed leaflets and prospectuses – and instead, moving predominantly online. Not only does this move away from traditional advertising, but it also helps the independent school appeal to the environmentally-conscious parent – which is now a majority of them.
It is important to remember that the journey for parents to pay for a place at an independent school has changed. Millennial parents are known to be more technology savvy than previous generations. As stated above, parents tend to visit independent schools on open days to validate their already made decisions because they have done most of their research before, online. This includes communicating with other parents who have children at the school of interest.
Using online platforms
Independent schools can make sure that the parents’ decision is favouring a ‘yes’ before the opening day, by making the most of their online interactions. This includes their website and other social media channels.
All these contact points need to be up to date, visually appealing and as interactive as possible. Online photo galleries, prospectus and Q&A areas are essential, and anything added to these will help. Easy communication options are also a must.
In short – as an independent school, you need to display your online credentials.
Social media has become a 24/7/365 platform – with a constant need for more and more visual content to keep the accounts relevant.
When independent schools use the online world to market, not only does it help bring new customers but it helps to keep lines of communication open with the existing ones.
Social media is a powerful tool for parental engagement and can be a very positive channel for two-way communication between the schools and parents.
Working as a team
So what is the best way for an independent school to collate visual resources for marketing?
People will remember more when they see photos or videos, compared to just speech or printed materials, and this is where the assistance of the teaching and support staff can become key. They are the ones who go on the school trips with the children and they are the ones who coach the sporting teams. They are also the ones who are involved with the regular day-to-day activities of the students.
Photographing events such as these won’t only preserve the students’ memories, but it will also help the independent school market themselves, by providing a regular flow of visual content.
Many of the modern-day challenges that independent schools face with marketing can be overcome with the help of these photos and videos. They demonstrate what the school is about, they reveal activities, both regular and extra-curricular, and give valuable insight into the real-world experience of the school, for the children.
Yet while living in a digital society means using photos and videos is a must – when it comes to schools and children, much care must be taken in terms of both security and parental consent.
At Splento, we have developed the Splento App to meet these requirements.
Splento App is a secure platform for content sharing between schools and parents, in an enclosed and safe environment.
Schools can share visual media freely on the App, knowing that it is safe. Parents can download and share any media they like, or share it with trusted family if they choose to.
Parents may also decide to allow certain images to be used by the school for external marketing purposes, but this only ever happens with parental consent. This then becomes an amazing, constantly updated, visual resource for the school marketing team – with parental permission built-in.
Splento App is the solution for helping independent schools overcome their primary marketing challenges.