We're in goal-setting season, and most schools are preparing their annual marketing plans. We're getting a lot of questions about how ambitious they should be and what amount of budget to allocate to their advertising.
Unfortunately, we're also hearing a lot of macho marketing language which is dangerous.
The plans we're seeing are littered with words like 'disrupting' and 'transforming.' They hardly ever use more modest, but more realistic, words like 'nudging,' 'reinforcing' or 'reassuring' their prospective parents -they just don't sound impressive enough.
One of the most common misconceptions is that marketing is synonymous to advertising -reducing the complex and nuanced process of informing, helping and ultimately persuading parents that the education you offer is worth the investment.
Before setting any goals or ad spend start by understanding your school's,
- differentiation: What is the one thing your school offers that no other school in your community can?
- target persona: What does your parent community value and what is the one critical educational priority for your prospective families?
- branding intentions: What personality do you want your school to convey and what do you want prospective parents to remember when they hear your school’s name?
- core messages: Once you know who you’re talking to and how you’re different, ask yourself what is a three line paragraph that adequately communicates what makes your school unique?
- advertising channels: Be strategic with your advertising spend. Before choosing where to invest make sure you research the offline or online channels that your core parent audience frequents.
- marketing tactics: Don’t just stop at choosing your channels. Take your plan a step further by anticipating how you’re going to engage in each of your preferred channels. Let’s say that you decide to invest in a local publication (newspaper or magazine). Decide if you'll pitch your school's story so they might write about your school, if you'll place an ad or if you're going to invite the publisher to be on your school's podcast.
- monthly execution requirements: If you don’t plan it out on a monthly basis and map out the entire year it will not happen. It is far better to edit, refine and improve an existing marketing plan than not having one at all because you'll only accept one that is 100% perfect.
- inherent attitude towards marketing: Getting buy-in is critical. You cannot be a one-person marketing department. You'll need to leverage others' opinions and efforts. So make sure you show them the plan and adapt it according to their feedback.
Building your school's marketing plan is not as simple as following these eight steps. Making sure you cover these critical components would be an excellent starting point and will put you ahead of most of the other schools in your community. So start with these and take it from there...