Common pitfalls in school marketing
School marketing is tough. We salute you; it’s not easy to increase enquiries, keep up with digital trends, create a talked about advertising campaign, run multiple open events, and keep many stakeholders happy – all done with such a small team around you.
We’ve met our fair share of school marketeers and it’s through these enriching encounters we’ve learnt about your daily struggles and noticed a pattern of common pitfalls. We hope to help you avoid them, or at least help you to recognise they are happening.
Common pitfalls in school marketing:
1. You say the same things as other schools
We surveyed 500 of the largest independent schools in the UK and the same words came up again and again – you won’t be surprised to find ‘inspiring’, ‘excellence’ and ‘individual’ feature in the top five.
It is true that all schools aim to inspire excellence, but that doesn’t give families a good enough reason to visit you. They need to know what’s unique about the way you inspire excellence. It’s about your people, culture, leadership and heritage – all of which is unique to your school.
Nailing what’s different about you is tricky, but it can be done and you will reap rewards for many years.
Our article Why you sound the same as every other school is a good one to read if you’re interested in getting to the heart of this common pitfall.
2. You’re trying to say too much
As Winston Churchill famously wrote "If I had more time I would have written you a shorter letter”. Condensing words down to the key points takes much more effort than including every piece of information. We see this often in school adverts, websites, prospectuses and more.
Given that attention spans are drastically falling (a study by Microsoft concluded that the human attention span has dropped to eight seconds – shrinking nearly 25% in just a few years) it's essential that we adapt our content to suit today’s audience.
Grabbing the attention of a prospective parent is tricky enough, and made even harder by adverts packed full of words. A punchy headline could take weeks or months to come up with, but would be far more effective at grabbing attention.
3. Your visual identity looks tired
It can be really hard to see the wood for the trees when you work with one brand every day, but if you take the time to look around it’s clear that the world of brands has progressed significantly in the last 5 - 10 years. The cottage industry standard of branding that many schools present is no longer good enough.
Brands all around us are upping their game; take a look at this family-run coffee shop in Battersea for example. Beautifully branded paper cups, bean pouches and merch with a mesmerising ‘brand story’ position them as a coffee shop that truly cares (and that I really want to visit!).
The cost and emotional investment people put into choosing a school is far greater than choosing where to buy their next cup of coffee, which is why it’s so important for schools to up their game.
No matter how good your marketing plan, it will always be compromised by a poor brand identity and positioning – we really do judge a book by its cover, so your cover needs to work hard to tell people what’s inside.
4. You’re focusing on gimmicks over fundamentals
New marketing tactics are exciting and a breath of fresh air, but they can also be a plaster stuck over the real issues.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the aesthetics of a new website or the slick cinematography of a school film, but when you get beyond the 'wow' what are they actually saying? Are they really differentiating you? Do they get to the truth of what makes your school special? Do prospective families care?
In other words, put the effort in to crack your branding and the rest of your marketing will become much easier.
This insight was written by Kelly Kent
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