As schools have to compete for students, and increasingly staff, many are upping their marketing spend. Former TES editor Gerard Kelly says that before you commit to any particular tactic, there are 10 key questions you should ask yourself:
1. The first is obvious, but so obvious it’s often overlooked: what are you trying to accomplish? Do you want to recruit more students or to retain existing ones? Do you want a better gender balance or a different student mix? Do you want to attract staff or get a higher profile for the head? Whatever your objective, be clear about it, stick to it and make sure everyone on the team knows what it is.
2. Have you really prioritised? Many schools understandably want to do it all – raise their profile, attract more students, attract the right kind of students, recruit the best staff. But the more objectives you have the less chance you have of achieving them. Can you focus your marketing plans on one main objective?
3. Do you have the resources to accomplish what you want to do? If you don’t what in the long term would be less costly, to trim your ambitions or to expand the necessary resources?
4. What really sets your school apart from the rest? Every school claims to value excellence, broaden minds and nurture potential. What do you do that’s different? Why should parents send children to your school and not others?
5. Who amongst your competitors is doing marketing well? Why do you think they are succeeding? Is there anything you can borrow from them and adapt?
6. When you have identified your USP, can you boil it down into two or three key messages? The more succinct they are the better.
7. Who do you want to reach? Who is your principal audience? If it is parents, which ones? The types who currently send their children to your school or the ones who don’t but might with a bit of persuasion? Which audiences promise most return for your marketing efforts?
8. Where do you think you can reach them? Is it the local press or the coffee-shop circuit? Is it at open days or other events or is it on social media?
9. When is the best time to address your audience? Is it pre or post exams? Is it in October/November when parents finalize plans for the following September or March when state school admissions are announced?
10. What marketing has worked in the past and what hasn’t? If advertising in the local press hasn’t worked for a while, for instance, why would you continue throwing good money after bad? Is it time to consider a different approach?