If you’re a school marketer, you’ll understand the importance of meeting parents’ needs by delivering timely, relevant communications at just the right moment in their customer journey.

Knowing what parents expect from your school is the key to developing a sterling reputation and growing your enrollments lists. However, in the age of proactive service and connected experience, the stakes are much higher. In this post, we explore the three key things that parents expect from your school marketing and initiatives that will help you to exceed their expectations.

1. Authenticity

“Authenticity” has become a marketing buzzword, particularly for millennial consumers, and schools are starting to pay attention. Embracing authenticity means pulling back the curtain on your school to show who you really are. Rather than telling prospective families about your school, embracing authenticity means showing it.

While it’s important to ensure your marketing materials match your overall school brand, having every piece professionally designed and vetted before sharing might be stopping prospective parents from engaging with your school. Give them a behind-the-scenes look at your school operations — you might be surprised at how much better your engagement is.

How to meet their expectations

Ditch the curated feed: The days of the perfectly orchestrated social media presence are over. In 2019, perfectly curated and staged feeds are perceived as “manufactured” and “generic” — words that shouldn’t be associated with your school. Rather than spending all of your marketing budgets on professional photography and graphic design, pull out your phone and start snapping!

Share things as they happen: Is there an event or special moment happening at your school? Consider using live video to stream the event to your socials. It’s not going to be perfect, but it’s the imperfections, bumbled lines and bursts of giggles that draw people to watch live streaming over a slick, edited professional video.

Embrace user-generated content: The biggest signal of authenticity is allowing families to tell stories about your school in their own words. Spread your own social proof by sharing parents’ glowing reviews directly to your social feed (with permission of course!). Encourage student leaders to guest post on your blog. Get teachers to speak at your events.

2. Personalisation 

Consumers (including prospective parents) are no longer delighted by companies providing highly personalised experiences — in 2019, they expect it. Almost every other customer experience is targeted towards their interests and demographic information, from the images that are displayed first in their Instagram feed to their Netflix movie recommendations.

If you are tracking prospective parents’ data, you will have a wealth of information about your target audience that you can put to use in your marketing.

How to meet their expectations

Build real-life personas: Personas are fictional character profiles used to represent specific audience segments that interact with your school. Rather than sending everyone in your database the exact same messaging, you can tailor the information to your audience’s interests, requirements and experience.

Use tokens in an email: Tokens allow you to dynamically pull contact data into the email body text. Even something as simple as personalising your email’s subject line, or addressing the email to the contact by name (Hi Georgia!) can do wonders for your email open rates. As Dale Carnigie once said, “a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Ask questions: Even the best personas won’t give you the full picture about what a contact is interested in and what they are looking for from your school. Asking questions (through a chatbot, email marketing, or even in person!) will help you to provide a more meaningful, personalised experience to your contacts. Just make sure you are collecting and storing this information consistently.

3. Values

Around half of consumers consider themselves to be “belief-driven buyers” — that is, they change their buying behaviour based on a brand’s values and stance on certain issues. While this is often associated with negative buying behaviour (such as brand boycotts over unethical business practices), belief-driven buying creates a huge opportunity for other businesses.

More than ever, prospective families are defining themselves by the brands they align with, including the schools they send their children to. Choosing a school isn’t a transaction — dollars for education. Rather, parents look to ensure their money is contributing to a school that matches their values and will support them in passing those values along to their children.

How to meet their expectations

Say what your values are: It’s a no-brainer, but the first step to communicating your values is stating them clearly, in a place where prospective families can find them. This is usually as simple as ensuring you have a “values” or “ethos” page on your website and including them in the opening pages of your prospectus.

Flex your storytelling muscles: It’s easier than you’d ever imagine to communicate your school values through story. You can tell your school’s stories on your blog, on your website, on your social media and through your school app.

Reach out for testimonials: There are undoubtedly a large number of current parents who chose to send their children to your school based on value alignment. Testimonials from current and past families are a great way for you to reinforce your values. Reach out to them and ask them to talk more about what drew them to your school.

In summary

Parents expect school marketing material to be: authentic, personalised and values-driven. Marketing used to be about broadcasting messages to families that suited your school’s brand, with little to no tailoring of messaging. Today’s consumers want brands to recognise what they are looking for and adapt their messaging to suit.

Published 3 July 2020