Marketing is an ever-changing field, and as most school marketers would agree, you should always stay attentive to new trends and tactics. If you’ve always been in the digital sphere, it may be helpful to understand more about traditional marketing, so you can add it to your toolbox. And if you’ve been around the block and were active before the digital age, it’s important to keep your knowledge up-to-date.

What's traditional marketing?

Traditional marketing is usually defined as marketing which is offline. Think printed ads, television ads, radio, events, etc. Although digital marketing has had a massive impact in recent years, we shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss the traditional way of doing things. There’s still some great tactics that your school can make use of to attract families and boost enrolments.


  • Traditional marketing formats can be more impactful, since people are so used to seeing marketing online. 
  • You can bring a more personal touch (and real connection!) to communication, especially when it comes to hosting in-person events
  • You can create brand awareness within local communities, showing yourself as a part of the community (e.g. sponsoring a local community garden with a billboard)
  • Printed marketing material is more permanent, and provides a physical touchpoint for your brand
  • Traditional marketing can be much more memorable and tends to stick in people's minds for longer


  • It’s much harder to track the effectiveness of traditional marketing, especially for printed material
  • With most forms of traditional marketing, you’re not able to target particularly well
  • Traditional marketing can often be more expensive
  • Traditional marketing is less personalised, and struggles to reach consumers directly on an individual basis

Traditional marketing isn’t easy to measure. If you’ve ever made bus stop or local newspaper ads, you’ll know they’re great for boosting school awareness, but it’s really hard to say how many new enrolments you get. Another challenge with traditional marketing is that it’s hard to know what could be improved. A well meaning parent might suggest making your logo bigger next time - but that’s hardly a decision based on data, is it? 

What's digital marketing?

Digital marketing of course is marketing which is conducted online. Being such a relatively new form of marketing, we’re still learning about it, and as our tech and online capabilities grow, so do the tactics and strategies we use. Digital marketing encompasses everything from email marketing to social media marketing, and is especially great for its ability to track campaigns and measure results. Data gained from digital marketing campaigns can be invaluable for helping you decide your direction forward.


  • Digital marketing offers more opportunities for engagement with consumers. Think emails, social media, website ads, etc
  • A major pro is ability to track campaigns and make data-driven decisions, this allows you to improve your future campaigns with what you learnt from previous ones
  • Highly personalisable, can target individuals based on their interests and demographics (age, location, education, income) which allows you to cut through much of the marketing clutter out there


  • It can be hard to stand out amidst all the marketing clutter out there
  • Digital marketing doesn’t stick in consumers minds as long as traditional marketing
  • Due to constant changes in best practices, your methods can quickly become outdated and ineffective
  • It can be challenging to get started with a digital marketing campaign at your school, either due to a lack of skill or lack of buy in from stakeholders

Identifying the needs of your school

While digital marketing may be the most modern form of marketing, it doesn’t mean it’s the best fit for your school. You need to weigh up the pros and cons of implementing a digital marketing plan as part of your wider marketing strategy. You also need to have a look at your current marketing effectiveness, which will influence your marketing direction moving forward. 

While digital marketing is a great option for most schools because of its variability and flexibility, traditional marketing can pack a real punch when done right, and schools should consider adopting a hybrid approach. In today’s school marketing landscape, digital marketing is a must because the majority of parents can be reached online (and increasingly expect to be!) However, when it comes to schools, a deeper emotional connection needs to be created with your audience. If you were just trying to sell a pair of shoes, then digital channels alone would suffice; but when it comes to schools, you need to get them onboard through more personal channels, such as events. Through advertising campaigns and your school website you can get the attention of prospective families, and then nurture them to enrolment by building a connection with them through events, and other more personal touch points.

And remember to create a budget for the approach you decide to take.  Many schools don't have additional budget to start a digital approach, so if you decide to go hybrid, you can look at some of the traditional methods that you suspect are not as effective and that cost you money with limited ROI, and divert these funds into trying out some new digital channels.

Wrapping up

Marketing is always changing, and while it’s important to stay up to date with these changes, it’s also a good idea to hold onto those  tactics you currently  use that still work. It’s all about finding the right balance for your school, and you’ll likely be best off with a hybrid approach which utilises the best of both worlds. It’s important to remember that schools require a much more personal and emotional connection with their ‘customers’, unlike marketing for simple consumer products or services. Therefore, by familiarising yourself with the benefits of digital and traditional marketing tactics, you’ll have a more comprehensive toolkit with which to attract and convert prospective families.


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Published 12 April 2022