Although most schools continue to rely on materials such as brochures or posters to present and promote the institution, the truth is that parents' decision-making process has changed radically in recent years, making this marketing strategy less and less efficient.
Before contacting a school, parents have already looked for various information about teaching methodologies, pedagogical projects, extracurricular activities, logistics, or financing.
In other words, while a few years ago schools were the guardians of this information, today the main resource that parents use is... Google. How can then schools respond to this change?
1 – Define your Parent Persona
Everything in marketing always starts with Target. Due to the specificity of this sector, we're going to call it the Parent Persona - a semi-fictional representation of the typical parents of your students based on research and profile data of the parents of your current and former students. It is normal to have more than one Persona, as no college has only one student profile.
Example for an international school:
- A persona that represents a family that has lived abroad and that, upon returning, looks for a school that will continue the education that the children had abroad;
- Another that represents a foreign family living in Portugal, for example, and seeks education in a language other than Portuguese;
- One that represents, for example, a French family looking for an education that facilitates a student/professional career abroad.
Personas can be constructed based on demographics, behavioural variables, backgrounds, goals, personalities, or a combination of these.
2 – Define the decision process
Now that you've defined the Personas you want to talk to, it is important to understand their decision process. Although nowadays, decision processes are no longer so linear, it is possible to identify 3 major moments in this process:
- Awareness - At this point parents are becoming aware of the situation, whether it is a problem, a specific need, or a personal desire, such as "I want my child to have bilingual education", "the offer of public schools in my area of residence has poor quality".
- Consideration - Stage in which parents look for different types of solutions to the identified problem and seek to know more about these solutions.
- Decision - Moment when parents have gathered the necessary information that leads them to choose between some schools that offer the desired solution, looking for some feedback or information about them.
There are opportunities to interact with different parent personas at different stages of the decision process.
Now that you know who your parent personas are and you've mapped out the decision process, you need to define a strategy that brings them closer to your school and ends with enrollment.
3 - Attract Parent Personas to your site
Rather than going after potential students to talk about the virtues of your institution, tailor your website content to the decision-making process of the student's parents and the information they are looking for:
- SEO (Search Engine Optimization) - As mentioned above, Google is one of the main resources that parents use to obtain pertinent information for their decision. If it doesn't appear on the first pages of results, it's like it doesn't exist. Map the searches in each of the phases of the process and turn them into a keyword strategy that will define the content of your website;
- Blog - Use the institution's Blog to re-answer your Personas' FAQs and complement your SEO strategy as not all searches can be answered on your website pages;
- Social Media - Use social media to increase the audience for your content (e.g. blog posts) but also to share third-party content that is relevant to your personas. By doing so, your school will gain notoriety and assume itself as a thought leader in the field of education.
4 - Convert your website traffic into potential student-parent contacts (leads)
Build and make available offers (ebooks, webinars, whitepapers, etc) for the different stages of the purchasing process that help your personas in their decision process (e.g. "Guide to understand the different teaching methodologies"). The purpose of these offers is not to talk about you but to inform and educate parents in your decision-making process. In exchange for these offers, ask for contact information via:
- Calls-to-action - Buttons on your website that draw attention to an offer and trigger an action related to it ("Download", "Sign up", etc);
- Landing Pages - This page describes the benefits of the offer and the collection of personal data from your personas through a form.
5 – Convert leads into enrollments
After gathering contacts, you can start a conversation with your leads. Use the information you've collected to understand where that person is in the purchase process and have a personalized conversation. Use technology to make this process automatically scalable without losing customization.
6 - Your marketing strategy does not end with enrollment. keep the conversation going
Keep the conversation going with your community of parents of students and alumni. Use social media and targeted content in order to continue to surprise them. The members of this community, if properly approached, can be the greatest ambassadors and diffusers of your institution. Conduct surveys frequently to understand your level of engagement and anticipate threats.
In short, the parents of your potential students are not interested in your sales pitch. Instead of bombarding them with your institution's advertising messages ensure that your school's marketing focuses on helping your Parent Personas through this difficult decision process, helping them, and educating them along the way. With this approach, not only will you be found in a natural way, but you will also gain your trust, asserting yourself as a reference in the field of education and increasing your institution's notoriety. This recommendation comes from a team that has already helped several institutions in different countries to transform their marketing and streamline their admissions...
If you need help or just want to exchange impressions you can always talk to us.