In a world filled with phones, tablets and computers, it’s no surprise that digital marketing has become fundamental to the success of organisations in almost every sector – and schools are no exception. From building relationships to keeping your admissions funnel full, digital marketing is a cost-effective way to cut through the noise and allow your school to flourish and grow. A successful marketing strategy is composed of several key areas, and it can be difficult to know where to start, so here are five tips to kickstart your digital marketing journey and get you heading in the right direction.
Do your homework
As children, we are constantly reminded of the importance of homework; a means to further your knowledge, consolidate your understanding and uncover new perspectives – who decided it should stop when we leave school? Hard work pays off and taking the time to research and understand your market can have significant benefits for your school. To make things easier, let’s break it down:
- Business analysis – it all starts with you. Think about it: at the start of a new school term, what’s the one thing that’s sure to occur? The icebreaker. Why? Because people want to know who they are going to be working with – and the same applies outside of the classroom – but, for others to truly trust and understand you, you need to first understand yourself. Start by answering some of the following: What are your values? Why does your school exist? What makes you different? Who are your key stakeholders?
- Audience research – it’s rare for people to make a habit of speaking to strangers. It’s difficult to know what to talk about because you have no idea what their likes or interests are – and yes, you guessed it, the same applies to marketing. Creating a marketing strategy without first understanding who your audience is, is like taking a stab in the dark. Why risk failure when it is so simple to succeed? To maximise the success of your marketing efforts, do your customer research: from likes and dislikes to preferences and habits, knowing who you are communicating with will really help to optimise the performance of your campaigns.
- Competitor analysis – learning from the mistakes of others is just as important as taking inspiration from their successes. It will not only help to keep your school’s reputation intact, but will save you time and money in the long run.
- Market research – if you fail to look at the bigger picture you will be missing out on opportunities and exposing yourself to threats. Researching the educational market will allow you to identify changes in trends, regulations and laws which could impact your school, allowing you to evolve and adapt your strategy to overcome obstacles and make the most of new opportunities.
What constitutes a successful marketing strategy for you? To truly gauge the success of your marketing efforts, you need to define clear targets to benchmark your progress and provide clarity to your overall strategy. SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) targets are an effective way to ensure everything you do is relevant to your overall goals and will bring some form of value to your school.
An example of a SMART goal could be to increase your rank from 6th to 1st on the search engine results page for the term “Berkshire secondary school” within three weeks by obtaining inbound links, optimising existing content and regularly updating the site’s blog.
Stick to your deadlines
Working within a school environment, you will understand the importance of planning and sticking to set deadlines to maximise your chances of success. Those principles can (and should) be applied beyond the classroom, too. Deadlines should not only be met in relation to targets as mentioned above, but also in terms of other marketing-related activities such as producing blog content or publishing new landing pages. Falling behind with tasks like these will have a snowball effect that will jeopardise your chances of achieving your overall objectives – so don’t risk it.
An effective way to ensure you and your team stay on schedule is to preplan your month and create resources, such as content calendars, to allow everyone to see exactly what needs to be completed and when. Still not convinced? Well, I’ll let the numbers do the talking: organised marketers are up to 397% more likely to report success and marketers who choose to document their processes are 466% more likely to report success.
Keep it relevant
If a teacher were to start delivering lessons about topics unrelated to the syllabus, you would think it was ludicrous, right? A complete waste of time for everyone involved. Well, the same applies to your marketing; if you’re producing content that isn’t relevant to your audience and your goals, what’s the point?
Again, this links back to market research and planning. Everything you produce should be created with your audience and your end goals in mind, and content pillars are a great way to ensure you are doing exactly that. Generally, it’s good practice to devise 3-5 pillars; these should be topics which are relevant to your audience and tie in well with your brand.
Creating a content calendar will help put your pillars into action. It will not only allow you to see exactly what pillar your content corresponds to, but will also improve your efficiency, bring consistency to your communications, ensure deadlines are met and improve the overall quality of your content. To find out more about how to plan and create effective content, check out our ultimate guide to content marketing.
Think you’ve nailed it? Put it to the test
What may seem like a fantastic idea on paper could be the total opposite when presented to your audience. While market research can provide invaluable insight into what will be a success with your audience, it certainly isn’t the be-all and end-all. Think of it more as an educated guess as opposed to a reliable solution; while there are valid arguments to justify your reasoning, there will always be a degree of uncertainty. And how do you validate whether a guess is correct? You put it to the test and wait for the scores to come in.
To put this back into the context of marketing, if you want to launch something new but you’re unsure of the best route to take, by all means, use market research and analytics to inform your decision, but when it comes down to deciding which path will lead to success, remove the guessing work and let the numbers do the talking.
Split testing (also referred to as A/B testing) is a great way to (quite literally) put your ideas to the test. It allows you to test different variations of things such as landing pages or calls to action (CTA) to see which proves to be most effective in helping you to achieve your goal.
Of course, a successful marketing strategy includes far more than the above and requires a lot of careful planning along with an in-depth understanding of each of the processes involved. While you may not be a marketing guru, following these five tips will certainly help to steer you in the direction of success. Looking for help with your digital marketing strategy? Check out our digital marketing for educational institutions page here to see some of the services we can offer you, or contact us for a free consultation.