The new term is here, and it’s brought with it a return to the everyday hustle of bustle that comes with being a school marketer. With a hundred different tasks staking a claim for your attention, it’s difficult to know what you should focus on first.

  • Should you start using this new piece of software?
  • Learn more about this emerging social channel?
  • Commission new school photography?

The truth is, these are all viable options. But to lay the foundation for a truly successful academic year, we believe that there are a number of high-impact activities you can focus on.

In this two part-series, we’ll be outlining the step-by-step approach you can take put into action starting today to set the stage for a great term.

You’re busy, but believe us: spending a few hours now to refine your approach and structure your efforts will dramatically reduce your stress over the coming term, and certainly increase your chances of succeeding too.

Step 1: Review Data From Your Previous Year

One of the best ways to figure out what you should focus on over the coming year is to reflect on lessons learned from previous years. And given the role you’re in (school marketing), you have an abundance of past data to reflect on.

You make many decisions as a school marketer, and some are more successful than others. By casting your eye back over the results of previous campaigns, you’ll be able to figure out:

  • What strategies need to be changed
  • What channels are working for you
  • What mediums you can drop entirely

And so on. Extracting this data doesn’t have to be complicated, either. While there are many different systems you can use to gain insights from your marketing efforts, even something as straightforward as a spreadsheet tracking your KPIs can be useful.

Whether your systems are simple or complex, the point remains: review your data, learn the lessons it has to offer, and let them guide you moving forward. Doing so is a great help when it comes to Step 2 of this Action Plan…

Step 2: Set Your Goals for the Year

Without a target to aim for, you won’t know which activities are worth your time, which are meaningless distractions, and which ones should be avoided altogether. Creating an effective action plan is an important task, of course – but you can’t create something useful without first understanding what your goals are​.

You can set goals relative to the overall department (i.e. “overhaul website to improve professional image”, “increase enrollments by x%”, etc.), or for your own development (e.g. “learn how to run Facebook Pay per Click campaigns”).

Whatever your goals may be, make sure they’re:

  1. Measurable
  2. Attainable
  3. Relevant to your work as a school marketer

That third point is the most critical, as it’s something that many school marketers struggle with. It’s very easy to get caught up chasing improvement in metrics that don’t ​really​ move the needle for your school. For instance, decreasing bounce rates on your website is great… but if you don’t improve in key areas like student enrollments or advertising costs, what’s the benefit?

Whatever goal you choose, make sure that achieving it will bring you closer to your ultimate aims as a school marketer.

As an added bonus, having a full-fledged plan of attack is a great asset to have at your disposal when meeting with team Senior Leadership. Rather than being subject to lengthy interrogations, you’ll be able to demonstrate that you’ve come up with a solid strategy. Having a firm “grasp of the reins” will reduce your headaches throughout the term – another great benefit!

Step 3: Update Your Customer Personas

All advertising is created with one main goal in mind – to reach the target audience effectively with its message. It’s a simple objective, but one that you can easily miss if you’re not careful.

You can’t reach your audience effectively unless you know who you’re speaking to in the first place. To get a clearer picture of what they care about, you should take the time to create (or update) your ​customer personas​. Who your customers ​are ​informs the campaigns you design, the words you use when speaking to them, and more. That’s why it’s important to have a good picture of who they are: it affects all of the choices you make in marketing to them.

Step 4: Choose Your Channels Carefully

Once you have a clear image in mind of who you’re trying to reach, you’ll be able to make more informed choices as to what channels you should use. ​This post from SproutSocial​ is a really interesting read if you want to learn more about the demographics using each social platform (although you should take the specific insights with a grain of salt, as they’re two years old at this stage). We’ve also written some pieces recently on why schools should make more use of Instagram Stories as a marketing channel (see ​here​ and ​here​ for more detail).

It’s important to note that social media channels are changing all the time. If you’ve been around a little while, you can remember when MySpace was all the rage and social media advertising was completely unheard of. We’ve seen Facebook rise and fall in popularity, and newer platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat ​come to the fore​ (with 65% of Instagram’s user base being under 35, it offers access to a young demographic you can’t get elsewhere). It’s difficult to keep up with these developments… but as a school marketer, you ​need​ to do this.

Regardless of the channels you choose, remember that it all comes down to reaching your target audience as effectively as possible. Keep that goal in mind, and you won’t go wrong.

Conclusion

Having a great academic year doesn’t happen by accident. To succeed in achieving your goals, you need to start as you wish to go on – and that means you should take the time ​now​ to:

  1. Review the previous year
  2. Set your goals for the year
  3. Update your customer personas
  4. Choose your channels carefully

That’s all for this week. Next week, we’ll be covering the second half of this action plan, detailing four more high-value activities you can complete to get your term off on the right foot.

You might find it difficult to make time for these activities, but believe us – you’ll be glad you did when you’re looking back on your successful academic year in the summer of 2020!