As a school marketer, a big part of your role is ensuring that your outputs communicate the value your school has to offer prospective students, their parents and the community.
But unless you understand precisely who to target with your marketing, you’ll struggle to reach them effectively. After all, parents and children are looking for different things. Some are looking for high academic results, while others are looking for high levels of pastoral care or opportunities to expand their horizons with a varied curriculum.
We see real value in using up-to-date and relevant customer personas in your marketing strategy. After all, relying on out-of-date personas can be just as risky as not having them at all. Many companies also make the mistake of pushing what they do, rather than covering off what their customer needs and just puts them at odds with how people make decisions.
We’re all consumers and we tend to stick with brands that understand our needs and have our trust. To build trust, you need to show genuine understanding and concern for the other person – in this case, your customers. But to do this, you need to define who your customers are with a customer persona.
What Is a Customer Persona?
Your customer personas should be a profile of the “ideal” person you want to reach with your marketing. It’s made up of a list of traits this person shares with your audience e.g. employment status, financial background, interests and so on.
You may find it helpful to create your personas as a fictional character, then base all your marketing on this character. As a school, you’re more than likely marketing to the following groups:
1. Current pupils and their families
2. Prospective pupils and their families
3. Applicants for vacancies in your school
4. The wider school community
You’ll often have specific messages for each of these groups. And because each of them has different characteristics and desires, the way you communicate with them has to vary. If it doesn’t, you run the risk of failing to capture their attention, an outcome none of us want.
How do I find out who my target markets are?
We think you’ll already have a fairly strong idea of which types of families apply for your school, but it’s worth gathering some specific insights if you can. HubSpot’s Pamela Vaughan gives some great advice which we’ve adapted for a schools’ environment:
- Look through your existing parent data to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.
- When creating forms to use on your website or during your application process, try to capture important persona information.
- If you’re not responsible for admissions, then take into consideration their feedback on the families they’re interacting with most. What generalisations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?
Once you’ve got all your information gathering done, it’s time to distil it and start to identify patterns and commonalities that will form the basis of your personas.
What would an example customer persona look like?
Let’s assume you’re looking to attract students that will raise your academic profile. Here’s what a really basic customer persona for a “prospective family” could look like:
Name: The Wright Family
Child’s age: 15 years old
Goals: Needs to achieve great A-Level results to get into university for medicine
Interests: Passionate cricketer who plays at a county level
The Wright Family’s child ticks all the boxes as a pupil your school would like to attract. As a someone who wants to be a doctor in the future, they’re sure to study hard and contribute to your school’s reputation.
In your marketing to The Wright Family, you should highlight things that matter to them. Talk about your state-of-the-art sports facilities and your performance in the school league tables. Show them that attending your school will bring their child closer to their goals, and their enrolment is all but guaranteed.
What are the benefits to using customer personas?
Fleshed-out customer personas are a great asset to you and all school marketers. They will:
- Help you understand what platforms are best for reaching them.
- Help you figure out what kind of language you should use.
- Allow you to determine which parts of your message are most important to them.
Simply put, customer personas are the foundation of effective school marketing. Without them, you’ll struggle to attract good pupils to your school, top talent to your open positions and even get the local community onside.
Building your customer personas allows you to bring your prospects to life in a way that you may not have done before. But not only that, it really allows you to tailor your marketing to your target audience. You can then ensure that your communications directly talk to these groups with authority and build trust with potential families based on their needs and desires.