Name: Lucy Barnwell
Job title: Director of Marketing, Admissions and Communications
Current place of employment: Rossall School, Lancashire
Years’ experience in education marketing: Nearly 10 years
How did you get into schools marketing?
I applied for the Marketing Manager role at Mount St Mary’s College, Derbyshire and was lucky enough to get it. I had spent the previous 10 years in fundraising. I think are very similar industries – it’s all about relationship building in the end.
What do you feel is the biggest misconception about your role?
That we deal with the fluffy stuff and ‘do’ events. I think many of the misconceptions surrounding these roles – like many other roles in this sector – are because this role (Marketing, Admissions and Communications related roles) are so new to the Independent Sector which is traditionally full of service delivery staff (academics). It was the same with fundraising at the beginning too (service delivery staff did not know what I did in fundraising either!). Marketing is hard to quantify unlike teaching or supporting an ill child – its seen as the dark arts – but these misconceptions are not so prevalent as they once were.
What do you feel has been the most significant change in your profession since you first started working as a school marketer?
The profession has started in recent times to be taken very seriously by school leaders. Heads realise that independent schools are not just educators but are in the business of education and need to embrace marketing and admissions to recruit much-needed pupils into each and every school. Schools are more commercially minded now and realise that they need to balance the books too.
Your top tip for engaging stakeholders in your marketing.
Academic staff: paint a picture of the independent school market today; you have to engage them in the marketing plan and what actions are needed to grow numbers and ensure happy customers, and how they can help. They need to become part of the marketing team too. Also, have an open door policy for ideas and suggestions.
Customers: Be personable and true in you marketing, but also add a hint of something that creates that little bit of difference to be memorable; finally really listen to your customers during the sales process. Follow up, and never promise something you cannot deliver.
What do you think makes for a successful school marketing campaign?
Consistency of brand, clarity of message and conviction about your product…. and great images too!
Preferred social media platform?
LinkedIn – I love it for news, updates in the schools sector and what my peers are doing.
Do you feel there’s any aspect of digital marketing that’s underrated/overrated?
I sometimes think twitter is over rated although it is great for quick little updates. Buffer and Hootsuite are over rated since as my colleague Amy pointed out in the recent blog, it is better to personalise your marketing messages. Personalisation is key!
If you had endless budget, what would you implement into your school’s marketing?
I would focus more money on digital and PPC advertising campaigns in all countries we operate in and new countries we want to operate in.
Moment(s) you have been most proud of in your current role?
This year’s ranking as the No.1 school in the UK for digital marketing and reaching our recruitment targets each year.
What aspects makes your job easier as a school marketer?
Having an amazing team. My team are all very skilled in their respective areas. Whether organising events, recruiting pupils and looking after families, designing beautiful literature, creating online campaigns, they are all key parts of Rossall’s marketing and recruitment and make my job much easier.
How much do you rely on data to inform your strategy?
Data is king in my opinion. I am constantly monitoring KPIs, ROI, recruitment by country throughout the year and against previous years, numbers and enquiries, income and percentages. Each year data drives marketing and recruitment. We could not inform our campaigns fully and ensure we are spending money wisely without it. You should see the number of spreadsheets and reports I am running constantly!
What do you see as being the most significant change school marketers will face in the next 10 years?
Dealing with affordability. School fees cannot cover all the costs and we cannot keep increasing fees. Additionally, with the potential of VAT coming, this will cause real issues for some schools. We need to become more commercial in our focus to withstand these pressures.
The dreaded ‘B’ word! Do you think Brexit will have an impact the world of marketing? If so, how?
As an international school, we did have issues with recruitment at the end of 2018, but people have had to live with the ‘what if’ and ‘when’ now for so long that I think it is not so much of an issue. I think we will have to do more to reinforce that UK Plc is as welcoming a place as it’s always been for international students and tourists, but I don’t see any major changes in the schools sector.
What are your favourite professional resources (e.g. blogs, authors, books, etc.)?
I have just discovered Shep Hyken and Phil Hesketh who are in the business of customer service and sales respectively. Really motivating individuals and their books are great. I also love Linked in as well as the professional bodies I belong to and their online member information and magazines. Dominic Moon at Metropolis is also fantastic for a half termly reports on the state of the market, as well as BBSW for the top 30 countries to be recruiting from each year and the ISC annual census.
What’s the best piece of career-specific advice you ever got?
It’s actually two quotes: If you want to make people happy, don’t be a leader, go and sell ice cream and from my childhood the following quote has always stood the test of time for me: You never get a second chance to create a first impression.
What’s the one piece of advice would you give to a new school marketer?
It is hard work a lot of the time, but the rewards are amazing. It’s a lifestyle and you need to be prepared for that. Three years on and targets met the work rate has not stopped. However, you will meet some wonderful children and families along the way, which makes it all worthwhile. The independent sector is absolutely worth it and so important to me (having been a customer myself once), and the UK provides the best education in the world; we should all be so proud of that.
If you weren’t a school marketer, what would be your dream role?
B&B owner in Scotland.