Why your school marketing is failing (and how you can market like a pro)


Getting marketing to have an impact is an ongoing challenge for both large and small schools keen to stand out from the pack. While digital tools make marketing more affordable and accessible, getting your message seen and heard can be difficult – even when you are communicating directly with your audience.

The reason it is so hard? Marketing requires unique skills and specialised knowledge that is always evolving. It also demands some advanced tools and a significant investment of time – all of which most school marketing professionals simply don’t have.

The problem with your marketing

Old-school marketing tactics aren’t effective

While some traditional marketing techniques still work perfectly well, updating your skills to keep pace with the changing demands of the audience always adds value. It isn’t just that digital marketing is cheaper. Audiences are increasingly less receptive to old-school practices.

It is important that you don’t lose sight of who your audience is and where they are going to engage with your messaging. Remember that many of today’s parents and guardians have come of age as digital natives who may not even know there is a local paper. We are talking about older parents who may identify as Gen X, but also older Gen Z parents who are now of an age where they are looking for schools to enrol their kids into.

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The savviest marketing professionals identify trends and are good at positioning themselves to take advantage of opportunities. But even the best of them can’t be certain about what will drive the industry in the future – even as soon as two years from now.

Just think about what we have seen in the last five years alone with the rise of 15-second Tik Tok videos driving such powerful audience engagement. The app’s popularity may have been built on showcasing dance routines and sharing cat videos but today it is helping thousands of businesses get millions of eyes on their products – all with a simple smartphone.

Even more recently, the industry has seen generative AI take the internet by storm. With the promise to automate all of your marketing needs with one click of a button, new tools flood the market every day, each touting to be the “end of digital marketers everywhere” (spoiler: they’re not.)

For the average school marketing team member, keeping up with the latest tech, apps, and trends is a full-time job, and it’s one that most schools don’t have time for.

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Lack of specific skills

A major problem with education marketing is that so much is demanded of school marketing professionals. It isn’t enough to understand how to create impactful media releases, write compelling website content, and to target audiences with a paid campaign on Facebook.

Most organisations have dedicated staff for each of these tasks. School marketers are being asked to do it all.

Marketing doesn’t begin and end with Facebook – Marketing demands users consider best practices when it comes to creating content for multiple digital platforms, understanding how to drive effective results through organic and paid search, targeted eDM & SMS communications, website search engine optimisation, and understanding paid digital display ads.

Yeah, it’s complicated.

Marketing without a strategy

Without a clear and specific strategy, school marketers are often blindly sending their campaigns out into the ether in the hope that their message finds its way to their target audience.

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Unless you have money to burn — which you definitely don’t — you can’t afford to market everything to everyone. Schools need a targeted marketing strategy that is built with a purpose, as well as a content calendar specifically curated to solve your problem.

How your school can market like a pro

Create effective project goals

It may sound simple, but goal-setting is the most vital part of any marketing team. Breaking your projects down into realistic, achievable goals is the backbone of any good marketing strategy. This approach allows your team to have a clear outline guiding their next steps, offering direction, structure, clarity, motivation, and more.

One of the best tools you have available to you is the humble marketing plan. Again, it may sound simple, but it is a proven tool used to establish clear goals and to set a roadmap to achieve them.

Up-skill your team

As the marketing industry evolves, your team has to evolve with it. If your school wants to stand out from the sea of other schools vying for attention, marketers must remain at the forefront of industry trends, technologies and practices to beat the competition.

Try introducing your team to new and evolved marketing techniques through seminars, networking with industry professionals, and attending educational events.

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Set efficient workflows

Having clear workflows for your project is vital for your marketing campaigns’ smooth implementation and efficiency. By detailing precise steps of the project to the entirety of your team, schools can avoid confusion and move in unison towards a clear singular goal. Including workflows as part of the brief will be a handy way of having the relevant workflows written down and accessible to each member of your team.

Review your progress

With the constant pressure of competing priorities and the need to deliver marketing materials quickly to keep up with the fast-moving requirements of a school, remember to take a moment and review your progress from time to time.

It’s important to assess the state of projects to ensure they remain on schedule, on budget and on track. Set dates to review your projects at certain milestones as a team. If you meet to discuss how everyone is progressing, you can share successes and problems and reassess timelines or budgets.

And remember: It is important to be realistic about what you can achieve on your budget with the skills your team has. Often, the best way to stretch your budget is to make sure each individual team member, and the team as a whole, has been up-skilled.

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