Student recruitment in Independent Schools has quickly adapted to the challenges posed by Covid-19 and schools are taking a far more digital approach to reach a broader audience.
But how can schools differentiate and drive maximum parent engagement?
The answer is by providing a personalised, digital customer experience.
Digital marketing is transforming the admissions process and many schools now use a digital marketing mix to grow their reach. Schools also realise that a good customer experience is intrinsic to their marketing activities to make a real impression on parents who are making an important emotional investment in choosing a school for their child. But only by tapping into this through a personalised admissions process can schools differentiate and convert more leads.
Digital: moving away from the impersonal
In past years, student recruitment has lacked the personal touch. Most schools have offered standard brochures or a website sharing generic information but with nothing tailored to an individual family’s interests. Parallel, costly and environmentally unfriendly recruitment techniques such as school shows have involved expensive air travel, hotel rooms and print prospectuses. While this in-person approach allowed schools to build a one-on-one connection with the family, often momentum was lost when parents were sent home with a broad-based prospectus which didn’t reflect their interaction with the school.
The benefits of digital marketing – long proven in many consumer arenas – are now being rolled out across the education sector. International student recruitment needs personalised, digital tactics; we know online advertising, email and social media marketing are cost-effective, easy to implement, they secure a wide reach, and offer a level of personalisation. Yet it is possible to go further by using a marketing and admissions tool which delivers the flexibility and capability to tailor information to each and every family’s needs. The aim is to establish an emotional connection with a prospective family in order to offer a more complete experience of school life. And it works.
Ian Hunt, CEO of Kazakhstan-based schools, Haileybury Almaty and Haileybury Astana, is using a personalised recruitment tool to drive more student applications. Ian says;
“Each family will embark upon a journey with us and at each stage we acknowledge their individual needs. This is a very powerful way to build a rapport with a family who are making one of the biggest financial decisions that they will ever make. It certainly helps enormously to secure admissions to the school.”
A bespoke, student-centred approach
An independent school’s primary income stream is tuition fees and with so many schools in the UK and internationally, the level of competition is high.
On average, a family will consider six or seven schools, each one with its own website and prospectus detailing information on the curriculum, extracurricular activities, pastoral care and more. With so many competing choices, how can a parent truly understand which school will be the best fit?
Parents are looking for a school which understands their child but most schools currently provide the same information to each enquiry they receive. This can come across as impersonal and not meet parents’ expectations. Only through digital marketing tools is there the flexibility to offer a tailored, student-centred admissions experience.
Art, drama, sport… most pupils have their preferred subjects and passions. Digital marketing offers the capacity to customise promotional content to reflect the interests of each prospective student. Most schools have fantastic video and audio content as well as 360 degree tours – it is only by deploying this digital content that a family can truly visualise their child’s new life in its entirety.
Sharing your school’s own offering
School is a major life experience, especially for international students leaving their roots to board in the UK, which can provoke many questions and concerns. Worries about the language, the culture and friendships need to be addressed in order to progress the application.
Personalised, digital marketing is a means of communicating – and reassuring – the entire family on their specific concerns. Everything that school life involves can be communicated better through digital in video format, podcasts and photos. If the student is boarding, the day-to-day life in the dorms can be recorded in your school’s own unique context. Families can be offered an almost sensory-like experience of the school whereby they can almost envisage themselves there.
Monitoring parental engagement
To progress more enquiries faster, Marketing teams need to know how families are engaging with their content with easy-to-read data at each point of the admissions process so they can take action to ensure fewer drop-offs.
And over time, this data can lead to a competitive advantage. It can provide a clearer picture of a school’s potential customer base for more effective segmentation. Getting to know your customers better thanks to digital insights can help schools plan more effective marketing strategies and messaging to engage more prospects.
There is no doubt that being able to leverage the best of digital marketing techniques to differentiate your school and offer a personalised customer experience is the best way to drive student recruitment.
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