For the past 10 years we’ve worked with educational clients to help them be better at marketing their schools. We could tell you all of the strategies and tactics we used, but we’re relentless about looking at results. Here are some:
- One school had more applicants in the 2 years we’ve been working with them than in the previous 10
- Another school completely turned their reputation around to become one of the leading international senior highs, increasing the GPA of incoming freshmen from 200 to 310 and tripling their size in 4 years
And so on. If you’re a school director or administrator you may be sitting upright in your seat exclaiming, “How can I do that for my school?!” (We hope you’re feeling that energized, at any rate!)
The 1st step we take for any of our clients, including our educational ones, is to have them fill out a comprehensive marketing plan questionnaire. Since you’re in education we expect you won’t mind a bit of homework.
The 2nd step is called creating buyer personas and we’re going to show you how to do exactly that, right here.
Why you absolutely must create buyer personas before you change anything with your marketing
Buyer personas are in-depth, semi-fictional representations of your ideal customer.
We’ve had clients who balked at doing this exercise. They’re afraid if they get too specific, they’ll miss potential customers. It’s the opposite case really.
One of our core beliefs at Moondog is: no edge cases. An edge case is a situation that only occurs in extreme circumstances. You’ll waste vital energy and resources casting a net large enough to find these cases and bring them in.
If you’re still unsure, read this blog post about why you want to get as specific as possible about your target customer.
But notice, it’s buyer personaS not persona. Your school isn’t one-size-fits-all. You’ll want to create a buyer persona for each customer segment. You could have as many as 10 (or more), but we find most of our clients have about 5.
The more thorough, more targeted your buyer personas are, the more likely that you will be able to create marketing materials that specifically address their needs at each stage of the buyer journey aka the path your customers take before they buy.
How to create buyer personas
To begin creating a buyer persona you need to think about who you currently sell to and who you would like to sell to. This is actually often more complex than you think.
By collecting data, surveying the families that currently choose to send their children to you, you will develop a deeper understanding of your existing customer base.
This takes time and ideally it’s a good time to review this every year ahead of the start of the autumn term and hectic marketing schedule.
Examining and analysing your current customer base will help you identify those groups where you are succeeding best but often you will start to identify segments of your customer base that are ripe for developing or definitely need more focus. Particularly when you start to analyse the content that you’re publishing and assess if it is aligned with your audience.
When you are confident that you have identified the different segments of your audience who you need to target, create a buyer persona document.
Part #1: Buyer persona overview
We like to start by giving our imaginary person a name and supplying a (stock) photo. This really helps make this persona feel real, allowing us to more easily endow him or her with skills, experience, education, thoughts, and feelings. Here, imagine that you are telling a friend about this person. Is it a man or woman? About what age? What’s her role? How does she spend her workday? The goal here is to build up a solid picture of this person that everyone involved in marketing the school can recognize.
Part #2: Key drivers & motivators
What is your prospect looking for? What is essential to her choice? What does she worry about? What criteria will she use to make her decision and so on. These are the issues that mean the most to this person: the things that are behind every decision he or she makes in terms of choosing your school or deciding to recommend the school to her son or daughter.
Part #3: Pain points
What might stop this person buying? What could cause them to drop out of the sales funnel (the journey through your marketing materials to the point of conversion)? What would be a sticking point for her, causing her to turn elsewhere and look at other schools?
Part #4: Role in the buying process
Is this person the decision maker? An influencer? A researcher? The person who will pay school fees? The person who will research all the school options and weigh up the pros and cons?
Part #5: Marketing channels
What kind of content channels does this person consume? Google? Facebook? Twitter? Other social media? Lifestyle blogs? Newspapers? Magazines?
Part #6: Online behavior
Does she visit Facebook daily? Like pages or groups? Is he active on Twitter? Does he use a mobile phone? Tablet? What keyword phrases does the prospect use when searching for a boarding school? Think about the questions, concerns, etc.
Part #7: Effective Influences
What kind of content and information is most effective in communicating persuasively with this person? Are there particular kinds of information she is most likely to want? Is any one kind of media more effective than another? Is she likely to take advantage of any particular kinds of offers?
Congratulations, you’ve created your first buyer persona!
Now that you’ve created one, you can go ahead and create the rest of them. Document them and share them with key staff who are involved in any step of the marketing process. The more they understand about who you’re targeting, the better.
What’s the next step? Get our free ebook about how to market a school online
I wrote The Essential Guide to Marketing a School Online to help school administrators know everything they need to do to market their schools successfully. This ebook is free and yes, it gives away the whole enchilada of Moondog’s step-by-step, methodical approach to improving school marketing.
Inside you’ll find:
- A buyer persona template, and an example “Amy”
- How to write your unique sales proposition and unique value proposition
- How to create content that converts for each step of the buyer journey