Marketing Strategy

What is a USP and why is it important to your school?

September 25, 2019

A note from Digistorm: this post was originally published in October 2017 and has since been updated to include more relevant information. 

If you work in marketing or business, you’ve probably heard the term ‘USP’ before. It stands for Unique Selling Proposition and it’s crucial to your school’s marketing plan. 

There are likely a whole lot of schools in your area, so why should parents choose yours? According to The Entrepreneur.com, unless you can pinpoint what makes your business unique in a world of similar competitors, you cannot target your sales efforts successfully. A USP is all about identifying that one special thing that makes your school shine.

Education has undergone more change in the last couple of years than any other time in recent history. Extended periods of online learning has caused some families to consider more deeply their schooling choices and the investments that they make in education. This is why it is more critical than ever that you clearly define and convey your school’s value over your competitors. You can give parents and students assurance that their investment is worth it; confidence that they are gaining access to features and benefits far beyond what can merely be downloaded from a free online course. A well-promoted USP can be the key to growing and maintaining strong admissions for your school.

We’ll walk through the steps you can take to define your USP, and provide a couple of examples from schools that have nailed theirs. 

Ready? Let's dive in.

 

What makes the perfect USP?

The perfect USP should underpin your school’s entire marketing strategy. At its core, a USP is able to quickly answer why your school is the best choice for prospective families. Let's look at it another way: it's an elevator pitch! It’s one sentence that clearly defines your school, your values, and your purpose.

Defining your school’s USP is all about finding your ‘why.’ 

The biggest advocate for finding your 'why' is Simon Sinek who developed his framework, the Golden Circle. At the heart of it, Sinek's idea is that a strong USP is about communicating your brand's purpose, not your product. 

Why is the Golden Circle so effective? Well, we’re emotional beings and as Sinek states, the science behind this framework is that humans respond best when messages resonate with the parts of our brain that control emotions, behaviour and decision-making. Makes sense right? This is why brands like Apple, for example, are so successful. 

Let’s take a look at Sinek’s example of Apple and the way they market their brand using the Golden Circle framework. Imagine if Apple’s USP started with their what rather than their why it would look something like this:

“We make great computers. They’re user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”

While factually true, this statement doesn’t do much to inspire consumers or educate them on why Apple makes such great computers. Now, let’s take a look at what happens when the Golden Circle framework is applied. 

“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user-friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?” 

We know that choosing the right school is an important and emotional decision for any family, which is why considering the Golden Circle when defining your school’s USP is a great way to ensure that you’re communicating in a way that connects with parents on that emotional level.

 

Defining your school USP 

The great thing about defining your school’s USP is that you can really think outside the box. For some schools, a USP might be tangible offerings like an Olympic-size swimming pool, a state of the art performing arts theatre, or the latest technology and virtual reality equipment. 

For others, it’s the intangible; a creative approach to pedagogy, hundreds of years of heritage, or the school’s guiding values. Your USP might even be a combination of these elements. Don’t forget it’s a unique selling proposition- so think about the things that make your school special in the eyes of prospective parents and students.  

Here are some examples to get you feeling inspired.

 

Ormiston College: Technology

The future is digital and prospective parents are very aware of just how important it is to ensure their children gain an excellent education, particularly when it comes to technology. After winning gold for Australia’s Best School - Use of Technology at the 2018 Australian Education Awards, Ormiston College has cleverly leveraged this accolade into their school’s USP. The College is building its reputation as the tech school of Queensland.

 

Source: Ormiston College 

 

Churchie: Heritage 

Anglican Church Grammar School (Churchie)’s USP emphasises the school’s heritage, values and mark on history. Churchie’s USP is aimed at prospective parents who value tradition, prestige and a long-standing history of educating boys and raising them up to become men.

 

Churchie website
Source: Churchie

 

A final word 

Defining your school's USP allows you to stand out from your competition and capture your audience's attention. Keeping your USP at the heart of your school’s digital marketing strategy ensures you are maximising your potential by connecting with prospective parents in a way that is meaningful and relevant to them.

Got a good handle on your school’s USP? Here’s a handy guide on how to best incorporate it into your brand identity and marketing strategy.