Marketing Strategy

Why school personas are the key to boosting parent engagement

June 4, 2019

There’s no doubt that choosing the right school is one of the most important decisions a parent will make. Because of this, many parents will shortlist several schools in their local area for consideration. They will pore over each school’s website, attend tours and decide whether the school will be the best fit for their child. So, how can you ensure that your school remains top-of-mind throughout the school selection process? The answer is simple: it all comes down to creating meaningful connections with your prospective parents. This means tailoring your messages to meet these prospective parents’ needs, motivations, and interests in all of your marketing efforts.

Taking a ‘one size fits all’ approach to your marketing strategy is a surefire way to guarantee that your school’s marketing efforts go unnoticed. Enter, marketing personas: your secret weapon to help you personalise your messages at scale

Personas are fictional character profiles representing specific audience segments that interact with your school. The more detailed your personas, the easier it is to tailor your messages to meet their needs. 

Buffer calls personas the foundation for building your marketing house because they should influence all aspects of your strategy, including:

If you’ve never drawn up marketing personas before, you may not know where to start. Don’t worry — we’ve got you covered! Here’s everything you need to know.

 

Dive into your family data 

To create your personas, you'll need to draw on a wide range of demographic and psychographic information from your school families. You can pull this information from databases such as your school customer relationship manager (CRM), or your Google Analytics data. You’ll be looking for details such as:

  • the average makeup of families in your area
  • where families live, including how far they are willing to travel to your school
  • the people who are involved in the decision-making process 
  • the core values of the families that already attend your school
  • keywords they use to search for your school.

You can also conduct interviews or surveys with existing school families to add further context and fill in any gaps you’ve found. This doesn’t have to be hard! You can simply send out a short questionnaire to your families requesting general information about their family and why they chose your school out of all of the available options.

Once you’re satisfied that you have a comprehensive overview of your school community, you can start looking for trends in the data. For example, you may find that parents who attended the school themselves are more likely to enrol their children. Or families who have to travel more than 10km to get to your school are less likely to enrol. 

 

Create your school personas

By now, you should have a good idea of your target audience segments, what they’re looking for in a school and their decision-making process. You can use this information to start drawing up an overview of each persona.

You can use a template, such as HubSpot’s Make My Persona tool or you can create your own. The best persona overviews feel like you’re describing a real person by giving them a name and attaching an appropriate photo. This helps your marketing and admissions teams quickly familiarise themselves with each persona and support them in crafting their personalised messages.

We recommend including the following information in your persona overview:

  • Basic details, including their age, gender, location and employment status.
  • What they’re looking for in a school, including their pain points.
  • The ‘trigger’ that starts them on the school selection journey.
  • Their customer journey, or the process they go through when selecting a school.
  • Some quotes that you’ve pulled from interviews or surveys to add colour and context to their persona.

 

Communicate on their level 

Finally, it’s time to put those personas to work by strategising how you’ll communicate with each one on an individual level. It’s easy to see that personas are a huge part of creating an effective marketing or admissions strategy as they provide you with key information that you need to create messaging that resonates with prospective families. 

Consider elements like the language and tone of voice you might use to talk to each persona. What might seem like minor details could be the difference between whether your message sticks or not. 

You can also work your personas into your admissions processes and your content creation. Whenever you plan a new piece of content, whether it be a new blog post, email blast, social media post or video, you should ensure it is geared towards one of your school personas. You should have a very good understanding of their needs and pain points, which you can use to guide you, ensuring it speaks directly to that one subset of your audience.

 

What about anti-personas?

Anti-personas or negative buyer personas can also be a helpful tool to help you in your admissions and marketing efforts. An anti-persona is another composite sketch of an audience subset, except this time, it represents someone unlikely to enrol at your school. This could be for financial reasons, or because they don’t agree or align with your school values. It could also represent a family who may enrol in your school, however, the cost to attract, engage and convert them into an enrolment is significantly higher than your other personas. 

They help you know who not to target with your school messages, further sharpening your personalisation towards those most likely to become active members of your school community.

 

Getting started with school personas

Marketing personas are the big key to boosting engagement from prospective parents. If you’re looking to implement them into your marketing strategy, you can get started creating your personas today. To recap the post, you’ll need to:

  1. Take a deep dive into your existing school data, looking for trends and commonalities in the families in your area.
  2. Create an overview of each persona with all of the key information your admissions and marketing team need to familiarise themselves.
  3. Start creating strategies and processes where your personas are the foundation of each marketing activity.

If you’re looking for more information about creating marketing strategies that are tailored specifically to your audience’s context, make sure you download our Ultimate guide to inbound marketing for schools. Inbound marketing is one of the best ways to organically attract new families to your school by creating valuable, and personalised content. Check it out!