Hiring advice for Heads: 18 attributes of successful school marketers

Marketing is at the heart of every independent school, from the smallest to the largest. Marketing is the main driver of enquiries and enrolments.

Marketing skills are crucial for tailoring how a school will attract new families to optimise success. But school Heads are struggling to find great school marketers. After all, it is a niche space with some distinctive requirements that are different to regular consumer or business marketers.

With that in mind, here are my 18 attributes to look for when hiring your next school marketer.

1. They aren’t afraid to try new things.

Here’s the thing — none of us get better unless we try something new. Even if your marketer’s new, creative idea doesn’t have the result you or they were hoping for, at least they’ve learned it didn’t work. And the process of trying something new may just trigger an idea that will help improve the success rate. Adaptability is key. Marketing changes all the time. The only way to know if something will work is to try. It might feel scary, but the magic is hidden within the unknown.

2. They continuously measure their results.

Tracking marketing results may be more beneficial than you imagine. Your marketer’s ability to track, measure, analyse and report data will provide insights into what is working — and what is not. For marketing analytics to be reported accurately, they must be properly tracked and calculated. Once there is an understanding of what’s working for your school, the focus can shift to improving return on investment (ROI). Long-term data can provide additional insight.

3. They are not afraid to ask for help.

There is an entire universe of marketing strategies and tactics out there. There are many roles, responsibilities, talents and skills among marketing team members. Smart marketers know what they’re best at and hire others or outsource to complement their marketing strengths. Ideally, a marketing team will have complementary skills that, when combined, become more effective than individual skills in accomplishing a goal.

4. They are early adopters.

Early marketing adopters are the first to utilise a platform, tactic, tool or strategy. They embrace innovation and are often seen as a leader or ‘go-to’ person. They usually gain a competitive advantage and may even be able to provide input into refinement of the technology. They tend to build relationships with the developers and, in exchange, receive more support. Schools that are early adopters may increase student retention, provide more support to families, increase efficiency and help boost student outcomes. Early adopters may be able to appeal to parents on a different level than other schools.

5. They cut their losses when they need to.

There is no shame in ending a tactic if it isn’t yielding the expected results, as long as the tactic is actually being tested. If it isn’t working, smart marketers cut their losses provided they’ve had enough patience to let the tactic take hold.

6. They have a diversified skillset.

Marketers need to be good at several different things. The reason they need to diversify their skillset is to improve and expand their marketing creativity. It’s great if they’re good at one marketing tactic, but if they have a broader range of knowledge, they will be able to expand their marketing ideas.

7. They never stop educating themselves.

Smart school marketers know they have to invest in their learning. They are avid readers and constantly increase their knowledge. Successful marketers have a sizable bookshelf of accomplished reading they refer back to when needed.

8. They develop a strategy with a mix of organic and inorganic marketing.

Life without smartphones — and, by extension, social media — is unimaginable for many families. Smartphones are a strong link between online and traditional marketing. For this reason, search engine optimisation (SEO) for your website is a must-have. Social media algorithms are constantly changing. In today’s pay-to-play social network environment, smart marketers leverage the power of social media by promoting their campaigns to organic followers using a paid strategy.

9. They understand their target audience.

Every potential parent wants to know they are understood. Successful school marketers are able to demonstrate they understand how parents think and what they need to hear.

10. They value content.

Good content is all about your school’s target audiences. Understanding what to say online comes from your school, your mission and your uniqueness. Showing up online begins with being committed to publishing content. Once your marketer (and your school) gets into the habit of creating it consistently, you have the foundation of a successful school marketing strategy.

11. They recognise the importance of aesthetic design.

Aesthetics play an important role in determining the success of a marketing strategy. The aesthetics of your marketing assets can influence the credibility and perception of your school. Furthermore, the implementation of design principles affects the overall experience of your audience.

12. They tell human stories.

Stories are meaningful because they are relatable and memorable. Creativity and the ability to tell parents a good story about your school that demonstrates how your school can help their child is a secret of good school marketers. A good story will arouse interest in your school. It aids in retention efforts as well as persuasive communication in an easy-to-grasp way.

13. They amplify the voices of students and parents.

Parents trust the voices of students and parents. Great marketing happens when you’re able to highlight their voices through anything — user-generated content, case studies, interviews, testimonials, videos — that allows students and parents to share their story and champion your school for you.

14. They prioritise email marketing.

Email marketing proves time and again it is one of the most valuable channels a school can use. It is a preferred mode of communication for many parents. When a parent shares their email address with your school, they are inviting you into their daily life. Successful school marketers use it wisely.

15. They are persistent.

As a school marketer, being motivated and having the ability to keep going will lead to success. There will be ups and downs, victories and failures. Staying motivated and having passion is a secret to being a successful school marketer.

16. They are digital.

Understanding how to leverage technology and the power of the internet is a secret of successful marketers across all industries. They must be able to harness the internet to market your school in this information age. There are many opportunities online; knowing how to utilise them to promote your school and connect with current and potential families will lead to success.

17. They are confident in the merits of their school.

Knowing, and communicating, the true value of their school is critical for all school marketers. When they know this, they show up with much more confidence. Confidence is the force behind marketing. Schools willing to spend budget on marketing tend to be confident in their vision. Sometimes it helps for your marketer to seek out external validation; especially when they are so close to the marketing, they (and you) can get blocks from seeing it all clearly.

18. They are transformative, not transactional.

It’s too easy for school marketers to get caught up in all the meetings and campaigns, but it’s important they elevate their marketing from the mundane. The best marketing doesn’t feel like trying to get families to enrol; it’s about communicating the profound changes that occur in the lives of students.

insight applied

  • School marketing is a niche space with distinctive requirements.
  • Great marketers understand how parents think and what they need to hear.
  • Confidence is the force behind marketing.
  • The best marketing doesn’t feel like trying to get families to enrol.

Brendan Schneider is the Director of Advancement at Sewickley Academy in Pennsylvania USA, and a leader in the field of inbound marketing for schools. He is also the Founder of SchneiderB Media, a digital marketing agency specialising in helping schools use inbound marketing. 
schneiderb.com Podcast: schneiderb.fm

SMJ Brendan Schneider

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