Your job: be inspiring

To get the best from your communications and marketing team, you need to inspire them. It’s not in the formal job description, but it’s vital to your success.

So, how do you go about the task of being a communications and marketing inspiration when you are not a professional marketer yourself? How do you inspire?

The key to inspiring your team is to be inspired yourself. Inspiration is your biggest personal weapon as the leader of marketing. There is no silver bullet.

One pathway to becoming inspirational — and the one that resonates best with school Heads — is knowledge. Specifically, knowledge about your customers, your offering and your marketplace. You must know what your customers want, why they want it and how they decide to choose your school over your competition. You must also understand what your competitor schools do, why they do what they do and how they operate. Finally, to develop innovative ways to market enrolment and retention at your school, you need to know precisely what your school offers (your product), why those particular offerings exist and how they are being delivered.

As an inspiring leader of communications and marketing, you must become the most knowledgeable customer, marketplace and product expert in your school, bar none.

Know your current and prospective customer intimately

It seems like common sense, but with the very real time pressures Heads wrangle every day, it is not common practice. Even the best school Heads lose touch with their customers. Bear in mind that once you have recognised you’ve lost touch with your customers, there is usually little impetus to remedy the situation. It is generally categorised as important, but not urgent.

Don’t start in marketing

A great way to gain deeper customer, marketplace and product knowledge is to spend time outside your school’s marketing department. Some of the best ideas and insights do not come from high-tech research but from low-tech sources like talking with and listening to your customers. But you’ve got to get out of your office and spend some planned quality time with them. If need be, create regular meetings with small groups of parents. Perhaps host a morning tea with half a dozen randomly selected parents once a month.

The process is simple. Ask them about their most important issues, their long-term plans, how they think the school can help them achieve their hopes and what they hear or think your competitors are doing better than you. Take notes and, if needed, follow-up.

There are two types of customer you need to talk to. Your current parents and your prospective parents. With your current parents, don’t shy away from discussions with those who are dissatisfied: they are a goldmine of information. Where prospective parents are concerned, your enrolments team should be able to organise some meetings for you.

Ideally make an audio or video recording of your customers’ comments. Verbatim comments and selected clips in particular can help you engage your Board and staff with what is driving customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction. They are undeniable and emotionally engaging.

Turn research and analytics results into insights

Almost all schools undertake regular research. But do you have research, or do you learn from research?

To be an influential leader of marketing, you must own your school’s customer insights. Do not outsource the task of gathering insights to the marketing team or anyone else. Commissioning and then owning the data is not enough. You must ensure that your school develops deep insights from its research.

Better insights are often the key to improving and innovating your offering while remaining relevant to your customer. Here are three suggested questions:

  1. Are we exploiting all the potential sources of customer insights — including, but not limited to, formal market research?
  2. Are we using the data we have to develop actionable insights?
  3. Are these insights reaching your frontline staff and are they then acting on them?

Customer understanding is something that you, the leader of marketing, must master better than anybody else at your school. It is the oxygen of long-term performance.

insight applied

  • To inspire your team, you need to be inspired yourself.
  • Become your school’s most knowledgeable customer, marketplace and product expert.
  • Get out of your office and spend time listening to your current and prospective parents.
  • Don’t just do research … learn from it.

Andrew Sculthorpe, aka Scully, is the Managing Partner of imageseven. With a wealth of experience gained in both the UK and Australia, he is perfectly positioned to deliver insights that create a world-class impact for schools and their Heads.

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