6 Jun 2018 | by Russell Dalton

In this modern day era of school business leadership we find ourselves becoming more of a ‘marketeer’ than ever before, but are we set up for it and what does marketing in schools really mean?  For many years I have tried to look at all of the areas my organisations need to market and the best ways of doing to ensure they stand out from the crowd and get noticed for the right reasons! 

There are many medias in which we should be maximising our marketing opportunities, but I would hazard a guess we mainly see marketing as producing a glossy brochure and placing an add in the local press, both of which cost a significant sum and the general rule of thumb is that if it encourages an additional pupil it pays for itself.  True marketeers would find this attitude quite outdated, after all Tom Fishburne (founder and CEO of Marketoonist) states “The best marketing doesn't feel like marketing.”  So what should we do and how do we connect to our ‘customers’?


Firstly, maybe we should define who our customers are……..current parents, pupils, staff, local community, business partners etc, future ones?  Once we have decided who the customer is we then need to think what we want from them.  This may be as simple as gaining ‘bums on seats’ or something more difficult such as acquiring funding or recruiting an outstanding person.  This is the start of the marketing journey.  We then need to consider the best way of marketing to that particular stakeholder…………….and remember, in the age of GDPR we have to ensure we are not breaking any regulations when we do this!


So you have decided who your customer is and what you want from them, now the fun begins.  As educators we should be better at selling the product than anyone else, we don’t have to be trained sales people, after all selling and marketing is all about stimulating the imagination, Jay Baer (internet pioneer, entrepreneur, and New York Times best-selling author) sums it up by saying “If your stories are all about your products and services, that’s not storytelling. It’s a brochure. Give yourself permission to make the story bigger.”


We need to stand out form the crowd in all of our marketing, I do feel that the majority of schools are currently ‘copycat marketeers’, to back this up Mark Scully has written an article ‘Admit it: are you a copycat marketer?’


Word of Mouth……probably the best (or worst) marketing tool we have in are arsenal, and the cheapest!  But do we use it to the best of our advantage?  I have previously written about the value of our ‘Vision Statement’, how many of these are meaningless and bland?  A powerful vision statement can be an outstanding way of marketing subliminally through the power of the word of mouth, but we have to start planting the seed with out current stock of sales people, i.e. the pupils, parents staff etc within our schools.  How many of them know what our full offer is?  Do they know the direction we are going?  Are they excited about the ‘customer experience’?  If not then we are failing with our best opportunity to market for free!


Your Brand.  What is your brand and does your branding stretch across the whole of your organisation?  What does your brand say about you?  This is probably a good time to talk about Marketing Strategy, how many of us have one?  We feel we are very strategic in the direction of our organisation, so let’s include marketing within the strategy to ensure we can realise our vision.  Some areas that you need to focus on in the strategy are:


  • Defining your product/service
  • Identifying your target market
  • Knowing your competition
  • Developing awareness
  • Building credibility
  • Being consistent
  • Maintaining focus


We may feel that our branding is just our logo, but it stretches much further than this.  We need to show that we have aligned everything with our branding.  Does all of our communications reflect this alignment?   For instance do all of our letters use the same format and font?  Does our branding appear on all of our literature, websites, social media links etc.  Think of it this way, we know the quality we can expect from an Apple product, but the other thing that instantly comes to mind when you think of Apple is its branding, the same can be said for the majority of other products, so why not our schools?


Media……….So what media do we use for our marketing?  I have briefly mentioned some areas but again I have to stress that we need to stand out from the crowd.  So if we want to advertise an open evening do we follow the lead and put an advert in the paper with everyone else’s advert?  Is this going to drive anyone new through our doors?  Or do we do something different like putting a flyer into the paper and target post codes, inviting people in and offering them something if they bring the flyer?  This will also allow us to see how successful our marketing is.  Do we use social media to its fullest extent?  How many of us use it for staff recruitment?  We may have Facebook and Twitter accounts but do we have LinkedIn for our business marketing, including recruitment?  Finally, we should take every opportunity to celebrate all our successes as widely as possible, regardless how small or large.  The press will be keen to engage, but it is advisable to have a template which all staff can have, this will make it very easy for the press. 

Media that you should consider for all of your marketing is:


  • Broadcast – TV/Radio
  • Print
  • Digital and Interactive
  • Social Media


And finally…………remember, successful marketing can significantly enhance your school but you need to stand out from the crowd and not follow it!


By Russell Dalton - June 2018