- Independent Schools
- International Schools
We went on a hike the other day and sure enough, I kept checking my Fitbit to see how many steps I had taken as we have this friendly competition at work that I keep trying to win! I then thought back to a few treks our family made not long ago and realized I had no clue how far we went because Fitbits and fitness apps did not exist.
During these past ten years, technology has exploded. Did you realize the iPad was invented in 2010? Imagine life NOW without the Ten Technologies that Will Rock 2010: geolocation, Google Chrome, mobile transactions and HTML 5. So what will the next decade bring? Sounds like driverless cars, drone deliveries, blockchain, and civilian space travel, and then some: artificial intelligence, robots, prescriptive analysis, and iOT. I think I still have my cassette “walkman” somewhere!
So what? What does this mean for school marketing in the coming decade?
One thing that fascinates me is the dominance of WeChat in China. This little multi-purpose super app, released in 2011, is a compilation of messaging, social media, mobile payments and more — AND boasts over 1 billion monthly active users. International schools in China push out much of their communications through this app - not through the school website, not a school newsletter, not through email.
Much of this mobile technology is driven by changes in human behavior: FOMO (Fear of Missing out), the decline in human attention span, the need for instant gratification, and the fascinating Millennial Generation — all playing into the new marketing and communication mix.
In working with schools around the world, we know there is no one quick solution to meet their marketing and communication challenges. School marketers need to mix and match solutions to meet their unique goals while prioritizing based on their market, enrollment goals, teacher recruitment needs and parent expectations.
These elements include:
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
- Online Reviews
- Social Media Marketing
- Inbound Marketing
- Content Marketing
- Mobile Apps
- Optimized and Personalized School Websites
- Marketing Automation
But where should you start? Here are our top four school marketing predictions for the coming decade (although, many of them you'll see sooner rather than later).
#1. It Will All (Still) Start with Google
Google will continue to dominate the search engine world and should not be overlooked. How you perform in search, your Google My Business Account, as well as online reviews, are all very important.
- Google has 90.46% of the search engine market share worldwide.
- Google receives over 63,000 searches per second on any given day.
- An average person conducts 3–4 searches every single day.
With over half of school website traffic coming from search, schools need to first look at their Google stats. In general, the important data school marketers find helpful will live under the umbrellas Audience, Acquisition, and Behavior.
- Audience: Who is visiting your site
- Acquisition: How they got to your website.
- Behavior: What are they doing on your site
Second, make sure to update your Google My Business so that local searchers find you. By optimizing your listing you can affect how your school is categorized in carousels and how you appear on map results, and in the end drive more traffic to your website.
Third, online reviews will have even more weight than they do now! Online reviews are now becoming your school’s first impression, and if you don’t have a four-star or five-star review, you may never even earn a click-through to your website. And one bad review can cause big problems for your school so managing your online reputation is crucial.
But many schools tell us they just don’t have time to review this critical data - make time! And, if you really don’t have the time, Finalsite has a team of experts who closely follow the elusive world of Google algorithms! Lean on us.
Learn more about Finalsite's search engine marketing services!
#2. Inbound Marketing Will Become the Norm
Despite automated marketing making mainstream news over the last five years, we often say inbounding marketing and get blank stares. It’s a simple concept: turn perfect strangers into website visitors. Sounds easy, but when you think about your own browsing behavior and how many sites you don’t click on or exit just as fast, you realize how hard it can be to capture someone’s attention. Add the complexity of different school personas — students, parents of many generations, alumni, potential faculty of all ages — it gets tricky fast!
Inbound marketing is a method of attracting and engaging people ultimately to grow your business ...by publishing and sharing the right content in the right place at the right time, your marketing becomes relevant and helpful, rather than disruptive.
The key components of inbound marketing include:
- Search engine optimization (SEO): Optimizing your school's website for keywords that they're looking for will help your search performance.
- Pay-per-click (PPC): If you want to be at the top of the page in every search that matters, invest in a pay-per-click advertising campaign that uses top keywords related to your school to generate new traffic.
- Content Marketing: Videos, Photos and Blogs are all critical elements
- Social media: share your blogs, news stories, upcoming events, photos, videos, and other content that can attract completely new prospective families, as well as engage current families and alumni.
- Social Media Advertising: cutting through the ocean of content (including your own), and providing what is essentially a front-row ticket for everyone viewing your social media accounts.
- Website: It's always important to put your best face forward. If you're optimizing your website for search, investing in PPC, writing a blog, and sharing everything on social, you need to have a website that sets you apart.
- Marketing Automation - This means of "automating" processes makes your life so much easier!
There are many inbound marketing tools on the market but most are complicated and expensive, without a school’s needs in mind. Finalsite’s Inbound Marketing platform is the first solution built just for schools. With good planning and the proper tools, executing a new marketing strategy like inbound shouldn’t scare you once you have the platform in place.
Stay organized with the inbound marketing checklist.
#3. School Websites Will Still Play A Key Role
From time to time, someone shouts loudly about the death of the school website. When you think about everything impacting your marketing — SEO, Social, re-targeted advertising — the one thing you have 100% control of is your website, and this will never change; the question is how to maximize it in the context of the evolution around it. Your school website will not be the first encounter prospective families have when looking at your school nor the best way to communicate with current parents.
With the average adult spending upwards of four hours on their mobile device every day, your website needs to rock the mobile world! Who knows what version of the iPhone will exist or what size screen people will prefer — we just know that on whichever device, you have less and less time to make a favorable impression.
Other best practices for websites that will continue include:
- Fewer but much better pages
- Creation of great and consistent blog and downloadable content
- More sophisticated and thoughtful layouts for popular landing pages, such as a tuition and financial aid page that really speaks to value and outcomes
- Increase use of video - this is one area that seems to change frequently both in terms of technical capabilities as well as user expectations.
- Social media will continue to form the communications ecosystem around your website
- Website Personalization - being able to personalize the user experiences for website visitors based on various factors such as where they are located. How cool is that?
#4. Marketing Automation Will Improve the Lives of School Marketers Around the World
If you are starting to stress thinking about all the new technology while keeping up with everything else, you’ll be happy to learn about marketing automation! It’s kind of like having your own army of robots to help with some repetitive but very essential tasks.
Workflows, Finalsite’s marketing automation tools, empower your admissions, advancement, and marketing teams to easily create automated email campaigns that continuously engage current constituents and nurture prospective families through an improved application and enrollment process. You can use workflows to turn inquiries into applicants, welcome new families and staff, promote events, share senior class exit strategies, send summer reading reminders, and so much more.
Watch this brief video to see how easy it is to set up and roll out. All those tedious emails and the scheduling that goes into them can be streamlined enabling your team to focus on more strategic goals.
As we approach the next decade, we are optimistic about the increased use of technology to help schools become more efficient in their marketing and communication efforts. As we all rely more and more on our mobile devices, schools that focus on SEO, embrace social media and deliver content quickly and appropriately on every device, will continue to be well prepared. Schools that commit to creating better, more relevant and more timely content for their various constituents, will also thrive.
If you don’t know where to start, join a webinar, download one of our popular resources, or simply give us a call and we would be happy to help you out.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 9 years while living in both Asia and Europe. From conference planning and presentations, to association events, and client success stories, she helps schools understand how they can maximize their web presence while partnering with Finalsite. As a parent of three children who attended and graduated from IB World Schools, she has keen insights into the marketing and communication operations and needs of international schools.