- International Schools
Our team of website experts works with schools around the world to help them effectively and efficiently communicate with their global community. There's always a good reason to redesign, but lots of reasons to say no. No time. No budget. No need for outside help. And one of the more challenging ones: you know you need it, but "higher ups" think the website is just fine.
As the most important marketing tool, the school website is critical for success. For the 99% of international schools we work with, websites are the primary recruitment tool for new students, and for many, the only place where prospective families can go to see the school before enrolling.
Know all of this already and just need some talking points? We thought we'd share a few compelling reasons to help you get the website you need for your school to meet your marketing and communication goals. Let's get started!
1. "We don't have the money"
For those that think forward and optimistically, by recruiting just one or two more new students, schools can easily justify the cost of a new website platform. We looked at 125 international schools of varying sizes and on average they spend $16 per student on the website which includes hosting and data security as well as modules such as forms, online newsletters, calendars, parent portals, campus maps, and more. $16 is a small amount compared to the tuition and fees these students and their families pay.
One other huge budget item to consider is faculty recruitment. With the projected forecasts from ISC Research, there will be a need for an additional 200,000 full-time teachers at international schools in the coming years. Your website is critical for helping to educate and recruit faculty who fit with the culture of your school.
"The reputation of an international school is very much based on the quality of its teachers and, as the market expands, so competition for the best teachers increases. Teachers form their first impressions of a school by its website and that can make or break their decision to pursue a job application. Creating a good first impression is vital. A school website is not only the window to the world of student admissions, but also the window to the world of staff recruitment." – Richard Gaskell, Schools Director, ISC Research
2. "It's not a priority" (AKA "no time")
With upwards of 90+% of revenue coming from enrollment, let us ask the obvious: how can it not be a priority? Think of all the times you google something and immediately leave a website because it does not meet your expectations or needs. And if your school is in a competitive market, there are probably even more lost opportunities.
We understand that not all schools have the personnel to tackle a Best-in-Class website. But there are options! Finalsite's themes are pre-built custom designs that make it easy and affordable to have a responsive website that looks and works great! Themes are great for schools who are more focused on implementing a new website with solid content and better organization, than on building a completely custom design.
Another option is to make use of our unique service - 'Finalsite Advantage'. This is a perfect solution for schools looking for expert help in planning and implementing a website redesign. Advantage adds an education marketing expert to your project team who is able to provide tailored, ongoing strategic advice and personal support to help plan and develop your site and keep things on track. Your personal 'Advantage Consultant' also works with you to develop a broader strategic marketing plan, to ensure you get the most out of your new site and achieve your wider marketing and admissions goals.
3. "Our website is just fine"
We don't think any leadership team would say "our school is just fine", so why would that be okay for a website? In many cases, it's about educating your team since there are certain standards that school websites should meet in order to be effective. Some homepages may look "okay" -- and some even look pretty good on first glance, but once you do a deeper dive you quickly see things could be improved. Our free website audits uncover large issues such as navigation and search engine shortfalls but they also detail ways to improve the buyer's journey through call-to-action buttons, landing pages that convert and strategic placement of various content elements. Tuition pages have one of the highest bounce rates on school websites - is yours performing as well as it should?
The bar, as to what constitutes a "good" school website, has been raised greatly in the past five years. Allowing a "non expert" (such as someone deeply rooted in academics, finance or a randomly selected committee) to evaluate and make decisions on your website is akin to asking your Global Studies teacher to evaluate your school's accounting practices. The most successful schools we work with rely on our expertise to ensure their schools implement best practices, not only in design and navigation, but also search engine and inbound marketing, digital communications and much more.
4. "Our school is fully enrolled"
With changes in the global economy, political upheavals such as Brexit, and new international schools opening, being at full capacity today is not a safeguard for future success. Schools need to be ahead of the game and prepared for a sudden drop in enrollment. Tanglin Trust Director Peter Derby-Cook, in considering the redesign of their site, said they could "no longer be complacent - we realized we had to fine-tune our messaging to showcase the quality that permeates across all areas of the school. From our academics, marketing and communications, to how visitors are greeted at a reception, to print materials and our online presence, we wanted to look at every facet to ensure that it met our high standards."
5. "Our homegrown system/local provider is great"
Locally grown may make sense for produce, but not for websites! We have heard horror stories from many schools about in-house systems – from the person abruptly leaving, to the site getting hacked, to the source code not working. We also know that the local providers are often great to work with, but they don't understand the depth and scope of a true digital communication platform for schools. The intricacies of showcasing school news, calendars, portals, and then integrating with a student information system, is generally above and beyond what an in-house programmer or local provider can do. If you have the luxury of an in-house programmer, there are countless ways to make the most of his/her talents with a good website platform in place.
The risks are even greater now with issues surrounding website security and the changes in data privacy under GDPR.
Key Takeaway: Passive doesn't compute
There is a strategic side to marketing, and school leaders can no longer afford to be passive, which means making tough decisions. We understand that proving your return on your investment can be hard to measure, but clients continuously volunteer to share with us the impact their website redesigns have had on their school. Increasing inquiries and enrollment, improving parent satisfaction and retention, streamlining teacher recruitment, reducing print costs: the list goes on! We would be happy to connect you with some other schools to learn how they got the website of their dreams.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As part of Finalsite's marketing team, Debbie has worked with international schools for the past 8 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. In her free time she enjoys traveling and attending events at her children's school in Berlin, Germany.
- Website Redesign