Without knowing who you’re marketing to, how can you develop the right message about your school?
Building customer personas for your school is a crucial element in any successful marketing strategy, and school marketing is no exception. Families come in all shapes, sizes, backgrounds, and cultures, but at the core, creating personas is all about understanding and empathizing with your target audience.
What is a school marketing persona?
Creating marketing personas is the art of combining someone’s attributes, like their age, location, and job, with psychographic information — paint points, values, motivations, or questions they may have. These profiles then allow your school to help visualize and market to your key audiences more effectively.
How does a persona benefit your school’s marketing strategy?
Developing these personas can help create a solid representation of the actual humans you want to attract and engage, and ultimately, allow you to create more effective marketing campaigns that hit the mark.
- You'll be able to communicate more effectively, tailor your marketing efforts to their needs, and ultimately, put your whole team on the same page to ensure consistent messaging, tone, and timing across all your marketing materials.
- Creating a representation of your audience’s thinking behaviors and personalities can help you see your school from their perspective.
- Marketing personas are flexible and ready to evolve, and as you learn more about your prospective students and parents, you can refine your personas to keep up with their changing needs and preferences.
How often does your school need to create personas?
You wouldn’t use the same messaging you used a decade ago, would you? If you’re just starting out with creating personas or you’re hoping to redefine them for your school's marketing and admissions teams, there are still a few essential "rules" you need to consider.
Rule 1: Have empathy
Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. When it comes to persona development for your school's marketing, empathy plays a vital role in truly grasping the pain points, concerns, and aspirations of your families.
By "stepping into their shoes," you can create marketing messages that address their unique needs and build trust, ultimately establishing a strong connection with them. To cultivate empathy in persona development, consider the following tips:
- Practice active listening: Engage in conversations with parents, students, and other stakeholders. Pay attention to their concerns, ideas, and feedback.
- Conduct surveys and interviews: Gather insights directly from your target audience. Ask about their experiences, challenges, and goals related to your school.
- Revisit and refine personas: As you gather more information and feedback, update your personas to ensure they accurately represent your audience's needs and feelings.
Rule 2: Use data to define your target audience
Empathy is important, but data is the backbone of any successful persona development process. It helps you create accurate, detailed profiles of your target audience, enabling you to craft messages that truly resonate.
When developing personas, consider the following types of data:
- Commute time
- Number of kids
- Time spent on social media or search engines
To gather this data, you can use a variety of methods and sources, such as:
- Surveys: Distribute questionnaires among your current families and collect what information you can from your prospective families. By tapping into your enrollment management system, you should have access to your families’ demographics, preferences, and habits.
- Interviews: Conduct in-depth interviews with parents, students, and other stakeholders to gain insights into their experiences and goals.
- Online research: Use online tools and resources to gather data on your target audience's demographics, interests, and habits.
- Social media analytics: Analyze the data from your school's social media channels to better understand your audience's preferences, behaviors, and engagement patterns.
Rule 3: Be creative and have fun, but be realistic
While creativity is essential in persona development, it's crucial to balance it with the real needs, motivations, and preferences of your target audience. This means avoiding stereotypes and ensuring your personas represent an accurate, but diverse range of experiences and backgrounds.
To make your personas more realistic, consider the following tips:
- Give them names and background stories: Humanize your personas by assigning them full names and developing stories about their lives, families, and experiences.
- Develop detailed profiles: Include information about their goals, challenges, and values to create a comprehensive understanding of their perspectives.
- Use real quotes and anecdotes: Incorporate genuine quotes and stories from your research to bring your personas to life and make them more relatable.
Once you have these rules nailed down, you can then get to work on creating your personas. Incorporate the data, feedback, and market research you’ve collected to build out a character complete with goals, challenges, hobbies, and even preferences for how they want their communications from the school.
What’s an example of a persona for a private school?
|Persona Name||Lily Potter|
|Income||$94,000 per year|
Lily is a successful business consultant who has recently started considering private school options for her 8-year-old son, Harry. She and her husband, James, want to provide Harry with the best possible education to set him up for a successful future. Lily is particularly interested in schools that emphasize technology, innovation, and global awareness, as she believes these areas are vital for success in today's world.
- Find a reputable school that provides a well-rounded and innovative education.
- Ensure Harry is exposed to a diverse student body and learns from different cultures.
- Prioritize a school with strong programs and after-school activities to help Harry discover and develop his passions.
- Balancing the family budget.
- Evaluating the quality of education and the school's reputation — there are many options in their area.
- Ensuring the school aligns with their family's values and can accommodate Harry's learning needs.
- Transportation: With two working parents, the school needs to be within a relatively short drive or offer bus transportation.
- Education: Lily believes in the importance of a strong educational foundation.
- Innovation: Lily wants Harry to be prepared for a rapidly changing world.
- Diversity: Lily appreciates the value of learning from different cultures and backgrounds.
- Work-life balance: Lily needs to ensure that her family can balance their busy lives with Harry's education.
- Travel: Lily and her family love exploring new places and learning about different cultures.
- Technology: Lily is an early adopter of new technology and gadgets.
- Reading: Lily enjoys reading about business, self-improvement, and global issues.
- Fitness: Lily and her family often participate in outdoor activities and enjoy staying active.
Preferred Communication Channels:
- Email: Lily frequently checks her email and appreciates receiving personalized information.
- Social Media: Lily is active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, where she follows educational influencers and organizations.
- Webinars/Online Events: Lily often registers for webinars and virtual events to gather information and stay informed about various topics, but rarely attends live. Instead, she prefers to watch the recording at her convenience.
How Our School Can Address Lily's Needs:
- Highlight our school's unique approach to education, emphasizing its innovative curriculum, technology integration, and global focus.
- Showcase the school's diverse student body, cultural events, and exchange programs.
- Provide detailed information on after-school programs, activities, and resources for personal growth and development.
- Offer flexible payment plans or financial aid options to help alleviate concerns about tuition costs.
- Call out the convenient school's location within the city limits.
- Share quotes from current and past parents that emphasize the school's reputation and alignment with family values.
Now it’s time to create content and put this persona to the test!
School marketing campaign example based on personas
Here’s an example of an inbound marketing campaign that would speak directly to that representation of your ideal parent, or rather, Lily.
Campaign Name: Innovate and Inspire - Empowering Future Leaders
Objective: Engage and attract Lily and other like-minded parents by showcasing the school's innovative curriculum, diverse environment, and after-school activities.
- Email Marketing
- Social Media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn)
- Webinars/Online Events
- Content Marketing (blog posts, success stories, infographics)
Key Campaign Messages:
- "Empower your child with an innovative education that prepares them for the future."
- "Discover our diverse community that builds global awareness and cultural understanding — just 3 miles outside of Seattle."
- "Unlock your child's passions through our wide range of STEM programs."
Campaign Timeline: 3 months
Month 1 - Awareness
- Email: Send a personalized email to Lily, introducing the school and its unique offerings, and inviting her to an upcoming open house event.
- Social Media: Share posts highlighting the innovative curriculum, technology integration, and global focus of the school.
- Content Marketing: Publish blog posts and articles showcasing the success stories of students and alumni.
Month 2 - Engagement
- Webinar: Host an online event for prospective parents, showcasing the school's faculty, facilities, and curriculum.
- Social Media: Share quotes from current and past parents, emphasizing the school's reputation and alignment with family values.
- Email: Send a follow-up email to Lily, inviting her to explore the school's website and book a personal tour of the campus.
Month 3 - Conversion
- Email: Share information on flexible payment plans or financial aid options, addressing Lily's budget concerns.
- Social Media: Highlight upcoming school events, open houses, and registration deadlines to create a sense of urgency.
- Content Marketing: Publish an infographic showcasing the programs available at the school.
- Email: Send a final reminder email to Lily, encouraging her to apply for enrollment and offering assistance in the application process.
By implementing this multi-channel marketing campaign, your school can effectively engage with Lily and other parents who share her values and priorities, ultimately increasing enrollment and building a strong community of like-minded families.
Creating personas is an important part of your marketing strategy, and one that should be If you’re trying to connect better with humans — be human. Use data to guide your decisions, and don’t forget to be creative while remaining realistic. By following these rules, you can create personas that accurately represent your audience, allowing you to craft marketing campaigns that truly resonate with them.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.