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Meet Tracy: The School Marketing Expert Behind Finalsite Advantage
Tracy Tigchelaar

When you think about how competitive the education market is in 2018, it makes sense to have a marketing strategy that is just as competitive, helping your school be one step ahead from the rest. This can seem overwhelming, though, especially if you work alone, or with a very small team. You may know what strategy works or doesn't work for your school, but you aren't sure where to start.

Finalsite Advantage Strategy

That is where Finalsite Advantage comes in. Advantage is a partnership that offers school marketing, communications and admissions professionals individualized strategic support for schools of all sizes. This is a great opportunity for any school marketer to work with one of our experienced consultants to plan, strategize, and execute any project. Tracy Tigchelaar, Finalsite Advantage Consultant, was able to help us answer some of our common questions on the partnership. Meet Tracy:

Tracy_Tigchelaar With over 20 years' experience in education marketing, Tracy heads up 'Finalsite Advantage' – our great new service aimed at giving schools the edge with their marketing and communications strategies. From branding to website development; social media strategy to video storytelling; advertising campaigns to print production – she's pretty much seen and done it all. Through Finalsite Advantage, she uses her experience to help and support schools to achieve more.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background in the education industry?

Sure, I'm British but lived in Holland for 15 years - which is an awesome place to live and raise kids. In September, however, we started a new adventure as we packed up and moved across the water to Michigan.

I've worked in education marketing for the past 20 years or so, and so far my career has spanned Further Education colleges, Independent Boarding Schools and, most significantly, a large British International School.

I was the Head of Marketing & Admissions at The British School in The Netherlands (BSN) for 13 years. It's a top 3-18 school based in The Hague with over 2,500 students on role. During my time there the BSN grew by over 50%, we opened 2 new campuses, launched 4 websites, developed 2 parent and staff portals, undertook a complete re-branding and established an Alumni Association from scratch - among a million and one other things of course... When it comes to school marketing there's really not much that I haven't either seen, experienced or managed!

I loved my time at the BSN, and I love working with schools, so I'm very excited about the opportunity of working with Finalsite clients.

What is Finalsite Advantage?

In a nutshell, Finalsite Advantage is a new way of strengthening your strategic marketing efforts. It provides schools with completely bespoke, personalized and ongoing strategic support to help advance their mission and vision for the future. It's about developing a long term partnership and I think it's a great option for all kinds of schools - big or small.

What inspired Finalsite Advantage?

It started with a conversation with Jon Moser. I was coming to the States to live, he had an idea for a new service and felt i'd be the ideal person to work on developing it. Jon was hearing more and more from his team that schools were struggling with workload and/or direction - and that they needed help to get a strategic perspective on things. So, we worked on some ideas behind the scenes, rolled out a 'beta' service to test the waters, and are now going live with 'Finalsite Advantage'.

Why would a school sign up for Finalsite Advantage?

There are so many reasons and scenarios it is almost impossible to imagine them all, but there are a few obvious ones that spring to mind. The 'one person department' in a small school who's trying to do everything alone; a larger school with a team who are constantly 'busy' but need more strategic guidance; schools looking to take on major new projects - like a website re-design or a school re-branding - and don't know where to start; schools with transitioning/leaving staff who need strategic stability and support... The list is almost endless.

How does Finalsite Advantage work?

It all starts with really getting to know the school. We call it an 'in-depth discovery process' and it usually involves a 1-2 day onsite visit. During this time we meet with all relevant management and stakeholders to gain a clear understanding of the school and its community.

We'll then report back on areas we feel should be focussed on - and develop an action plan with short, medium and long-term goals. Everything is done in close consultation with the school - especially any marketing staff. It's all about a partnership and working together to achieve the school's ambitions.

Once the plans are in place, there's ongoing support including direct and regular contact with a weekly call to ensure tactical implementation of the plan is moving forward. It's REALLY flexible though so we constantly review progress and adjust to any changing circumstances as needed.

What is one project you are currently working on?

At the moment I'm working with a fairly small K-8 school near Washington DC. It's an awesome school with an enthusiastic and dedicated marketing manager, but she's on her own and had a ton on her plate. She needed support in reviewing where things were; setting priorities and developing a strategy to move things forward. Perhaps what she needed most though was someone else to talk to - someone to bounce ideas off who had a different perspective on things.

I'm really enjoying working with her and I think these next few months are going to see our plans really start to come together.

What have you learned from your current project to improve and grow Finalsite Advantage for other schools?

I think probably that it is important not to make the discovery process all about a big report. Obviously we need to feedback on our findings, and propose improvements and new ideas, but formulating a plan needs to be a process and not something just presented to the school as if it's being imposed upon them.

Secondly it is to really important make sure that the Board and Senior Management Team is fully on board with the idea of using Advantage, and committed to being part of the discovery process. It's vital to get multiple perspectives to gather a full picture of the school and its priorities.

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