Have you ever felt that you’re not getting the results you have been working so hard for? It’s like there’s an invisible barrier pushing back at you every time you advertise your open events or tour bookings? After all the effort, the photo shoots, the design and picking the best ad placements, you’re left with a handful of mildly interested families; NOT the result you were expecting.
I have the privilege of working with a variety of schools and the thing that always surprises me is that many of them are implementing similar strategies with the same amount of budget, but their results are vastly different. I love working with schools to uncover the missing link, and today we’ll explore how the right balance between branding and ‘call-to-action’ campaigns could be your solution for better marketing results.
Branding is incredibly important. When I used to work in a school, I would often say that ‘it doesn’t matter if everyone knows about us if they don’t like us’. If parents are overlooking your school because of the perception they have about you, your ‘visit our open morning’ messages are going to fall on deaf ears. Schools can usually suspect branding issues if they’re consistently experiencing low performing ads.
When asked, ‘What makes your school unique?’, many schools give a surprisingly similar answer. The key to answering this question is to dig deep and identify the uniqueness of who you are, what you do and how you do it in a way that appeals to your target market.
Now that we know how important branding is, how do we implement a branding campaign? Branding campaigns are usually targeted towards a broad audience, are distributed on mass and use mediums, such as radio, billboards and magazines. Every element of your campaign from the location, text and images, communicates a singular clear and distinguishing message to your audience that is complimented on your campus and website.
Call-to-action campaigns request an immediate action in response to your advertisement. They are suited especially well to digital marketing mediums (banner ads, Google Search or Display advertising and Facebook ads) because they are so measurable for actions taken within 30 days (a 30-day attribution). However, local campaigns, such as leaflet drops and magazine ads, also do well.
Common CTA messages for schools include ‘book for our opening morning’, ‘tour our college’, or ‘download our prospectus’ etc.
A successful CTA campaign requires a strong brand foundation and should not be over used or go too far ahead of your brand.
How branding and CTA campaigns work together
I often use the analogy of sowing and harvesting when it comes to marketing. Branding campaigns help you to build awareness and prepare your audience for action (sowing), while CTA campaigns lead your market to take action towards enrolment (harvesting). Many schools make the mistake of only sowing (they are big on their brand) and others only harvesting (appearing salesy and abrasive).
The beauty of CTA campaigns is that they are so measurable and because of that they get a lot of the credit for growing your school, but the truth of it is that your brand has actually done a lot of the heavy lifting to ensure that people care and take notice in the first place.
Common pitfalls to avoid
I often see schools advertising CTA campaigns on mediums more suited to branding. An example would be an open event advertised on a billboard. Often schools are disappointed with the result achieved with this strategy and they may have lost out on the opportunity to broaden their market appeal.
Many school mail outs have way too much information on them and no singular/clear CTA. You have 3 seconds to grab someone’s attention on a flyer before it lands in the bin and they aren’t going to read through your copy to find out why they should care.
Headlines on landing pages and brochures etc should be outcomes focused. Instead of having the headline ‘XYZ Open Morning’, rather say something like ‘Your chance to join our life-changing community has arrived’.
Establish your brand and achieve results
When you start to work through your marketing budget, ensure you’re allocating a reasonable amount towards branding. You may not see immediate results, such as a specific number of enrolments, but you’ll be setting the school up for long-term success. Create a platform, build a brand image and you’ll see consistent results in the long run.