Is your school communications team beginning to discuss school district marketing plans for 2020?
Are you having trouble understanding the emerging marketing trends discussed by popular influencers?
What is your district planning to do to better your brand and expand its marketing efforts?
In this article, I discuss 11 exciting marketing trends to delight your school district leadership team and your board of trustees. This is part one. Part two is here.
11 Exciting Marketing Trends to Delight Influential School District Leaders
Here are my top 11 marketing trends I feel your school district should explore moving into 2020:
1. Branding – What Experiences Your Customers Have Interacting with Your Schools
Do you understand the word brand? Does your communications team always think a logo re-imagination is the key to building your brand?
Are brand and branding a hard concept to wrap your head around? You are not alone. Most people have a hard time defining their brand.
In this new age of marketing, branding is one of the most critical components you need to think about when discussing your school marketing.
There are many educational choices for parents and students. In our district alone, we are competing against four local private schools and approximately 14 charter schools. These numbers do not include neighboring public school districts that are fighting for our students, as well. And when you compare public school districts, many of us have the same programs and school choices. What sets us apart?
“People buy Jordan shoes because they love Michael Jordan. His brand is stronger than ever even though he hasn’t played in the NBA for roughly 16 years,” says Neil Patel, Marketing Influencer.
Your brand is what your audience thinks of when they hear your brand name. This behavior is based on the experiences they have through interactions, perceptions, word of mouth, and expectations with your organization.
What are we doing as school districts to make our customers (parents, students, teachers) experiences unique? How is your school district becoming the Michael Jordan of public schools? A brand is all about experiences and how influential customers talk about their experiences with our brand. Are you optimizing experiences for your customers?
I will be discussing more about customer experiences in the next section.
Patel follows up his statement with, “It’s why companies are spending over 10 billion dollars a year on influencer marketing.”
Influencers or brand ambassadors will fill an integral role in moving forward with your marketing. I believe micro-influencers in your community will be critical to communicating your messages.
In a previous article, I discussed how At Scrunch.com, they define a micro-influencer as someone who has an audience within the follower range of 2,000 followers up until about 50,000 followers on a particular social media channel, usually comprised of a focused passion, topic or niche market.
It is someone in your community that when they speak, people listen. When they post on social media, people share their content. They have “Influence” over a niche market or consumer. People trust what they have to say.
There is no need to go after the high-priced influencers anymore. With Kylie Jenner charging $1.2 million an Instagram post, businesses have gravitated to the more affordable micro-influencer with an impressive return on investment.
2. Customer Experience – The Art of Mastering Your Customer Touchpoints
I will be hopefully discussing Customer Experience more in-depth at our TSPRA and NSPRA conferences this year, but I want to mention how essential experiences are in your marketing.
Two-thirds of the touchpoints during the product evaluation phase involve human-driven marketing activities.
Mark Schaeffer says it best when he said, “Let that sink in for a moment. Two-thirds of your marketing… is not your marketing.”
He points out that these activities include:
- Internet Reviews
- Social Media Conversations
- Word-of-Mouth From Family, Friends and Experts
The customer is in control. Gone are the days we can push advertising onto the masses. With so many channels where they can research your school district before interacting with you is changing the school marketing landscape. We must adapt.
If you are not thinking of your customer at every touchpoint, you have lost the marketing battle. The key is to know your customers.
Think of the touchpoints your customers experience with your brand. Are they smooth? Are they friendly? Are they the best they can be?
As a company, we need to think of each point a customer interacts with our company. Our website… our Secretaries… our phone messaging… our applications… is each touchpoint flawless? What can you do to make them better?
One of the most valuable commodities to people these days is time. How are we respecting their time, yet still delivering a remarkable experience? By continually evaluating your touchpoints and making them better. The best way to do this is to ask your customers about their experiences.
We can be blinded when it comes to what is an excellent experience in the education industry. We have many acronyms and procedures that are foreign to the casual parent. Ask outsiders to improve experiences and your touchpoints better.
3. Personalization – Customers Care About Their Why
People hate traditional advertising. It’s too broad. It never speaks to the individual.
How can we deliver a message that will resonate with our audience?
According to Forbes Magazine, 90% remarked that they found personalization appealing. More important for your business is the fact that 80% admitted they’d be more likely to give their business to a company that offered them a personalized experience.
Through personalization, you can persuade more of your visitors into parents and students.
Think about what happens when you log in to your Facebook account. You receive personalized ads based on your interests and likes. School districts can do the same thing. We can make our messages personal.
The best way to do this is to narrow our customers into niche audiences.
Then create niche content that caters to these particular audiences.
Facebook has an underused tool on posts to help narrow your messages to niche groups. It is called News Feed Targeting.
You post content only certain people with specific interests and demographic data will see. News Feed Targeting is powerful, and you will not waste the time of the rest of your audience that has no connection with the content posted.
Another great way to deliver niche content is to create communities for these unique audiences.
4. Build Community – A Place to Call Their Own
There are many ways to build a community. Creating a select, private group tends to perform well with audiences. Being part of something special resonates with audiences. They feel like they are part of an exclusive group.
According to MediaPost.com, Facebook is changing the user experience to put Groups and community at the center of the platform, which offers an opportunity for brands that act quickly and start to nurture their own communities in this arena. Private groups could be a great way to heighten engagement with a niche parent or student group.
Parents and students can address shared interests, answer general questions, and develop relationships. Audiences tend to be more open when they know only a select group will read their comments or posts.
A community can be created through ambassador groups or special student incubators. The more you can gather people with similar interests, the more engagement is going to occur.
5. SEO – How Search Engine Optimization is Impacting Websites and Voice Search
Do you know how important it is to have your schools show up on the first page of Google? Are you having trouble making this a reality in your school district?
There are simple tips and tricks you can do to rank better on Google. Ranking on the first page of Google is a must for your small business. Learn how you can achieve positive results using simple tips from my video below:
Voice search will continue to grow in popularity. The last two holiday seasons, the Amazon Echo has been the top-selling gift on Amazon. The meg-online retailer sold millions of units. They have been purchased by parents and students in your school district. Having good SEO will mean you will show up in voice searches.
Not sure what I mean? Here is an example of a voice search that might be used by future parents.
You can see from the video, that SEO plays a critical role in future audio searches that will gain in popularity with more device sales. Google ratings will be another area on concentration moving forward. It appears from this example, rankings are heavily determined by user ratings on Google.
Now, remember… I’m more of a marketing expert than an search engine optimization consultant. There are some excellent SEO experts in your community. If you need help, do not hesitate to give them a call.
6. Emerging Social Media – You Need to Concentrate on Your Gen Z Students
The world of social media is changing rapidly. This powerful medium is impacting the way we engage our parents, students and the overall community. Emerging trends in social media will influence the way we use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and countless other platforms.
At this point, most districts are using social media as a communication tool. However, are they using it to reach the right audience?
Many school districts use social media platforms to reach parents, but there are many interesting ways to concentrate on their students.
Listen to your students. Survey your students. Learn from your students. Create a monthly sit down with influential students in your district. Not straight A students, but students who might run their own business, or write a fashion blog, or have a fantasy football podcast.
Two exciting mediums that have emerged as teen front-runners in popularity are Instagram and TikTok.
Instagram Stories are Fresh
Instagram stories was released in late 2016 to capitalize on the growing popularity of video and to battle rival SnapChat. With Instagram Stories, you can post a series of videos or pictures that tell your story. It’s a great addition to your regular posts. There is a whole user group that interacts with stories, so think of it as another platform with your content.
To get started you will need to tap the camera icon on the top of the screen or tap your avatar picture in the bottom right corner. You can then take a picture or shoot a video by holding down the white button. You can shoot up to 15 seconds for each story.
You can add all the filters and special effects to the video you want. There is also an option to place stickers on your video or write messages on your video with a pen tool. When done editing, you can share your story with individuals or you can share your story to the public.
Sharing to the public is a great option. Public posts will be visible to followers at the top of their screen. Video can be much more engaging than a picture. It’s a great way to gain followers.
TikTok is Freaking Mint
According to Fast Company, the average TikTok user now spends around 45 minutes per day on TikTok. Forty-Five minutes are more than younger demos spend on Facebook and Twitter. The platform’s audience is a much younger demographic than older social media platforms. It is very popular with your middle school and high school students.
TikTok allows users to watch, create, and share 15-second videos, usually about a hashtag theme. Users also have the ablity to overlay their video with popular music.
In our district, we partnered with “TikTok Famous” students to help us create content. Our first videos have gathered 8,000 views or more — a great way to engage our students with relevant themes and messages.
TikTok is highly engaging, and we have seen a great response from our students.
I have said it once, I will repeat it, Social media is evolving daily, and your district needs to be ahead of the game.
Here are some other ideas to reach your Generation Z audience:
School districts need to think of marketing as an investment rather than an expense. The more we can show our leaders our return on investment from our campaigns and promotions, the more they are going to trust what we are doing.
Please check in next week as I deliver the rest of the marketing trends I feel will make a difference in your school district moving into 2020.