Education marketing: Trends and strategies that work in 2021

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Written by: Natalia De la Peña Frade
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It might seem strange to you to associate the concepts ‘education center’ and ‘marketing’.

However, nowadays there is more and more competition in the education sector, as it is constantly growing. Educational institutions need a strategy to achieve their objectives and overtake their competition. It doesn’t matter if it’s a small organization or a big institution; every school needs marketing, and there are strategies to fit all sizes.

In this post, we will talk about the basics of education marketing and list the trends in marketing for schools that work best and are a safe bet for the coming months and years.

What is education marketing?

Education marketing is a branch of marketing that combines methods, strategies, and tools to analyze the market, adapt a school’s services to the needs and expectations of their potential clientele, and promote their value proposition. It means turning the school into a brand in order to increase its visibility and add value.

Marketing for educational institutions uses the same channels and strategies as other types of marketing, but with a different focus. It’s not the same to sell tomato sauce as it is to try and influence people on a decision that will change their lives. Warmth and transparency are key.

These days, a significant portion of education marketing activities are digital. It is more important than ever for schools to work on their online image, even those whose educational model doesn’t place great importance on digital competency.

Why? Because everyone goes online to search for information on whatever product or service they’re interested in. It is very important for every school to take advantage of the opportunity to offer the best version of themselves in response to these searches.

In addition, any marketing strategy needs to keep in mind the situation caused by the pandemic. A school that operates on an on-site, face-to-face basis needs to be prepared to move online if necessary. This means developing a  blended learning model and communicating it through its marketing strategy.

The basics of an education marketing strategy

In a school, marketing has two objectives: to keep the students it already has, and to increase the number of enrollments. In marketing, this is called retention and acquisition.

Each objective is of equal importance. It’s no use concentrating on increasing enrollments if the school is not equipped to meet the expectations it creates with its marketing messages. 

As well as incorporating some kind of quality control system, it is fundamental that teachers receive ongoing training, that the educational plan is up-to-date, and that the school’s values are in line with those of their target audience.

Who is the target audience? 

In this case, effectively reaching the target audience implies knowing the needs of the students, families, and companies that will employ the students in the future in order to try to meet them; or better still, to exceed them. The educational plan should be developed with this focus.

The choice of which school to attend is in the hands of the students and their families. The key is to ask: What does a person look for in a school? What do they value most? What criteria do they consider when making their decision? Prestige, quality, educational model, proximity, testimonials?

You can find this out by asking all of the stakeholders (families, students, teachers, previous students, etc.). That is why, before defining the marketing strategy, it’s best to carry out market research to get answers to your questions. 

Ideally, the study should also include information about the environment and the competition, on and offline, with which to compare your school: price, facilities, opinions, results, extracurricular activities, etc. And of course you should analyze your school’s results, not only to detect points of weakness, but also in order to have statistics you can include in your marketing messaging. 

The best education marketing strategy

infographie about strategies in marketing education

At any education center, any decision that is made will affect the image that people have of the school, for better or for worse. That is why the strategy for communicating with families should be carefully crafted. There is no room for improvisation.

It is important to remember that current students will be a kind of family for future students. Their recommendations are the best marketing there is. Word of mouth is and will always be one of the most effective forms of marketing, and even more so in a decision of this kind.

One of the key aspects of loyalty is strengthening the bond between the school and the students and families. More and more schools are developing or using mobile apps to foster this communication.

14 trends for promoting schools, universities, and educational institutes that work in 2021

Armed with the information obtained from the preliminary study, the school will be equipped to define its strategy, which will vary according to the type of institution it is. Are we creating a marketing strategy for a university or to promote a training institute? Is it a marketing plan for a preschool or a primary school?

Below is a list of ideas for education marketing which are applicable in all cases.

Trends in education marketing for your website

What information do your potential clients need in order to decide between one school and another? What do they look for on a school’s website?

It is essential that key information such as the educational plan and methodology are clearly visible. The school’s website is also the best place to showcase the school’s offering in terms of online courses and additional services (canteen, sports club, extracurricular activities, etc.) To be up-to-date with current digital marketing trends, the website can offer:

  1. An excellent navigation experience from any device. It is very important that it’s optimized for mobile.
  2. An online chat system to respond to questions in real time.
  3. An FAQ section with complete and transparent information.
  4. A blog to inform students and families about the education model and how it brings value. It should also include school news and topics of interest.
  5. Information about online or blended teaching systems which will allow students to continue their education in the event of another lockdown.
  6. A digitized library to offer educational materials that are accessible any place and time.
  7. Virtual tours to show people around the facilities.
  8. User-generated content, or content created by the community. Success stories of past students have a lot of value.

On the website of GSD International School, you can see examples of almost all of these strategies. A great example of best practices!

Trends in education marketing for social media 

The main social media channels are the perfect tool to achieve visibility, with the advantage of being able to segment your messaging to reach different audiences. They are great for enabling better communication with families. Here are some of the best strategies:

  1. Create video content. It is the preferred format for a large proportion of the community. Live videos giving a glimpse of everyday activities at the school tend to be very successful.
  2. Create a monthly or quarterly newsletter communicating your school’s most important activities. 
  3. Use Facebook groups or mobile apps to create connections in the community; for example, between the school and families, or between families and other interest groups or stakeholders. There’s no better way to keep everyone up-to-date with relevant events.

A good example of social media strategy for schools is SEK Educational Institution. You can see excellent examples of education marketing on all their social channels: for example, this video on their Youtube channel:

Education marketing offline: things that have always worked and are still trends

  1. Creating community with past students through events such as yearly reunions.
  2. Creating and distributing school merchandise.
  3. Offline events: participating in educational events and organizing local activities to increase the school’s visibility. These can be events like parades, or open days. Sports events also tend to be popular and have considerable convening power.

Which of these education marketing trends are currently implemented in your school? Which would you like to implement? Are there any you would add to the list? Improve this post by commenting below!

Natalia De la Peña Frade
Natalia De la Peña Frade
Content creator: I try to write things you like to read
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