Your parents are your customers: a guide for private schools

Mo Doolan
  • Mo Doolan
  • Social and Content Manager

When it comes to schooling, the idea of parents as customers is not a new one but it’s still one that can raise hackles. The relationship between schools and parents is unique: it’s multi-stranded, complex, and differs for each individual pupil and their family. It’s not a simple sales deal; far from it. It’s a relationship and a life journey and it concerns some of the most important things in life: career prospects, future relationships, fulfilment and future life chances.

However, a thriving business will tell you that a big part of their success comes from understanding a customer’s needs and then fulfilling them.

The needs of parents are complex, but like any customer, they’re buying fulfilment of those needs – they’re paying fees after all. Like any customer, they can choose which school they buy from. Your parents are very special customers and you need to show them that you understand that and can give them what they’re looking for.

Successful businesses are always thinking about their customers’ needs and how they can fulfil them. With education it goes deeper – you need to think about needs that include deep feelings and emotional ties alongside practical concerns, social skills and academic aspirations. How does your school fulfil those needs? And how do you show parents that your school is the one that can deliver on them?

It’s all about communication

The hub of communication with parents is your school website. It’s crucial for showing parents the combination of environment, standards, options and achievement that can deliver to their expectations.

The best private school website designers understand the unique demands on private school marketing and communications, but will also bring experience of other types of business into the mix. That includes the most productive sales techniques and design innovation.

Private schools are becoming more competitive, so it’s essential that your school website shows how you deliver exceptional education, through a combination of showing and telling. Your parents are buying an experience for their child that can deliver them the best life chances. That’s one heck of a product. So you have to use your website design needs to work at several levels. A good private school website has the ability to sum up complex multi-stranded customer information that gives the kind of overview that keeps the parent interested, impressed and on site, delving deeper and taking some sort of action.

The importance of storytelling

Storytelling is an important part of marketing for a huge range of industries and organisations. Successful commercial organisations will tell you that storytelling brings a brand to life, enabling customers to see themselves as a user or buyer of that brand. When it comes to private school marketing, storytelling draws parents in, showing the living realities of your school and encouraging them to be part of it.

Storytelling can be used effectively within different marketing methods for private schools: your school brochure, email campaigns, direct mailing and advertising, as well as through your school website. Effective storytelling that has impact in school marketing isn’t just about words – it’s about the images you use – photos and videos – and can include sounds too; think podcasts. Use your school website to bring your school’s story to life through blogs, videos, podcasts and live streaming of special activities.

Parents are social

Social media marketing is a massively important part of a successful marketing strategy for any leading business. Social media can have a huge impact on bringing new customers to a business through a very old and trusted method – word of mouth.

Word of mouth has a particular power for parents when choosing the best education for their child. Parents learn about the reality of schools through other parents on social media. They know that many other parents ultimately want the same things for their children. They use social media and parent input as a source for a rounded picture of different private schools. The opinions and information of other parents is seen as a trustworthy source and can be a major part of decision making in choosing the best school for a particular child.

You can drive this activity through creating a fertile ground for sharing on social media. Create content that’s ripe for sharing through all the main social media platforms.

It’s all about converting

In the business of marketing, we talk a lot about ‘converting’. That means turning website visitors into paying customers. There are all kinds of methods used by clever marketing teams and web designers that encourage a higher number of visitors to take some form of action. That might be buying a product online, requesting a brochure or joining an organisation.

For a school, conversion might initially mean requesting a brochure, visiting the school, attending an open day or meeting with teachers. All of these are activities steps on the way to increased pupil enrolment.

The best school websites are those that inform, build communities, create interest and ultimately convert.

The overriding message

Your parents are your customers and your pupils are their children – carrying their hopes and love. As you work on the methods of communication and school marketing outlined above it’s vital that you keep sight of this very special responsibility.

Parents of private school pupils are customers because they pay a fee, which means they’re buying something. The fact that it’s something made of many elements and which reaches deep into all aspects of life means they’re making one of the most important purchases of their entire lives. You need to show that you can give it.