I know what you’re saying; “Oh no, do we really need to plan?”.
One step frequently overlooked by schools when developing a web presence, or embarking on a digital marketing campaign is planning. The old adage ‘Fail to plan = plan to fail’ is so true in this instance!
Whilst it is very tempting to skip this step and start talking about the visual components of the website, without this step, any design work really is wasted.
We’ll start discussing planning by defining your audience and then we’ll discuss goals. I promise you that this is one of the most important steps you can undertake when planning a new website or campaign.
Defining your audience
The first step in planning is to determine who your audience is, and what priorities you give each of them. If we don’t do this, we’re basically ‘flying blind’. Knowing your audience means that you can tailor everything online to suit them, in a way that won’t omit secondary or tertiary audiences. I’ll explain this later.
So when considering audience, you might as an example, list;
• Current students and their families
• Prospective students and families
• Prospective new staff
• Wider local community
It is important to list your own audiences in order of priority – are prospective students the main focus, or is it more important at the moment to attract new staff? Is the school community at large the most important aspect of your digital marketing focus?
Even better is to start defining who these audiences are. For example, you may write;
Local families without school-aged children and small businesses within our town.
Prospective student families
People who are considering moving to our city for work. Typically FIFO workers with children aged 8-15.
Parents want to get our newsletter electronically and want details of events at their fingertips.
Knowing who you are trying to engage will help in writing your content to speak directly to that audience.
Defining your goals
The next step is to determine your goals for this campaign or website. Is it to attract enrolment enquiries, reduce administration staff time by providing detailed information for existing students and their families, or is it to reduce costs of printing your newsletter, by emailing it out instead?
Whatever the goal, try to be specific. Whilst it is great to say ‘attract more enrolments’, it would be even greater to say ‘Increase enrolment enquiries by 5% this year for the 2014 school year’.
Write a few goals, and list them in order of priority. Some could be short term (the next month or two), others medium term (the next six months) or even long term (more than a year).
An example of this would be;
Increase enquiries for enrolments from 4 a month to 10 a month. Expect a higher enrolment rate for next school year.
Reduce newsletter costs
Encourage current families to opt-out of printed newsletter, and receive electronic communications. Expect to move 20% of the current 420 families over before end of this year.
Summary: Planning in a nutshell
We’ve pondered on audience, and created our audience profiles by priority. This helps us in being able to target our content to speak directly to this audience, and should also drive design decisions; we can ask questions such as do we have a large banner promoting enrolments, or do we have a calendar being the visual centre of the homepage?
By also defining our goals, we’ve taken this one step further. No longer are we talking about vague thoughts about what we hope the website will achieve; we now have some solid goals to set some priorities to, and get into gear.
In our next article, we’ll start planning your websites function – that is, how we’ll get our audiences to achieve the goals we’re setting out for them.
Miles Burke is an Author, Public Speaker and Managing Director of Perth-based digital agency, Bam Creative. His team has created websites and digital marketing campaigns for dozens of schools, and their work has been featured in the media, won plenty of awards and most of all, helped schools demystify the digital marketing space to attract enrolments and better communicate to their communities.