Blog by Irina Yaacoub, Marketing Consultant
Understanding the decision making process your customers go through is fundamental in developing an effective communications strategy that delivers results. A typical five-stage model implies customers go through most, if not all of the following steps:
This model should be considered as whole when devising a marketing strategy. Customers’ perceptions and attitudes are gradually shaped in the stages leading to purchase, while the post-purchase evaluation step determines the likelihood of recommending the purchase to others.
At the very beginning of the decision-making process the customer identifies the need to buy. In the context of education, that could be triggered by child nearing nursery age, a mother returning to work, or the continuing tendency of parents outsourcing their responsibilities, among others.
For many families, the enrolment of their children for school is a simple decision. They would enrol them in their local school. Other families, however, go to extraordinary lengths to find what they consider to be the best school for the child and/or their family. And one thing is for sure; parents will carry extensive research, putting schools under scrutiny before trusting them with their children and money.
Many schools depend heavily on advertising, media releases and open days to recruit, but the truth is that prospective parents would use far more complex framework to build their perception about a school. Research shows that word-of-mouth is still the leading influence factor when selecting a school and that more than ever parents rely on the Internet to access information.
Customer-touch-points have increased significantly with the advancement of technology and schools play catch up with most of the now well used by parents mediums like social media sites, blogs and forums. Schools with strong digital marketing presence are most likely to create a positive impression of a modern day organisation that is fully capable of preparing pupils to take their place in a fast moving world.
Communication strategies should therefore take in account the need of establishing a proactive two-way communication with parents, monitoring effectively and responding promptly to conversations in the digital space. Being part of the conversation means that schools are given the opportunity to engage in dialog and understand better what customers really think about the school, what their needs and expectations are, helping the school to more closely match their offerings to market demands.
Parents have more choices in schools now than ever. Perceptions of continuous improvement in state schools, increased competition within the independent sector and the establishment of academies and free schools creates a dynamic market where securing market share becomes ever more difficult.
And with the market environment rapidly changing presenting new opportunities and threats, the survival of any business is linked to the awareness and adaptability to the new environment. Understanding the full spectrum of the socio-economic factors that may be influencing school recruitment rates is therefore vital in achieving competitive advantage.
Identifying target markets, understanding the desirable characteristics parents would like to associate with a school, and developing communications that are responsive to their specific needs takes the school a step closer to being a school-of-choice.
mtmconsulting is one of the first consultancies to focus on the education sector in the UK. Established in 1984 to be the leading educational business consultancy specialising in strategies for schools and colleges, mtm has since worked with over 500 education groups, large and small, independent and maintained.
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