For those involved with enrollment and admissions, the idea of focusing recruitment efforts on target segments is not new. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s happening. So, here’s a little dose of motivation. Knowing more about the benefits of segmentation might be just what it takes to turn best thought into best practice.
Before we get to the benefits, let’s back up and make sure we’re all on the same page when it comes to target segments. The point here is to take a wide target audience – for example, families with school-aged children living within a 10-mile radius of a school – and divide that into smaller segments of people who have common needs, interests and concerns. Segments can be based on any number of common characteristics, including zip codes, feeder schools, connection to social or religious organizations, educational backgrounds, interests in particular causes, or political affiliations. For every school, there could be many other individual segments.
Focussing on smaller homogeneous groups allows you to dig deeper and develop approaches specifically matched to the profile of families in a segment. Based on my experience working with schools that will yield at least some of these benefits:
Sharper strategy and tactics
When you have specific segments in mind, you can cast a smaller net. It allows you to tailor marketing strategies by thinking about what it would take for a very specific group of families to be interested in your school. Then, tactics can be equally focused. Open houses, tours, ambassador programs, email campaigns and social media campaigns can all be deployed to meet the interests of particular segments.
More powerful messaging
Marketing messages will be stronger when they are tailored to address the unique needs, interests and concerns of families in each segment. Remember that beyond ad and email copy, messaging can include tour talking points. Images and design also contribute to the message being conveyed.
Create message inventories
Using a segmented approach, you can create inventories of messages that describe your school’s characteristics and offerings in ways that will resonate with particular families. See this blog post for more detail.
Precision digital advertising
The success of social media and Google advertising hinges on being able to identify the attributes of the intended respondents. Using a segmented approach to develop digital ad campaigns will be more successful because it focuses on what particular families read, watch and buy.
Better response rates
People respond to the things that interest them. The more you are able to tap into the wants and needs of particular segments, the more they will click or submit.
Attracting good-fit families
Whenever an admissions director tells me that their tour to application ratio is weak, it’s clear that families aren’t seeing what they were expecting. Because a segmented approach is focused on particular need and interests, odds are you’ll be attracting families that are a better fit for your school.
Segmentation represents a very potent way of differentiating your school from the competition. With the right messaging and strategy, parents in a particular segment will feel like you “get” them more than other schools.
Addressing the particular interests and concerns of families in a segment establishes a powerful foundation for their experience at your school. The more parents feel that they are heard and understood, the more likely they are to keep their kids in your school.
Finding even more segments
Digging deep into what’s on the minds and in the hearts of parents in particular segments, may uncover other segments that you were previously unaware of. You may find that families who intersect two segments may in fact represent a new segment. An example might be alumni parents with children at a particular feeder school.
Developing new ways to serve families
Delving deeply into what’s important to parents in a particular segment has the potential to provide valuable insights for all facets of a school. That could result in new PTA programming, better practices in the business office, changes to before and after school programs or even new or enhanced educational offerings.
The truth is that using a segmented approach is often easier said than done. It can be challenging to find the time to delineate segments and then devise individualized approaches. In fact, much of my work with schools has been helping them to use segments more effectively.
The good news is that you can start small by defining only one or two segments and developing campaigns for them. Whether you go that way or you go all in, there is no doubt that you will realize the benefits of segmentation.