How Well Do You Know Your Customers?

Posted on July 6, 2015

I could spend hours and hours (that I don’t have) reading blog posts, viewing portfolio submissions, and learning from other marketers. What we all must realize, however, is that before we spend the time gathering resources, sample collateral, or reading blogs, we first have to know who our customers really are.

We all claim to generally know who our prospective families are in the independent school world. The downhill skiing family. The family in need of academic support. The family interested in our study abroad program. In an ever competitive marketplace, maybe our customers are simply families who can afford our school’s tuition bill! But do we really know who our customers are? Do we know when and how they like to digest information? Do we know their professions are? Do we know how they access information? Do we know what a day in their life looks like? Do we know who the decision maker is? Most importantly, do we know each prospective family’s pain point?

Developing personas for your prospective families is an invaluable practice for any marketing/admissions team for one simple reason: the better you know your customer, the more effective your marketing can be. We all know one message does not fit all. And while we may try to have a message that is general enough to fit most, segmenting your message is critical to an efficient, high-yield marketing plan.

At Proctor Academy, we have taken time to identify who our customers are in order to develop personas that help us market to specific segments of our prospective families. The result over the past year was not only significantly higher applications (40% over five year average), but a notably increased yield as well. By better knowing our specific customers, we were better able to deliver effective mission-centric messaging that helped nurture our relationship with those families.

Here are some of the questions we asked ourselves as we attempted to develop segmentable personas for our admissions pool. Ask your admissions team these questions and see if you can do the same. The results will be tangible and it will be time well spent!

What are the five personas into which prospective families fall at your school?

We know our families are generally interested in a few key programs and I’m sure your school is no different. We identified five such programs that specifically drove admissions applications, and for each program we asked the following questions to further explore who our customers really are. You must decide what these ‘buckets’ or personas are first, however, or else your efforts will be in vain.

What is the job and demographic information for this persona?

Ask this question for each of your personas individually. The answer for each will likely be different, but it is important to know where your families reside (especially for us as a boarding school), their typical socio-economic status, and most popular jobs among parents. The more information you know (this data is all readily available in your admission office, you just have to look at it!), the better you can target your communications. For example, do you have an inordinate number of people from one geographic location and could you create content specific to those families? Do you have one profession/industry in which a majority of your parents work that would afford new marketing opportunities within that industry?

Where do they go for information?

This is a critical question for your team to answer because you want to be sure information on your school is located in the places people are looking. If your prospective families are looking to social media for information – be sure you are there. If they are looking on TABS, NAIS, or other aggregate sites for independent schools, is your school profile up to date? Do you have good videos, images, and content linked to those profiles? Know where your families are looking so you can make sure your school is well represented there.

What does a day in their life look like?

This may seem like an odd question to ask yourself, but it is an important one. Obviously, you will need to make generalizations in how you answer this, but think critically about your different personas. When do these individuals have time to research independent schools? When do they spend time online? If you can deliver content when it will be most ‘digestible’ by your prospective families, you have become a more efficient marketer.

What are their pain points?

This may be the last question we asked ourselves, but it is far and away the most important one. By identifying each persona’s pain points, we were better able to develop content to proactively address those objections to our school. Pain points may be programmatic, or cultural. They may be entirely out of your control as a marketer, but if you can understand the issues your customer has with your product BEFORE they are ever able to articulate their issue, the pain points will fade into the distance.

The more you know about your customer, the more effectively you can market to them. This is not new information – it is perhaps one of the most basic principles to marketing. But how well do you really know your customers?

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