I’ve recently completed a YouTube series on the 10 top global consumer trends. This prompted me to write a quick guide to the three types of trends I recommend school leaders consider when developing marketing strategy: Consumer trends, educational/ school marketing trends and macro trends.
Why are these relevant?
Strategy needs context. The first step in any strategy development process is to understand the market and the environment in which the organisation is operating.
- If you’re dealing with consumers (customers using/consuming your product or service) then consumer trends are essential because they tell us about lifestyles, habits and drivers of customer behaviour.
- Industry trends (education, independent schools and school marketing) tell us what may be changing in our area of work and how competitive forces will impact the organisation.
- Macro trends are the forces that impact us of which we have no influence, and can provide opportunities or threats, ranging from extreme weather to inter-continental trade agreements, economic recession and pandemics.
I like to start with consumer trends because families, parents and pupils are consumers. A consumer is ‘one that utilises economic goods’ (Mirriam-Webster). Consumers purchase goods to consumer, rather than to re-sell. Independent schools provide a service (education) for which families pay.
See my video series on Global consumer trends here.
The important part about consumer trends is that they explore human behaviours in purchasing and lifestyles. Global consumer trends can usually be recognised in all countries, some more than others. For example, the trend to ‘Build Back Better’ in Euromonitor International Global Consumer Trends for 2021 indicates that consumers are expecting organisations to protect the health and interest of society and the planet: ‘Consumers will take social and environmental issues more seriously, rewarding businesses that use their profits for good post-pandemic.’ (Euromonitor International) This is also the theme of the online Global Marketer Week 2021 hosted by The World Federation of Advertisers, focusing on ‘Better Society, Better World, Better Growth’.
In developing your school marketing strategy, use these global consumer trends to provide context, innovation, differentiation, relevance to your target market, supplementing your own independent market research.
A useful exercise could be to list the 10 trends and plot these on a grid or matrix for discussion as a leadership team or amongst staff and parents, as related to your own parent base. Impact can be measured against attractiveness to determine opportunities in your target market.
|#||Trends||Low impact||Med Impact||High Impact|
|1||Build Back Better|
|5||Playing with Time|
|6||Restless and Rebellious|
|8||Shaken and Stirred|
|10||Workplaces in New Spaces|
Source: Euromonitor International Global Consumer Trends 2021
I’ve just kicked off a new video series on competitive forces shaping the education sector, using the Porter’s Six Forces Model as a tool. See the playlist here on my YouTube channel.
Education is constantly changing, but so is marketing. How to keep on top of everything? Information overload is a challenge for many school leaders.
Marketing strategy helps a lot with this, because once you have a clear understanding of your market, your ideal customer and your market positioning, you have a better idea of where to focus your energies in constantly updating and refining your expertise, your thought leadership and your unique value proposition for those customers. Better focus means better brand positioning means better promotion and communication to your personas.
Identify four or five key reputable sources for education trends and marketing trends. One of these is probably an industry association. Use your networks to tap into the latest research relevant to your sector. Attend virtual and in-person events where trends are shared by industry experts. Free material is often available.
Speak to me about this if you’d like to know more, as marketing strategy for independent schools is what I do, and mostly online.
The PESTLE (or PESTEL) and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) are often used to analyse the macro (external) environment, and these are tools that may be used to brainstorm in an interactive and engaging workshop format online or in-person, providing useful input into the strategy for your school.
Remember, the marketing strategy informs the overall school strategy, but these two are linked together and should be regularly refreshed. I prefer to use the term ‘market-driven strategy’ because the customer (the family/ parent and child/ guardian and child) is then placed first.
Here’s an example of an extended PESTLE for an independent school. Find more about the use of PESTLE and SWOT Analysis online as these are well-established tools for strategy. ISASA (Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa) provides a PESTLE analysis in the annual SAHISA conference address by the Executive Director, which is often included in the SABISA and ISMA conferences. This material is usually available for members on the ISASA website.
|Factor/ Macro challenge||Example of challenge||Strategy to overcome the challenge|
|Political||New Brexit trade barriers between UK and EU affect international student access for the school||Communicate the new arrangements via selected channels, plan a campaign to raise awareness of the changes, increase our welcome culture|
|Economic||Economic recession increases non-payment of school fees, debt increases||Identify vulnerable families, seek interim financial aid sources, develop payment and pricing options available on request|
|Social||Pandemic prevents access to school campus for families||Establish online tuition and online events to attract new admissions, promote events via targeted digital ad campaigns|
|Technological||Online security threatens education portal for exams||Identify options for increased online security, impact on school operations, upgrade as required, train staff on new systems|
|Legal||New law is introduced requiring all schools to move to energy-saving technologies||Research the current status of the school and plan revised approach to energy use, approach community for partnerships|
|Environmental||Water pollution issue arises in the community affecting the school water supply||Identify roleplayers to assist and activate the crisis management team, seek alternative sources of water supply for continuity, communicate actions (PR)|
|Physical||Access to the school is problematic due to distance from the town (remote) causing low admissions||Develop partnerships with transport companies, consider weekly boarding and parent buddy teams for weekends|
|Ethical||Fraud is discovered in supply of school furnishings||Review policy on procurement, take action immediately, communicate procedure and ensure parents are aware of steps taken (PR)|
What is evident from the above table is that it’s unlikely that every eventuality will be anticipated or planned for when it comes to macro factors.
From a marketing perspective, good communication channels are essential. Very often, macro factors are related to crises, and so an established crisis management committee as a part of the crisis management policy of the school is needed. Public relations processes require clear channels of communication, a designated spokesperson for the press and a centralised approach to information management until the crisis is under control.
However, some macro trends create opportunities for schools. Therefore, the exercise is extremely valuable for any school as a part of developing strategy.
Summary – And what next?
These three areas of trends are essential to include in the context for your marketing strategy:
- Consumer trends
- Industry trends
- Macro trends
To avoid losing focus, start with ONE update on EACH of the above as input into your strategy, then build on that. I’ve provided possible sources for these trends in each section above.
My focus is marketing strategy for independent schools. Please make contact with me for help on any of these areas. I run online and in-person workshops on marketing strategy which can be customised for your needs.
I'm Keryn House
I enjoy creating marketing anecdotes and visuals related to my horse as there is a lot to be learned from animals, and this provides a unique context to my writing. My horse Slick (aka Sports Express) has been with me for many years and is a source of inspiration and relaxation for my strategic mind. He lives on a friend’s farm in KZN and I see him twice a week.
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