Every year, I make New Year’s resolutions, mainly because I have a target driven approach to life and I like to ensure I don’t aimlessly wander through the next 12 months without achieving, growing and learning. So what should be on your resolution list for 2021? Here are five things to consider:
1. Planning marketing and admissions for the next six months and beyond
2020 was the year of really getting to grips with the digital world for many schools. Many were and have had a very “old school” approach when it comes to social media and digital usage. Last year was a deep end learning curve for schools and this year will undoubtedly be similar.
Now, schools marketing and admissions departments will have to consider a hybrid promotional plan. We cannot discount the traditional open days and face to face contact, but the digital age and our experiences from last year mean that a mixture of both face to face and digital events, plans and activities should be considered going forward.
Now would be the time to look at this for 2021-22 and beyond alongside your budget to ensure you are able to fulfil both. I know parents loved Zoom parents’ evenings – no need to travel or queue to see a teacher. We could also reach international parents too. No going back now with this knowledge that we can look after customers equally.
2. Donor care and support focus
For many schools, donors may have been less of a priority over the last six to nine months whilst staff were working hard to ensure their schools continued sustainably. By now, school alumni staff should have sent an email to donors saying how much they were missed and apologising for the lack of contact, if staff were furloughed for a good period of last year. This is now the time to put your New Year’s resolutions into good practice and create a plan of contact with your donors and ways to engage them with Zooms and digital events. You will need them soon at some point and this is a good time to ensure you connect with them personally as well as focus on building good relationships with them and thanking them. The pause button can be lifted a little now.
3. International trips and recruitment planning
The digital age has changed this side of admissions forever. I know agents who would prefer a Zoom meeting every three months to an annual visit. We all recruited pupils during lockdown when we could not travel and now is the time to revisit this for 2021/22 and beyond. It is possible to recruit pupils digitally and those that want to visit can still do that – why not make your visits extra special, for instance offering to pick up families from the airport? Why not look at a hybrid approach to agent relationships including zoom meetings, webinars and a visit when needed? There are lots of ways to make the application process smooth and easy for parents and agents.
4. Customer Care
I once read an article on the future of marketing and in it, it included a statement that this sector was now 24/7 due to the advent of social media. Customers require support at various times of the day and week. It is not 9-5pm and it is not a general email. It is all about customers and their timings, a personalised and individual approach. Consider a service level agreement for 2021 if you have not got one already.
5. Communication planning
Customers are not mind readers. They need to know what you are planning to do. Customers will always ask questions even after a general communication going out most likely answering their question they are asking. Remember we all learn differently. Communications should be timely, proactive, confident and reassuring at all times. Now could be the time to consider a communication plan, looking at the key points in the year and ensuring this is covered in advance so you can communicate proactively with your customers. Nothing reassures a parent or donor more than when they see you are pre-empting them with a communication addressing an issue they were about to raise about an upcoming activity.
The future’s bright. The future’s in planning for a hybrid age with excellent communication and customer care bolted on.