Against this background, making time for marketing can be difficult. But marketing is an essential business process - and schools benefit hugely from it. Here are two arguments for marketing your school...
Effectiveness: As the school market changes and becomes more complex and more crowded, the need to listen to your community, change your offering and better communicate what you do well becomes ever more important (and OFSTED thinks so too*). Marketing is this process (it's emphatically not just advertising and PR!). If you can create better relationships with parents, teachers, local employers, the local media, former students and other stakeholders, your school will perform better.
On a basic level this could mean filling spare places in your school (worth anywhere from £4,000 to £30,000 per student per year), successfully launching a new school or rebranding a failing one, or recruiting the best teachers or senior leaders available.
But even schools that have a full roll will benefit from a marketing approach. For example many parents have a negative view of education - but seeing the achievements of their children and their peers can change their minds and improve their children's performance (I've seen this!). If you can also create new exciting links to employers and HE providers, you will improve the focus, learning and outcomes for students (I've seen this as well!). You can also use marketing to enhance teaching and learning.
Efficiency: Like it or not, every school is already spending a lot of money, time and effort on marketing activities. Every time a prospective parent calls and talks to a member of staff, visits the school website, takes away a prospectus or attends an Open Day, they are costing the school money. Every advert placed in the local paper, parent newsletter and press release to the local paper is a marketing cost - one school I know was spending £70,000 on postage each year but claimed it had no money for 'marketing'!
Putting these costs into one budget under one marketing expert will allow efficiency savings. Photography, design and print costs can be reduced, content production centralised and senior management time can be directed to the core responsibilities of teaching and learning.
How much money do you need for a marketing programme?
The first question schools often ask is how much marketing costs. In the short term, depending on the individual needs of your school - the size, number of stakeholders, imminent issues facing the school and existing perceptions - there will be some costs to train key staff and perhaps to bring in expertise to make changes to the way your school is organised.
However when you consider the time and effort marketing activities already take up, the savings that can be made by centralising activities, and the increased revenue and other benefits that come from formal marketing activities, a marketing approach will return this investment many times over in a short time. (e.g. 1 training course place = £220 vs 1 extra student = at least £21,000 over a 7 year period or 1 less TES advert = £1,500 saving).
To explore school marketing further, read our Advice pages, book yourself one of our Training courses, talk to a specialist marketing consultant or read 'Marketing Your School' - the book of the website! Or just email us!
*OFSTED School Inspection Handbook, September 2015, para 137