If you are just starting out, there are two times that you should consider segmenting your market in schools - when you are planning your initial campaign - and once you've gathered information from potential parents and students.
1. Before you start campaigning.
You might identify the following segments from the outset, I've listed them in a possible order of importance - and ease of contacting!
a) Current parents - In a mixed school, around 50% of applications should be from siblings (assuming 2 children per family. This falls to 25% for single sex schools and goes someway to explaining the trend for private schools going mixed!)
b) Parents for whom the school is the nearest one of its type - a simple tool for this is to draw lines halfway to neighbouring schools - distance to school is surprisingly important!
c) Parents in your school's faith community (if it has one) within a sensible travelling distance.
d) Parents within a sensible travelling distance who would be interested in specific features of the school (e.g. academic standards, sporting facilities).
e) International parents (for independent/boarding schools).
Each of these groups will need different messages and will need to be communicated with in different ways. You might for example create different prospectus inserts or set up specific web pages for each group. Within the content you communicate make sure that the case studies you use reflect the target audience and that you emphasise key benefits for each group - local parents will be far more interested in transport issues, those applying from abroad may want to know about support for English language development!
2. During the campaign.
Once you've held your first Open Day or had a number of parents visiting or calling you, you can start segmenting them further into different groups based on what they want from the school in order to develop the relationship with them. It is vital that you gather as much information as possible when you meet or talk to them! You might then have a number of segments, for example:
a) Academic focus
b) Sporting focus
c) Musical focus
d) Pastoral/SEN focus
For private schools, it is worth splitting those who would be dependent on financial support from the school into another segment as well.
You can then personalise your communications and invitations - make sure sporty parents are sent details of sporting events, news of success in tournaments and so on, while musical parents are invited to concerts! There's nothing new about this process of course, as the presence of sporting and musical bursaries in private schools shows!
As always with marketing, make sure you reflect back regularly on your choices and check that prospective parents are responding to the segments you have chosen.
Please add your comments!