To further inform the marketing process, Rachel Hadley-Leonard, Head of Marketing at Solihull, undertook a detailed postcode analysis of current and past pupils. She said, ‘of course we didn’t know at this point what the saturation point of each area was but we knew how many were coming from each area. We found areas of growth and areas of stagnation.’
Given the information from the postcode analysis and the need to focus on transport routes, Rachel knew that the solution was to move away from traditional print advertising and explore direct mail. She worked closely with the Royal Mail’s marketing services team and was impressed by both the responsive service she received and the accuracy of marketing that direct mail offered.
‘We were able to select from a potential 95,000 households in our target areas by a wide range of criteria – we could choose those with 9-11 year olds, or older ones for Sixth Form campaigns. We could choose social class (A1 etc) or income. Each time the Royal Mail team came back with feasibility studies – we did this 30 or more times until we were happy’.
In parallel with the data selection, Solihull used existing design templates to produce an A5 flyer to be used as the mail drop. It had a clear message on each side. One side showed the school’s new and existing transport routes, the other focused on bursaries and scholarships available at the school. To ensure that the flyer was seen as different to other direct mail material the school paid a premium to have it printed on card.
The mailshot took place in the first week of September 2014, three weeks before the school’s first (and biggest) Open Day. Even with their extensive preparation, the marketing team were still apprehensive. Rachel said ‘it was still a gamble in a way – we didn’t know if it would work’.
However it was clear that the mailshot had worked. As the only major change to their marketing from the previous year, Rachel credits the mailshot, which cost only £5,500 ($8,700), for the 15-20% increase seen in enquiries in the run up to the Open Event and in attendance on the day. There was also strong anecdotal feedback. Rachel said ‘people said they liked the personal focus on their area’.
Due to the success of this initial campaign, Solihull are planning their next campaign – focusing this time on recruitment for their Junior School and using their new squirrel mascots – ‘Scuffle and Twitch’. In terms of learnings from their first mailshot, Rachel is clear, ‘you need to spend time planning your campaign and creating the flyers’. She is also learning more about direct marketing innovation – for example taking a close interest in the insights marketing guru Geoff Ramm offers.