by Catherine Middlemiss
As Geelong gradually eases pandemic restrictions and businesses begin to regain some stability, there is a collective hope that we may be on the verge of returning to ‘normal’ – but what does ‘normal’ look like in 2022? And how have the long months of lockdowns and isolation impacted how we all view the future?
This sense of awakening brings with it a new uncertainty that has significant implications for marketers as they seek to build or re-build long-term relationships with customers. Given the profound changes seen globally in the last two years, crystallising your organisation’s ‘point of difference’ is critical. Marketers now need to think hard – and differently – about what a customer in this new ‘normal’ wants.
At Sacred Heart College, we have observed important changes in enrolment behaviours. Some of them are meaningful accelerations of existing trends, and some are only just emerging. The pandemic has brought clear changes to how families engage with our school, from the way prospective families seek information, to the factors that impact their decision-making, how we communicate with them, and even how prospective students participate in our College tours. These changes suggest that we must also reconsider our marketing strategies to new families, especially for those moving to the Greater Geelong region who do not possess local knowledge and in many cases are making enrolment decisions while still living afar.
Geelong is experiencing an exceptionally strong growth in population, with more and more families realising the many lifestyle benefits that come from living in our region. Naturally, enrolments have followed trend. The City of Greater Geelong’s website proudly notes that Geelong is “A great place to learn” with our wonderful town offering all educational needs in public or private schooling, and multiple tertiary education options. But with so much on offer, the challenge remains – how do we promote our school’s point of difference?
What has become increasingly apparent is the importance of being able to think outside the square, especially when facing challenging external factors, such as restrictions to onsite visitors. For education – and many Geelong organisations – the marketing landscape has changed dramatically and an innovative and flexible approach in adjusting to this change is vital.
More than ever, marketers and brand ambassadors need to communicate a strong sense of their brand’s purpose; what their brand stands for (it’s culture and values), and where the brand seeks to make a real difference. Organisations can exhibit this mission through the projects they select to be involved in and promote, a strategic, considered engagement with their now-global online community, the collaborations and the partnerships they mould, the way they treat their employees, and the messages they communicate to customers and their broader community.
Perhaps more than any other global crisis, Covid-19 placed a new emphasis on relationships. As marketers, we can build on this knowledge by considering the following:
Invest in a strong online presence – our recent school marketing data indicates that virtual tour traffic is well up as families and students spend more time online exploring schools and considering future options. Your website provides an opportunity to reach the widest range of audience compared to previous word of mouth and printed approaches.
Keep customers up to date – it’s important to ensure that all of your communications, across all channels, reflect the most recent decisions that your organisation has made and is making. Customers seek engaging, fresh content. Creating short, compelling videos that promote your organisation, service or product provides them with the information and resources they need to make sound buying decisions.
Don’t forget about the long term – we can all be forgiven for focusing on the here and now, considering the ever-changing landscape we are currently contending with. But a reasonable amount of mindshare needs to be reserved for what comes months and years down the track from now. Continue to think big, be innovative and dare to challenge the status quo.
Put the customers first – when executed well, customer-first strategies deliver better results for the organisation. Typically, customers who have great experiences spend more, stay longer, and tell others about their experience with your company. Marketing is often just the beginning of a relationship with your customer – ongoing success is rewarded to those companies that listen to their customers’ needs and then develop outcomes to meet those exact needs.
With thanks to our guest author:
Director of Development, Marketing and Communications
Sacred Heart College Geelong