As the number of independent schools in South Africa rises, and the competition for attracting top-quality students and teachers is heightened, it is increasingly important that the marketing of St Benedict's becomes more carefully calculated and well-considered. It may in fact be a prerequisite for the future survival of the school in a growing and competitive industry.
Historically, there has been little need for active marketing of the school and any such marketing has been directly linked to the attraction of pupils at Grade 0 and 8 levels. Limited budgets and limited staff have been in place to attend to the active marketing of the school and the work has traditionally fallen to the Heads/Deputy Heads of the school. It is understood that a revised marketing strategy may require an increase in marketing staff, budget and facilities.
It must also be understood that marketing of the school must not be limited to the principles of "selling" and "advertising". It is imperative that we investigate and reassess our current marketing strategies and processes and move towards the adoption of a holistic view and the development of a marketing culture with a clear focus on improving corporate branding, reputation, relationships and communication. This process does not call for the introduction of “gimmicky marketing efforts” but rather a realignment of our marketing strategy so that it sets the trend for St Benedict's as opposed to responding to the marketing trends set by our competitors.
This process must include the fostering of strong relationships with alumni as well as our current parent bodies - they remain, we believe, our strongest marketers. In addition, it is imperative that we foster an "institutional happiness" amongst our staff - if teachers feel appreciated, trusted and well respected, they by default, tend to offer an excellent educational service. As a result, the school’s reputation will automatically be enhanced. In short, a positive focus on staff automatically leads to happy students, which in turn leads to satisfied parents who will become your top marketers. Similarly, admissions must be viewed as a "sales process" that requires key relationship management. Each parent who applies for a place for their son must receive warm professional and personal attention.
A revised marketing strategy must also include an intention to take social media seriously and to keep up with the latest trends in this regard. Instead of fighting the new communication methods and tools, we must use them to stay close to our boys and parents.