The frustration of international school marketing for schools and parents

Elaine Stallard, Founder and CEO of Winter’s International School Finder, a comprehensive digital directory of English-speaking schools across the world, writes about what international schools should be looking out for when marketing themselves to prospective students and their parents. 

Over the past decade, there has been a 320% increase in the number of international schools across the world. Recent figures from the International School Consultancy reveal there to be more than 8,000 English-medium international schools across the world, teaching a total of 4.26 million students.

And yet, despite a market that took $38.5bn last year, there is still no relevant portal to connect customers with suppliers.

“The struggle for parents to locate suitable schools for their children when moving abroad has resulted in up to to 58% of all overseas deployments failing”

In the past, global schools lacked a platform, and advertising budget, to showcase themselves effectively to prospective parents, leaving both parties frustratingly disconnected. While schools faced a barrier when trying to promote themselves to parents overseas, parents had little access to information about the international schools in the area they were moving to.

The struggle for parents to locate suitable schools for their children when moving abroad has resulted in up to to 58% of all overseas deployments failing.

So what can schools do to better their marketing?

1. Understand that it’s not just about brand identity and reputation

International schools need to understand how families evaluate and select schools, beyond just brand identity and reputation. The majority of international schools prioritise these two components over everything else when it comes to their marketing plans, but having a deeper understanding of what a parent and child requires at a new school will help give the school an edge over its competitors.

This means schools making information, including videos and imagery, easily accessible to parents who want to envisage what school life will be like for their child before making a commitment. Parents want to know about the sports clubs, music lessons, and language classes offered by international schools and to really delve into the school’s character. Not all schools will chime with a child’s personality and it is a priority to find one which enables the child to become part of the fabric of the school. International schools, then, must appeal to a parent’s emotional side and demonstrate the value for students, to encourage families to get onboard.

2. Make your school available at the “research stage”

For international schools to ensure they are visible to parents online, they must make themselves available at the initial “research stage”, meaning that information about them can be easy to find on the internet. SEO is key here; to do this, schools can optimise their website so that it appears on the first page of Google search results.

Schools should also ensure that their website contains all of the information that a prospective parent might need, including detail about the school’s ethos, extracurricular activities and whether the school will suit their son or daughter. Videos and pictures also help to give parents a better idea of what a school is like.

3. Make sure your school is on an online listing

Online listings, such as Winter’s, can provide parents with the most up-to-date school information, images and videos, giving them a real insight into what life at the school is like.

Winter’s International School Finder acts as a portal for parents and international schools, providing families with a free-to-view comprehensive listing of English-speaking schools across the world, whilst enabling schools to reach a global audience of parents at minimum cost, in an accelerating, confusing and underserved market.

By putting parents first, schools can make sure they attract the right students.

Elaine founded her company after realising there was a huge gap in the market for a portal that connects parents with international schools. She previously spent five years as Director at Sherborne School UK, and was then Project Director of Sherborne Qatar, Sherborne’s sister school in Doha.