Gayhurst School, founded in 1908, is an independent preparatory school based in Buckinghamshire for children aged 3 to 11. Gayhurst offers its pupils a broad, rounded, co-educational experience in a happy and caring environment, where children’s pastoral needs, happiness and wellbeing are paramount.
LOCALiQ are running a search engine marketing (SEM) campaign for Gayhurst School, to generate leads & raise brand awareness. We also run a Facebook Retargeting campaign which works in line with the SEM to gain interest on a longer basis.
Could you tell us about Gayhurst School, describing your role and how long you have worked there?
“12 years ago, Gayhurst School transitioned from a boy’s independent school to a co-ed school, we currently have 360 pupils with an approximate 30% girl 70% boy mix. My job title is Director of Admissions and Marketing and I have been working at the school for just over 9 years, but I’ve been in the education sector for 22 years now. Our Marketing and Admissions team consists of myself and my part-time assistant, so we do work with external advertising agencies, but this is our first year working with LOCALiQ.”
What are some of the marketing goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) you have within your role?
“Admission numbers are obviously the main KPI of ours, but retention is also something we value. A lot of our marketing is aimed at our current parents because their word of mouth is the biggest source of marketing we have. So, it is really important for us to retain those families which then pay into our overall admission numbers.”
How have you seen the sector change through your years of experience?
“To be honest, when it comes down to the staff and children not a lot has changed it is still quite traditional. The biggest change from a marketing point of view is the transition into the digital age. Online communications and social media as we know it today just didn’t exist when I first started so we were primarily focused on print advertising.
As digital marketing has become more prominent the attitude of parents has changed. Now we offer parents a glimpse of the school through our online communications and social media platforms, so they are much more engaged and involved than ever before. However, we have seen a much higher expectation and demand for regular updates from the parents which can be difficult to meet.”
What are some of the challenges your school faces in the sector? and what does the future look like for you?
“In the official predicted statistics, it’s forecasted that families requiring an independent education are going to decrease, but we haven’t noticed that directly affecting us yet. In fact, the opposite has happened as our school has been positively impacted by Covid. We picked up a lot of students from the state sector because their parents were worried that they were falling behind, so they moved them to our school. This resulted in an uplift in numbers which is a trend that has continued for the last couple of years.
The cost-of-living crisis is probably our sector’s biggest upcoming threat, and I would anticipate next year we might take a bit of a hit. With regards to current pupils, we do offer financial support if we can as we would rather not lose any students, but we can only do so much of that. As far as the regular threats we face, there is stiff competition in the area. 12 years ago, we transitioned into a co-ed school, but bringing in girls has proven very challenging particularly because there is a girls’ school situated 5 mins up the road from us.”
Before LOCALiQ, what process were you and your team using for digital marketing and advertising?
“I was working with an external advertising agency, mainly on the print side of advertising. As time has gone on, we moved over to digital marketing which the same advertising agency did for us. As their company grew and demand increased, they brought in social media and online marketing specialists who ran campaigns for us alongside print advertising. We then decided to completely drop the print advertising and solely focus on key moments campaigns, we did this up until LOCAliQ contacted us. I’m more inclined now to put all the budget I have for advertising into online marketing.”
Historically, what challenges have you experienced with digital marketing?
“The external advertising agency were ok, and I think it was a good place to get started although they were quite expensive and there were challenges on the reporting side. They would provide us with a report, but I had very limited control and I couldn’t see how our marketing was performing or review live data when I wanted to.
What I like about LOCALiQ is the client centre which allows me to see what is going on whenever I feel like it. This provides me with the control I need so I can check everything and implement changes there and then if I feel they are necessary.”
How do you communicate how things are performing to different stakeholders?
“It is just me who has access to the client centre, only because there isn’t any need for anyone else to look at it at the moment. Each term we have an admissions and marketing governors meeting with some of the senior staff members such as the head, bursar, a couple of deputies, and several governors. So, when that meeting is coming up, I’ve asked Charlotte to produce a visually appealing report with images and graphs which I can present to the governors as part of my termly reporting.”
What are some of your current pain points?
“Recruiting girls is probably our biggest challenge, but I don’t think that has anything to do with our online marketing because we do get a lot of enquiries, it is more the converting them that is the pain point. Again, it is a difficult one because many parents want to see a larger number of girls at the school but until people commit to coming to us, our girl numbers aren’t going to grow.
How did you first hear about LOCALiQ? and what was the buying process you went through?
“They phoned me and because the services provided appealed to me, we set up a Teams meeting and that was it, I signed up. It was a quick switch to LOCALiQ.
Has there been anything you have learnt from working with LOCALiQ? And have you noticed any other advantages?
“I’ve definitely been made more aware of how everything works, for example, what impressions are and I’ve got a better understanding of pay-per-click. In terms of advantages, our online presence through our website was already growing because we were putting a lot of work into the SEO, but since working with LOCALiQ we have a much stronger Google presence now and I can see that we are being put in front of more people. I also find it really useful to see the different analytics such as where our website traffic is coming from, where they end up going, and which pages they are looking at the most. Another thing I really like, although I don’t use it often, is that I can listen back to phone calls. This gives me a good oversight. I can listen back to some of the conversations or if I felt anything might have gone wrong, I can check up to see what has been said.”
Could you tell me about the process of working with our client service teams to create sponsored ads?
“Typically, when we have an event we want to advertise I will tell them the facts such as the times and dates etc., and then I send across a selection of photographs which the team the use in the adverts. It’s a very easy process, they have been brilliant and incredibly responsive to everything.”
We know that reach and awareness had progressed, but have you managed to measure any increases in applications or enquiries?
“That is a tricky one because school marketing isn’t like buying a product, it’s a very different process so being able to measure things is extremely difficult. We may have an enquiry from someone, and that child might not arrive at the school for 5 years’ time, so it’s not straightforward to measure. The way I see it is if there is an increase in traffic to our website then that will have a knock-on effect on the number of enquiries. We have particularly noticed an increase from people looking at our website from outside our area, we are getting a lot more enquiries from London than we were before.
We have always had the occasional pupil from London, we found that couples from London who start a family then decide to move out to Buckinghamshire as it is a nice, easily commutable, and wealthy area. During the pandemic, we also picked up on a lot of people who moved because of Covid, perhaps they wanted a different lifestyle. Now I believe we are seeing a more generalised increase because we are easy to find online and show up on Google search results when people search for schools in a variety of counties. “
What advice would you give to other schools who are considering LOCALiQ?
“It has been such an easy transition to using LOCALiQ, I really like that we interact via Microsoft Teams so I can see the faces of the people I’m working with and have a more personal relationship. I think if the price is right, I would highly recommend LOCALiQ services to other schools, mainly based on the client centre which gives great oversight on all aspects of digital marketing, and the fact that the staff are extremely responsive.
If you are are a school and would like to learn more about how LOCALiQ can help you with your digital marketing get in touch with our experts. We’d love to talk to you about our services, intelligent technology, and tools which deliver fast and effective results.