BSA holds first marketing conference

26 March, 2014

The Boarding Schools’ Association (BSA) in the UK held its first ever marketing conference recently, featuring prominent guest speakers from across the industry giving advice on topics including overseas agents, visas and social media.

Geoff Ramm, creator of "Observational Marketing", entertained delegates with an interactive presentation

Approximately 90 schools were in attendance at the event on March 24 – 25, which was held at the Whittlebury Hall in Northamptonshire, UK, to gain ideas and to “look over the horizon”, according to Alex Thomson OBE, Director of Training at BSA.

Suzanne Rowse, Director of British Boarding Schools Workshop (BBSW), was among the guest speakers, which also included Matthew Burgess, General Secretary of the Independent Schools Council (ISC) and marketing guru Geoff Ramm, who gave the concluding group seminar ‘Inspirational Marketing’ on the first day.

Leading two seminars, Rowse, who recently highlighted market trends in the sector with Study Travel Magazine, talked about working with education agents and key international markets for UK boarding schools. She advised the schools in her audience to “be a school that’s easy to work with” and to prove their dedication to their agent partners with fluid email communication, a fast turnaround of paperwork and by preparing country-specific factsheets for agents.

Rowse said that agents could help teach schools about student markets, as schools needed to work harder to keep their market share due to increased competition.

Another topic discussed was commission for agents, where Rowse urged that it was better to give a small commission in order to keep a pupil for longer than one year than to use more money to recruit a new student. She also said that commission could not be the same amount across the UK, as schools in the north have lower fees than those in the south, so they were “not on an even playing field”.

The seminars were between 75 and 90 minutes long, with a maximum of 20 delegates allowed to attend each one in order to encourage interaction and discussion. Many of the representatives found the seminars interesting and engaging, with Henrietta Lightwood, Director of Marketing and Development at Queen’s College, adding, “It’s really useful to have something for the marketing people.”

About the speakers, Thomson said, “Some of them are very much aware of this sector, they know about our members so that's the reason they're involved. Some of them work directly with schools, some work with agents, so we try to put together a mixture of experience and relevance.”

He concluded, “Very often, when you're in a school, your focus is on the day-to-day and you don't step back. So this is an opportunity for the school marketing manager – or whoever's got the responsibility for it – to be able to step back a little bit and think 'right, what do we need to be doing?' and look forward.”

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