7 Must-Have Skills for School Marketers in 2020

January 28, 2020 David Garden

A school marketer talking about her plans for the year to boost enrollment.

Are you keen to turn the page on 2019 and hit the ground running in 2020? These seven must-have skills will enable you to use your time and resources wisely to exceed 2020 enrollment targets.

1. Adaptability

There is one thing we can all be certain about in 2020—things won’t be the same as in 2019. The world is constantly changing, and marketing has been in a constant state of flux since the advent of the internet roughly 30 years ago. You can lament constant change as the new normal or commit to ongoing learning. If you want to exceed your enrollment targets, I recommend the latter.

If you don’t commit to learning, you’ll continue to invest in yesterday’s strategies when parents are moving on to tomorrow’s next big thing.

2. Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

As the new-age telephone directory, Google isn’t going away any time soon, and to benefit from this "free" advertising, you want to make sure that your school appears prominently in relevant searches. 

SEO is a skill that you have to keep up-to-date with as Google is constantly changing its algorithm to ensure the best search results. You’ve heard of Penguin and Panda, right? But what about Hummingbird, Pigeon, Possum, and BERT?

It seems that many school marketers know enough about SEO to be dangerous, but not enough to maximize the full potential. For example, which of the 200+ ranking factors should you focus on? How do you assess the quality of a backlink? What onsite SEO elements do you review regularly and why?

At Australian Christian College (ACC), we have started working with an SEO consultant because we noticed that over the past few years our search rankings had slipped and we didn’t have the time to reverse that trend ourselves. That decision is paying off.

3. Writing

The ability to identify a story and present it in a compelling manner is a fundamental skill for school marketers. Writing skills are needed for a range of tasks within the realm of inbound marketing, such as blog posts, video scripts, photo captions, landing page microcopy, and much more. In fact, content marketing is now more effective than Superbowl ads. 

Even if your writing and editing skills are good, make them great in 2020. Consider undertaking a short course and write regularly—because practice makes perfect!

4. Analytics

Back in the day, marketers were the creative types and accountants were the analytical ones. However, to be an effective modern-day school marketer you need analytical skills too.

As a school marketer who takes a data-driven approach, I regularly call on my analytical skills to split-test website changes, analyze parent surveys, report on KPIs, and identify trends from a range of datasets. 

Most marketers despise spreadsheets. Words are our natural way of thinking, not numbers. While that may be the case, you will need to make every effort to improve your analytical skills. Start small, but start.

5. Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO)

If you’re like most school marketers, every three to five years you undertake a massive overhaul of your school’s website. It’s an exciting but laborious project which takes many months and even more blood, sweat, and tears to complete.

But it doesn’t (even shouldn’t) have to be this way. You see, if you’re making micro-changes to your website every few weeks, your site will remain fresh and up-to-date without the need for a complete overhaul every few years. 

These regular updates should be underpinned by a conversion rate optimization strategy. CRO helps maximize the number of website visitors who convert into inquirers. 

During 2019 there was a lot of talk about student retention in school marketing circles一and rightly so! For every student retained, one less needs to be attracted in order to hit your enrollment targets.

In 2020, I think we need to continue reinvesting our time and energy away from "attract" (typically considered the more glamorous part of our jobs) and more toward "convert" and "retain." Quick quiz: Are you investing your time fairly evenly between attract, convert, and retain? If not, maybe 2020 is the year to sort out any disparities here.   

CRO is digital conversion at its best. You can learn heaps about CRO just by reading everything on offer at Conversion Rate Experts.

6. Service Design

Speaking of retaining students, there is no better method for doing so than service design.

In 1991, the Koln International School of Design introduced service design as a design discipline after the term was first coined by Lynn Shostack in her 1982 article, "How to Design a Service." I provide this background to highlight that service design is a newish concept that has tremendous potential to improve service experiences.

Service design is the process of co-designing services to improve user satisfaction. In a school model, stakeholders from the school collaborate with parents and/or students to co-design the educational experience for the benefit of all parties. There are many tools available when embarking on a service design project, including empathy maps, concept walkthroughs, user scenarios, and service blueprints.

Perhaps this year you could start small with service design by co-designing your school’s canteen experience with students and maybe complete IDEO’s service design course (I recently completed this course and highly recommend it).

7. Networking

You read right一networking. You might be wondering why in the digital world I am including something so 1980s as networking. Well, no matter how advanced technology becomes, there will always be a place for authentic human relationships.

Your connections with people open doors of opportunity. Doors you didn’t even know existed, doors you didn’t even know needed opening. 

As a starting point for networking, update your LinkedIn profile. If you manage your activities on LinkedIn effectively, it will act as a stepping-off point into speaking opportunities, conference invitations, and coffee-shop gatherings. 


If I was asked by a new school marketer to list the most important skills necessary for success in the role, I would mention the above. These skills will serve you well in 2020 and beyond. Will the list change in 2021? Probably. But that’s the point一be adaptable, stay nimble, and keep learning, then you’ll always have the skills necessary to succeed in school marketing.

If you’re disappointed that things like AI and VR didn’t make my list, don’t be dismayed because I don’t think they’re too far away. However, I also don’t think it’s time to throw out your Facebook advertising budget in favor of VR goggles just yet.

I hope 2020 is your best year yet in school marketing!

About the Author

David Garden

David Garden is a school marketer with 20+ years experience and an MBA in marketing. David also has 20+ years experience at marriage and is blessed to raise two daughters with his wife. He is currently the Marketing Director for the Australian Christian College Group. You can connect with David on LinkedIn.

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