Meaning business: 5 ways schools can learn from the private sector

Debra Jamieson

Debra Jamieson is the Sales and Marketing Director at UK Point of Sale (UK POS), an expert UK manufacturer in providing quality acrylic & PVC point of sale solutions at competitive prices. UK POS was established in 1989 and are the preferred supplier to many major retailers.

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Schools should be immensely positive, inspiring places. Debra Jamieson, sales & marketing director at UK POS, gives her top tips on how to make the most of making a good impression.

Everyone knows that first impressions count. Businesses and retailers invest significant money in making sure that the first customer touchpoint is memorable for all the right reasons. With education providers both competing for students and trying to impress Ofsted, they also need to present a professional and enticing image right from the outset. There are a number of simple lessons that education establishments can learn from the private sector in order to give parents, visitors, existing and potential students the best possible experience.

1. Making a good first impression

Research has shown that humans are hardwired to make their mind up and establish a first impression within seven seconds. Studies also show that nonverbal cues have over four times the impact on the impression you make than anything you say. This fact can often be overlooked by schools, colleges and universities who rightly see themselves as being there to provide a solid education rather than being marketing experts.

As important as it is to have friendly and helpful staff on hand to meet and greet visitors, the look and feel of the environment and the information that you display is equally crucial when creating that first impression.

2. Anticipate what people want to see

School, colleges and universities run busy reception areas. With students, teachers and visitors milling around, people may have to wait their turn to speak to a member of staff. This is a great opportunity to tell the story of your establishment without saying a single word. Put yourself in their shoes. Think about what your visitors might want to see and try to answer as many questions as possible before they’ve even signed in.

It’s vital to make your reception area as enticing as possible. Pieces of paper on a noticeboard don’t really give the impression of a slick operation, particularly if they’re announcing something that happened months ago. Wall-mounted information boards look much more professional and are easy to change, although you still need to remember to keep them up to date! Similarly leaflet or magazine holders on the reception desk mean that those waiting in the queue can flick through your latest newsletter or prospectus while they wait.

3. Show off your greatest assets

Your students are your greatest ambassadors. Make sure you show off their work to its greatest potential. Educational establishments have been getting better at this and most school walls are adorned with students’ handiwork. While it’s impractical and expensive to invest in hundreds of frames to show off their work, a gallery of highlights in your reception area shows what your students are capable of. Acrylic poster holders and wall-mounted panel sets are a cost-effective solution and a smart-looking alternative to blu-tack.

Similarly, any awards or certificates provide a great opportunity to show how proud you are of your students’ achievements. Special display cabinets or posters often require something a bit different and LED illuminated poster displays are a great way to draw visitors to student work and displays.

4. Re-use and recycle

Budgets need to go further in the education sector, so why not adopt some of the tricks used by retailers and hospitality companies? Poster holders located outside of the building can be changed quickly, and are also a great way to keep parents and students up to date on news and events.

5. Remember to sell yourself

More than ever, colleges and universities have to market themselves to attract new students. It’s important that they see potential students as potential customers, as any business would.

Open days are a chance to shine and, again, educators can take a leaf out of the corporate handbook. Putting the right information in the right place is key, particularly if prospective students are only with you for a couple of hours. Display stands with your key marketing messages, effective signage, up to date noticeboards and magazine racks are all simple but effective ways to make a better visual impact.

How do you go about selling your school? Let us know in the comments.

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