Starting a 5-Year Independent School Positioning Strategy

What's your Value?

Branding Your School's Value: 5-Year Strategy and Marketing Plans

Quick Facts - Overview

If you are interested in how your school's value is being communicated to the public, this article is for you. If you have an administrative role at an independent school, this article is for you. If you are interested in value-based branding and strategic marketing, this article is for you, too.

discussion topics:

  1. What is a positioning strategy?
  2. How do you start drafting a positioning strategy?
  3. Will a positioning strategy require a lot of my time to complete? Why?
  4. How can my School own a piece of the market mindshare?
We will also provide you with a document that will help you figure out how to win the mindshare in the independent school marketplace.


Positioning is about defining how to differentiate what your School is offering and carve out a spot in the competitive landscape - putting a stake in the ground, and winning mindshare in the marketplace.

At the core, your School positioning strategy defines what you want to be known for - that certain "something" - and how you plan to achieve that over a five-year timeframe.

Your positioning strategy considers all aspects of the independent school market:

  • Size
  • Characteristics
  • Demographics and Psychographics
  • How your School delivers value
  • How your School "stacks up" against the competition

When our team is hired to write a positioning strategy for a client, we evaluate the data below in a single matrix to gain an understanding of what they are...

A)   Currently known for

B)    The opportunities in the marketplace

C)    What they ultimately want to be known for

starting your school's positioning strategy


Competitive positioning is a complex topic that forces you to consider many different items and boil down a lot of information into a single thought -- the one thing you want to be remembered for. A good way to hone in on that one thing is to create a competitive positioning matrix for each major market you serve.

This task will help you organize all of the elements that influence your positioning strategy and ultimate decision -- selecting the mindshare you'd like to own and determining your strategy to obtain it.

This is No small undertaking!

It is not uncommon, for a school that currently owns a particular mindshare, to want to move to another. Or, maybe the school does not yet own any mindshare. That is where strategy comes in, which is brought to life by the brand and the day-in and day-out marketing execution.

To obtain this mindshare over the long term, you will need to make any changes in order to fulfill your positioning strategy. The following may be necessary for implementation:

1.     Changes to your "product"


2.     New messages or methods for communicating with the market

3.     New methods for pricing or distributing your "product/service"

4.     Changes in your "sales" & marketing materials

5.     Training programs to guide your team to deliver new messages

6.     Manufacturing redesign

7.     New brand imagery

Adding your value and winning your mindshare

It might take weeks or months to outline and years or decades to obtain. It is not something you can simply "put in the microwave" and hope it comes out fully baked.

... But it is worth expending the effort if you want to influence your market.

final thoughts

Successful branding also creates brand equity - the amount of money prospective students/families are willing to pay just because it is your School, your brand. In addition to generating revenue, brand equity makes the School itself more valuable over the long term.

About the Author


Hailey Feldman is the Marketing Director for Gowan Group. She specializes in visual branding (graphic design) and digital brand identity (online communications). Hailey and Chris Pryor, President & Founder, Gowan Group, have teamed up to deliver exceptional five-year brand marketing plans for independent schools. To contact Hailey directly, send an email to: