Cutting-Edge Marketing Research Trends for Independent Schools

Group of happy middle school or high school students

Market research studies can be an important tool for independent schools to better understand their school’s perception in the market and what the audience values – or doesn’t value – about the school. It’s game-changing information for all marketing and enrollment efforts.

We work with independent schools across the country to conduct market research studies and are seeing new challenges arise in executing different methodologies. With many of our school clients located in smaller markets, it has become more difficult to implement quantitative studies with large enough sample sizes to be meaningful.

What does this mean? It means that, for some schools, there isn’t a large enough geography or addressable audience to follow best practices, which would suggest a two-step process utilizing both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.

Qualitative research includes in-depth one-on-one telephone interviews and/or focus groups to understand market perceptions, attitudes and beliefs about your school among prospective and current audiences. This provides us with valuable insights into what both prospects and stakeholders think about your school and why. Since sample sizes are small during this phase, we look for themes, understanding that our conclusions are directional in nature. In a two-step process, this data is primarily used to inform the development of the quantitative research phase.

For quantitative research, we use online and telephone surveys to collect data (large enough sample sizes to be reliable and predictable) about prospective audiences. The goal is to identify key differences among different subsegments by demographics and other factors. With larger sample sizes (typically a minimum of 50-100 responses), we are more certain of the conclusions we can derive from the data.

The Challenge of Smaller Screening Samples in Market Research Studies

If your school has a smaller geography or is a single-sex school or a parochial school, it’s harder to get the sample size you need to execute a full-blown two-step qualitative and quantitative process. Anytime you start taking that big addressable audience and start slicing it and cutting it down, it becomes harder and harder to find those prospective families that would meet the screening criteria to qualify for the study.

To combat that inability to get the larger numbers, we’ve adjusted our approach to the qualitative phase and increased the number of interviews that we’ve been doing in a single-phase study.

As a result of the many market research studies we’ve done at Kalix, the trends we uncovered in  the qualitative phase have typically been validated in the quantitative study giving us confidence to recommend a smaller, qual-only study where budgets or addressable audience is limited. Insights derived from such a study are very rich in detail and give good directional guidance on marketing strategy and be very helpful to our schools. For larger national studies, however, we still recommend using both qualitative and quantitative.

The Value of Qualitative Research in Market Research

Qualitative research gives an opportunity to have a conversation and persuade people to participate, to make them feel comfortable. Today, with internet interviews, people are giving less information via email and are responding less and less to email requests. It’s just the reality of today’s communication. At Kalix, we do enough pre-work for our clients to understand whether we have the numbers to even propose a two-step process or propose a one-step (qualitative only) research plan. We never propose something that we can’t execute. We get enough information upfront before we even win the business to properly cost it out and understand what the right methodology that we would recommend in the proposal stage.

Learn more about conducting a successful market research study for your school in our free, downloadable e-book, Marketing Research: A Strategic Guide For Independent Schools.

Check out Donna’s other blog posts on market research:

Harnessing Data For Excellence: Why Independent Schools Should Prioritize Market Research

Why Market Research Is A Must For Strategic Planning

How can Kalix Marketing and our team of market research experts help you create the best possible market research study? Reach out to us at

President’s Notes
Jonathan Oleisky

Jonathan Oleisky

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