The Montessori Family avatar
The Montessori Family avatar
What is an avatar?
A Montessori family avatar is a representation of your ideal, mission-appropriate family. While there will be common denominators across all Montessori schools, every school’s avatar is unique.
A Montessori school in Albuquerque is going to have a different avatar than a Montessori school in San Francisco which will have a different avatar than a Montessori school in New Delhi.
In many cases, a school will have more than one avatar. An avatar is not a “target demographic” (which is meant to refer to a group of people). Instead, an avatar is a single, idealized family.
For example, you might be targeting young couples who recently began family planning. That is simply a target demographic.
Think of an avatar as the dream family for your school. You will identify and define the desires, motivations and triggers of a family who will be a perfect fit for your school community. This information will be extremely helpful as you build out your marketing campaigns.
This avatars you build will not be as obvious as you may think. In fact, to prove that point, we recommend asking various members of your school community to define your ideal family. You’ll be surprised at how varied the answers will be!
Institutional alignment on who you are trying to attract is critical to a successful marketing campaign. Building a Montessori family avatar will help you do exactly that.
Your avatar is a representation of what you know about the families you serve. It’s okay to include anecdotal information that isn’t entirely data driven. This information doesn’t exist anywhere else and is often very powerful when used in marketing campaigns.
Your avatar will never be completely finished. As your marketing campaigns grow, you will add, delete and edit your definition to get a tighter focus as to whom you are marketing. In some cases, you may end up adding a new avatar or splitting an existing one into two.
Your goal is this process is to understand the person you are speaking to in your marketing messages. The more you understand this person, the more you will be able to empathize with their needs. The result is a much more effective message.
Building your avatar
We want to attract parents and guardians who believe in - or are at least open to - Montessori philosophy.
To do this, you understand their desires, questions, fears, concerns, and motivations.
To start, think of a list of questions to gather relevant information. Remember, you are crafting your ideal family here. If you could create this family from scratch, what would they look like?
Here are some examples of avatar building questions:
- Where do they live?
- How old are they?
- How old are their children?
- What is their profession?
- What is their household income?
- What are their religious/political views?
- What are their personal interests?
- What are their family goals?
- What are their personal goals?
- What are their obstacles?
- What values are they committed to?
- What does their average day look like?
- How do they spend their free time?
- What are their challenges?
- What are their pain points?
- Where do they go for information?
- What sources of media do they trust?
- What influencers do they listen to?
- When do they typically engage with content?
- ...and through what medium?
- What does their peer group look like?
- What associations are they a part of?
- How educated are they?
- What are their worries and concerns?
- What responsibilities do they have?
- What completely turns them off?
Note that this isn’t a comprehensive list of questions but more of a guideline as to the types of questions you should be asking when building your avatar.
Your list of questions may at first feel marginally invasive, but outlining detailed information about your ideal families’ beliefs, philosophies, hopes, and life goals can ultimately lead them to your proverbial doorstep — your school website, of course.
The reason you want to define your ideal family so thoroughly is so you can target your specific audience, thus spend your advertising budget as wisely as possible. See the connection?
You can throw a bunch of your advertising budget at the entire online community and hope some of it lands in the laps of your ideal parents… or, you can do a little work up front and be absolutely sure that each dollar spent goes to mission appropriate families.
Using your avatar
Once you understand your ideal parents’ hopes, dreams, aspirations and fears, you are better equipped to speak to them directly. You can reassure them that when they choose to send their children to your school, they no longer have to worry about those issues.
What concerns parents of Montessori children the most? Is it tuition? The eventual transition into conventional education? Socialization? Your campus? The qualifications of your teachers?
Once you identify these areas of uncertainty in your avatar, you can address them in your marketing.
If you identify “qualified teachers” as a major concern for prospective parents, you can let them know about the rigors of Montessori training and how well prepared they are to guide their children. Or, how you hand-select each and every staff member to ensure that only the highest quality experience for their child.
Your avatar should inform your entire approach to marketing - from your website content to the way you conduct your tours to your admissions process.
A deeper understanding of who you want to serve will help you attract the most appropriate families for your school..
Here is an example of one of the family avatars that Matt Hillis created for Bergamo Montessori School:
Brad and Christina Grayson
- They live 10 miles from our school in a bedroom community
- Brad is 38. Christina is 36
- Harper is 2 ½ and is an only child.
- This is a dual income household and both parents work full time. Brad has an MBA and works in finance. He travels often. Christina is an associate professor of English at UC Davis.
- They have a combined household income of $195,000
- Brad is a libertarian. He did not vote in the last presidential election because he was disillusioned with the choices.
- Christina was a Bernie Sanders supporter but voted for Hillary in 2016.
- Both Brad and Christina are agnostic. They do not attend church.
- Brad likes to read, hike and is in a fantasy sports team in the office. Christina likes to garden, read and spend a lot of time on Pinterest.
- The mornings, especially, are busy. Brad travels a lot for work which leaves Christina to be a single parent. It’s often hard for her to get out of the house on time. Both work at least 8 hours a day and one of them picks up Harper at 4:30 PM. They are often confused about the schedule of this pickup. After dinner, Harper goes to sleep at 8 PM. The “alone time” for the two is generally spent talking or watching reality TV in bed.
- Christina listens to NPR on the way to work and tries to read the New York Times a few days a week. Brad prefers to get his news from satellite radio and Twitter.
- They have a core group of friends who meet for dinner once every few months. They are starting to socialize with other families in the neighborhood who have young children.
- Brad is turned off by things that waste his time. As an overly busy person, he values his time. Christina does not like the current political climate of conflict.
- Christina was an excellent student and had a good experience in conventional school as a child. She is concerned about Harper’s transition to a conventional program - especially as she sees the number of students who are ill-prepared for her the classes she teaches at the university. She seems to be undecided about keeping Harper in Montessori for Elementary
- Brad was a sub-par student and is attracted to Montessori for Elementary because of the independence, self-reliance and “grit” that he sees in the Elementary students in our school.
- Both parents tend to dote on Harper as an only child (they don’t plan to have more children). They are aware this tendency and are attracted to Montessori so she can learn how to function well in a larger group/community.
- As a working mother - and often a single parent when Brad travels - Christina often feels “less than” as a mother. He mother was a homemaker and, at times, Christina feels guilty that she is not providing the same experience for Harper.