Atashalyn Morris opened ANI Learning Academy, a private vocational training institution, in 2017. For the past four years, she and her team have been providing allied healthcare, business courses, vocational training, and other forms of post secondary education to students in Jamaica and across the Caribbean.
Atashalyn’s dream was to start an institution for people who never made it to university, and for students whose learning can be enhanced by one-on-one teaching. Her own family and many of her friends had encountered challenges to their own education, including overcrowded classrooms. Atashalyn wanted to correct these problems.
Today, ANI Learning Academy is helping over 50 students continue their education, attend university, and qualify for meaningful, well-paying jobs. It has been approved by the Jamaican Ministry of Education and accredited by the National Council On Technical and Vocational Education and Training (NCTVET). ANI has also been approved as a testing site by AMCA and AAH.
Atashalyn has a robust marketing plan in place to get the word out about her academy. She shared some of her tried-and-tested strategies with us.
Create compelling content
Originally, Atashalyn struggled to create visually appealing promotional graphics and flyers. It was challenging considering how busy Atashalyn was running her school. Plus, as a small-but-growing institution, ANI has a very small marketing budget. “At first, we tried to find an outside designer to help with flyers, but that required a lot of back-and-forth. PosterMyWall has made the process faster and simpler. Plus it is very cost effective,” Atashalyn said.
Narrow down your audience
“We narrow down our audience based on country and location,” Atashalyn said.
Targeting specific audiences enables you to tailor your promotional content so it’s relevant to that specific group of prospective customers. It also saves time, money and effort because you aren’t wasting resources on people who are unlikely to enroll.
“We use PosterMyWall to create our Facebook ads,” Atashalyn said. “The site is very user friendly and perfect for an institution like ours. We use it primarily to advertise our courses.”
Atashalyn posts frequently on Facebook, sometimes as often as three times a day, depending on whether or not there’s a special course or event coming up. “PosterMyWall has been instrumental in improving our Facebook posts. We get more engagement than we ever did before,” Atashalyn said.
Atashalyn also posts paid ads on Facebook, targeting people within her reach geographically. “We focus on reaching people aged 17 and up,” she said.
Atashalyn also analyzes who is engaging with her Facebook ads and where they are located. Then she markets more aggressively to those locations.
When it comes to Facebook content, Atashalyn’s advice is to keep it real. “Whatever students do in school, that’s what we market,” she said. She updates her followers on classroom activities, graduation ceremonies, student birthdays, and other events.
“We also use Facebook to provide people with some insight into our courses,” Atashalyn said. These posts are specific to what’s going on the ANI classrooms and include content about physiology, anatomy, first aid, CPR, and other technical training topics.
When Atashalyn sees that a particular type of post is getting good engagement, she makes a mental note about why this happens so she’ll be able to repeat her success with future posts.
Making a flyer
Atashalyn and her team frequently use flyers to promote their academy. Her strategy for creating an effective flyer is simple. “First, I get an idea of what I want to do, and I put it on paper. Then I search for a template that will work for me on PosterMyWall,” she said. Once she finds a template she likes, she customizes the colors and theme, and she’s done.
As she designs, she always keeps the needs and preferences of her target audience in mind. “We’re always looking for something energetic, exciting, and culturally relevant in our flyers. Jamaican culture is a graphic culture. We like colors and themes, as opposed to a lot of words. That’s how we grab people’s attention,” she said.
She also makes sure to include her school’s colors – blue, yellow, and white – in her flyers to help reinforce then ANI brand.
Atashalyn’s team places flyers around their school, positioning stacks in places where the students will notice them and take them home. They also distribute flyers in public areas. “Sometimes we go to the mall, stick them on car windshields, or post them up on billboards,” Atashalyn said. She also leverages the data she has collected from Facebook on where her audience is located by distributing flyers in those areas more frequently.
Flyer distribution takes place weekly or monthly–depending on the academic calendar. For instance, at the beginning of the school year when classes are getting ready to start, the team at ANI distributes flyers a lot more frequently than they do mid-semester.
Using QR codes
Atashalyn says that adding QR codes to flyers works quite well for ANI.
“QR codes are perfect for when you want to get people to contact you immediately or get more information. It also makes our designs stronger because we don’t have to include as much text since people can use the link to learn more,” Atashalyn said.
Atashalyn primarily uses QR codes as a contact mechanism. When people scan the code, they have the option to open WhatsApp and engage one-on-one with a school representative. This way they can have their specific questions about ANI answered right away, while getting a taste of ANI’s excellent customer service.
ANI maintains an email list to deliver important information and communications promoting upcoming classes straight to its students’ and prospective students’ inboxes. “We build our email list using contacts we get from LinkedIn, as well as Facebook. Sometimes we also send emails to purchased lists,” Atashalyn said.
These campaigns are also scheduled based on time of year–with the biggest campaigns taking place in the summer and right before the start of the school year.
As ANI continues to grow, Atashalyn continues to plan for the future. As far as marketing is concerned, her next steps will be to delve into video marketing and complete an upgraded website for the school.
Atashalyn’s goal is to grow ANI into a full-fledged university in the next 5 years. But for the time being, she’s taking things one step at a time and working hard to give her students exemplary education, support and customer service.
We wish Atashalyn the very best of luck as she continues to grow her academy!