Did you know you potentially have a sales force for your school that’s nearly the size of your student body?
They may not be trained sales professionals. Most of them don’t even work for your school. But they have a territory that extends all around the area you serve, and they have the potential to reach hundreds, if not thousands, of families with your school’s message.
If you haven’t guessed by now, I’m talking about your current parents.
I realize that not every parent is going to become a 5-star mouthpiece for your school. Sure, you hope that you are truly delighting every one of your families, to the point where they all gladly tell their friends how much they love your school. And many of them will do just that, with no prodding at all from you, simply because they are thankful for the role you play in helping to guide and grow their children.
But training a select group of parents to be effective ambassadors for your school can pay dividends in your enrollment numbers.
Hopefully you already have a Word of Mouth Marketing Team in place. If you don’t, here are some tips to get started on it now. If you do, then we’d like to offer up a few quick ideas for how you can light a fire of enthusiasm under this crucial group during your busy admissions season this winter and spring.
Here are 5 ways your private school can mobilize your Word of Mouth team during admissions season:
1. Introduce New Friends
Most people love to make a new friend, and it’s likely that those in your Word of Mouth team are just that type of person. Allow your prospective families the pleasure of making the acquaintance of some of these gregarious current parents.
After a family visits your school, assign a parent from your word of mouth team to contact them and follow up. Bonus points if they have children near the same as age. Your Word of Mouth ambassadors can see if the potential new parents have any questions or concerns, they can share their own thoughts and stories about your school, and perhaps become a new friend and connection within your school body. The prospective families may feel more comfortable asking questions or expressing concerns to a fellow parent as opposed to an admissions staff member or head of school. You can not only get greater insight from these parents on where they stand in their school application decision process, but also cultivate a feeling of community.
2. Encourage Online Reviews
Remind your Word of Mouth parents to submit online reviews of your school on sites like Private School Review and Great Schools, as well as Google and Facebook. Prospective parents are already likely searching for education options online, and they care about the reviews they see. Make your school stand out from the competition with plenty of positive reviews from satisfied parents.
Make it easy on your Word of Mouth team, too. Send them links to the review sites with instructions on posting, and perhaps give them ideas on what kinds of things to write about (academic experiences, specific story about a certain teacher or class, spiritual growth opportunities). It’s important, though, that these parents understand that honesty and authenticity are crucial. Readers of these reviews can smell an over-the-top, coerced sales pitch. Encourage your Word of Mouth team reviewers to be themselves and just let their honest satisfaction with the school shine through.
3. Release Shareworthy Content
Photos. Videos. Blog posts. Webinars.
Give your Word of Mouth team things that are worth sharing, and keep ‘em coming at least weekly. Make sure that your social media posts are engaging, inspiring, and somehow give a glimpse into your school’s story. Videos of your students and teachers in action are nearly always a hit in this department. Capture your early elementary students doing a sweet hymn sing time. Be a fly on the wall in an upper level class debating a culturally-relevant topic. Showcase a middle school class field trip. Giving parents a look into your school day not only tells a bit about who you are, but when it’s the right content, it will be shared widely and proudly. If you have 15 parents on your Word of Mouth team, and each of them shares your post on Facebook, you’re likely going to reach at least 300 - 500 people (for free).
4. Equip with Materials
Make sure you get school tour postcards, open house posters, or event promotions materials into the hands of all of your Word of Mouth team members. Consider also printing things on smaller cards (even business card sized) to make the materials easier for your team to carry with them and hand out.
Along these lines, you may want to give them more opportunities to invite people to experience your school community, beyond just your open house. Consider opening up one of your upcoming events to the public - whether it’s a parent seminar, a social event, an academic course survey - something to draw potential families to your school and give your current parents exciting things to invite their friends to.
5. Gather the Group
Want to give a quick shot of energy to your group? Get them all together in the same room.
Think of it this way: when a group of otherwise loosely connected acquaintances all get together to watch their favorite team compete in a big game, suddenly the conversation becomes electric. The enthusiasm they have for the sport is infectious and just grows with the camaraderie.
Invite your Word of Mouth team for desserts or a light dinner, and ask them to be prepared to share stories from their year. Sweet moments their student shared with a teacher, touching tales of classmates being true friends, or academic success stories of hurdles cleared will only serve to exponentially increase the warm fuzzy feelings in the room about your school, as parents relish in the feel-good stories that make them love your school.
Pray with your parents, encourage, and thank them for the way they not only contribute to your school’s growth, but simply their continued trust in you to help raise up their children. And just as we mentioned earlier the importance that your Word of Mouth team messages be authentic, you also should be heartfelt in your appreciation and approbation of all this group is and does for you. It will go far in inspiring them to continue to be effective ambassadors for your school.