When it comes to school marketing, Word of Mouth (WOM) has been and continues to be one of the most powerful and cost effective ways to retain and grow school enrollment. And the key to any successful Word of Mouth school marketing effort is people. People who love your school and are willing to eagerly share your story with others.
The best way to ensure those individuals know how to share your story is to establish a Word of Mouth school marketing team. Here are some suggestions for doing so:
For most things in life, planning is everything.
When I do my grocery shopping, I try to plan out meals for the week so that I can buy the ingredients needed to prepare each recipe.
Before I leave for trip, I check the weather and consider what activities I will be involved in before I pack my suitcase.
In order for your Word of Mouth school marketing team to be successful, I have found it’s important to assess and plan before taking action.
One of the first things you should do before establishing a WOM school marketing team is to take the temperature of your school’s climate.
Consider the following:
- Are parent’s satisfied with the education their children are receiving?
- Are faculty members able to do their jobs effectively or do they encounter roadblocks?
- Are students comfortable in the routine and do they understand expectations?
- When you look around, do you generally see joyfulness?
The administration may need to do some soul-searching to determine whether you are effectively delivering the school’s mission to the community. You don’t need to have every problem solved before you start to get intentional about Word of Mouth marketing. Parents just need to be reassured that steps are being taken to solve problems and address concerns. One way to do that is by building trust.
What are some ways in which you can build trust among your community?
- Be transparent.
- Identify problems and offer a plan for solution.
- Be positive.
- Inventory the things you are doing well and highlight them.
- Post on social media.
- Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.
2. Develop a Strategy
Next, you will need to develop a strategy. Take a look at what systems and programs are already in place that involve people spreading the word about your school into the community. Perhaps your Admissions Director visits preschools each spring to inform prospects about your school’s Kindergarten program. Evaluate if such activities are helping to build enrollment or if it’s time to focus your resources elsewhere.
3. Identify Key Players
The next step is to Identify a WOM chairperson who will lead the charge. The person you identify should be someone who is a good communicator, organized and relational. It should not be the head of school, but someone who can be trusted to carry out responsibilities with your support.
Work with the chairperson to recruit a team of talkers. Parents are obvious picks for the WOM team. They are most likely to be connected to the community and invested in the school. Team members don’t necessarily need to be super extroverts, but do need to have a positive attitude about the school.
4. Engage in Team Building Activities
Plan several meetings over the course of the school year to pull your WOM team together. During these times you can share stories with them about how students are benefitting from the education they are receiving at your school. You can also brainstorm together ways that you can be proactive to take your school’s message to the greater community. Help each team member identify a way in which they can spread the word about the school in a way that is natural and comfortable for them.
Let your WOM team be the first to hear about special plans for the school. Leak information to them about plans for the new gymnasium, retreat plans for your middle school students, your goals to start a summer camp or aftercare program. Empower them with the latest news through occasional meetings, email updates and one-on-one conversations.
Arm your talkers with WOM marketing tools and ask them to do specific things:
- Provide school brochures or rack cards for them to distribute that provide Open House dates and other pertinent event information.
- Have team t-shirts made and give team members magnets to put on their cars.
- Share links to online school review sites and encourage them to write positive online reviews.
- Ask them to like, share, and comment on your school’s social media channels.
5. Analyze your Efforts
Ask prospects who contact the school and newly-enrolled parents if they were impacted by the strategies you have put into place.
It may help to focus the team on two or three main messages that you want to communicate this year to the community. Are there common misconceptions about your school that you can help to clarify? Be intentional about communicating a specific message to your community.
Review your overall WOM efforts and ask yourself what’s working and what is not to identify areas of improvement.