Want to learn how to make your prospective parents listen? Let me tell you a story.
I often visit schools as an undercover secret shopper. Whether the school is my client or a competitor, I usually learn the most about how they operate when I catch them off-guard. One time, I visited one particular school as a walk-in and had to wait for some time before anyone attended to me. Amazingly, they were not ready for a potential parent to walk-in their front door.
Eventually, the Head of School came by and asked me to come to his office. He was kind and even asked a few questions about my family. He then proceeded to tell me a considerable amount about their school. He talked about their great curriculum, excellent programs, high test scores, and amazing athletics. This went on for 20 minutes until I suggested that I needed to leave. I asked a few questions, thanked the Head of School, and left.
To be honest, if I were truly looking for a school for my family, I wouldn’t have given that one a second thought. Why? Because that school leader failed to connect with me. Rather than listen, he simply spouted off facts and data about the school and, aside from asking a few close-ended questions, made no attempt to understand and address my needs.
What could he have done differently that would have made a better impression on me? What would have made me stop and listen? Stories about the school and its community members that I could relate to and connect with.
Connecting with Prospects by Storytelling
"Storytelling is the oldest form of education.” - Terry Tempest Williams, Author
Before I get into how to use storytelling as a tool to connect with prospects, let me tell you another story.
One year when I was in high school, I had a history teacher who randomly gave us an assortment of dates and events for us to memorize during each class. The following year, I had another history teacher who required us to learn about facts and dates as well. However, that teacher connected those facts and dates to compelling stories of heroes, villains, and leaders. Can you guess which dates and facts I remember all these years later?
Through research done by the Stanford Graduate School of Business, it was found that stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts and figures alone. In other scientific studies, it’s also been recognized that human brains are hardwired to understand and retain stories. The best and most memorable stories tap into people’s emotions and are, therefore, easier to recall.
The fact is, our Creator designed us to respond to stories. The Bible is filled with stories that teach its truths. Jesus himself was a master storyteller. He used parables to illustrate many of his most imperative messages. From children's Sunday School classrooms to sanctuary sermons, teachers and ministers point to the riveting stories throughout Scripture to engage and encourage us. They paved the way for an understanding of the deeper doctrine later in the sermon when the meaning of the story is explained.
To connect with your prospective families, you need to be able to communicate with them in a memorable way. Stories that are associated with your school makes your school unique. And these stories have the potential to inspire and capture the imagination of your prospective parents. Inspiring stories will forge a memorable connection between you and the prospective family better than a list of features and benefits.
Why is Storytelling so Effective?
A good story can transport us to another world. It engages our imagination and offers meaning to our everyday experiences. For example, an inspirational movie can help us to believe that we can tackle any problem in the real world, despite our failures. Stories also allow people to lower our guard and make a heart connection with the message.
For storytelling to be an effective marketing tool, you need to tell impactful stories. To do so, consider these questions:
- What are your top 3 stories that capture the heart of your school's mission?
- Are the stories memorable?
- Are the stories contagious?
- Does your staff know them and use them?
Keep in mind that you need not confine these stories inside the walls of your classrooms. You can tell these stories during your school tours and open houses. You can also include stories in your marketing literature, especially in your school's newsletter and blogs. Like any of your content, you should incorporate storytelling into your marketing strategy and plan where you share them, as well.
We’ve previously discussed the process of storytelling in another blog post.
Next, here are a couple of steps to help you get started on your storytelling strategy:
Step 1: Develop Stories That Connect with Your Buyer Personas
Before you start developing inspiring stories for your school marketing, you need to understand your prospective parents. You can do this by creating your parent personas. The goal is to attract more prospects who reflect your current parents’ characteristics and attributes. These parent profiles will help you identify the key characteristics, values, problems and motivations of prospective parents who would be a good fit for your school.
Once you’ve defined your parent personas, you can begin to think about what stories you could tell that would appeal to these prospective parents to attract them to your school. For example, stories about character formation from your athletics program would be more appropriate for a high school prospect than a preschool prospect. Meanwhile, tales of an apprehensive kindergartner who blossomed by her own will appeal to a potential early grammar school family.
Bring Them All Together
Much like how a good story can bring people together, you should also gather your team to take part in your storytelling strategy. At your faculty meetings, take some time to ask your teachers to share their "good news" of the week (let them know ahead of time so that they can be prepared to report). Write down these anecdotes and circulate them among your staff. Do this to remind everyone of the virtue in pursuing your school's mission. This will also help to cement the tales in their minds. After all, many of your teachers will likely come into contact with a prospective family and they should be equipped with inspiring and heartwarming stories to share with them.
Step 2: Capture Your School's Compelling Accomplishments In A Story
Think about the times you may have talked too much to a prospect at an open house. You may have had a long monologue about your school's academic and athletic achievements. Think about how you can capture those impressive facts in a compelling story. Translate them into narratives that reflect the uniqueness of your athletic program, academics or school culture.
For example, use a unique illustration to capture how your student's accomplishments in athletics develop their character. Don't just tell the prospects about your latest state championship. Instead, tell a story about one of your athletes and how the experience of winning the state championship made an impact on their character. You can also relay the experience of the entire team. Approaching it from this angle will enable you to tell a memorable story while sharing the achievement as well.
Good storytelling is built on a foundation of good intentions: to help your prospective parents understand your school's unique personality as well as to guide them in their search for the right school for their children. Rather than engaging them with information that deviates from their search, your prospective parents may be more interested in the stories of and about your school.
You can learn more about how storytelling can enhance your school marketing efforts by reading our guide.
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Do you have a recent story that embodies your school? Share it in the comments below!