You’ve seen them. School flyers crammed with details in tiny font, desperate to get you to choose their school right here, right now. It's like proposing before you’ve had your first date, and just about as successful. In marketing as in marriage, you can’t rush the journey from “Hello” to “I do.”
People go on a journey when making decisions, especially one as important as choosing a school for their child. Effective marketing sees the journey a parent goes on from their perspective. It provides families with just enough information for them to want to take the next step in the journey.
There’s no substitute to asking your current families about their own journey in selecting your school, but it’s been our experience that most people follow a basic pattern:
Awareness - This is where families first hear about you. You’ll be tempted to add all sorts of amazing features to these marketing pieces. Don’t. The simpler the better: an evocative image, a single compelling point, and a direct call to action. That’s it.
Education – A parent is interested, and they want to learn more. That may be visiting your website, signing up for a newsletter, or calling you. It’s important to understand the top 3–4 things prospective families are looking for in a school and show it to them very directly. You should also be clear about what sets you apart from other schools in the area. In the case of a call or a conversation, it’s critical to listen to them rather than try to give them your pitch.
- Discernment – These parents like what they’ve seen, and they want to know the details about your culture, your philosophy, and your curriculum. This is the time to play up the features and people that make your school so special. You’ve spent a lot of time and money to get them to this point, so make sure they feel welcomed and appreciated. If you do this part right, at least 80% of these families will enroll their child (and show up on day 1!).
- Post-Decision – This critical part of the journey can’t be an afterthought. Now that a family has enrolled it’s nearly impossible to over-communicate with them. A successful colleague once said: “It feels kind of like we’re stalking them but it absolutely works.” Families are excited about their decision and nothing will make them question it like not hearing from you.
While it’s important to understand this journey through the eyes of your current parents, this basic guide is helpful if you have limited time or resources. The most important thing to remember is that making a commitment – especially a big one – is a process that can’t be rushed. The more you understand a parent’s journey, the more they will trust you with their children’s future.