What Parents Want

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Parents across the socio-economic spectrum want a better future for their kids (a sadly radical sentiment in some circles).  Effective marketing sees the world through the eyes of prospective parents.  It reflects the hopes and dreams they have for their children.  Data show parents basically want two things: a good school whit staff who care.  Although as a father of two charter school students and their little sister, I can tell you that we could also use 5 minutes of peace and quiet! 

The following is an aggregate of research done with families from multiple metropolitan areas with highly competitive school choice markets.  While each community is unique, we can draw some great lessons from a wide-angle view.  It’s also interesting to see what isn’t on the list: small class sizes, strong discipline, technology.  Effective marketing pairs these broader insights with a clear message and a lead point of difference.

1.   Quality Academics

The simple truth is that quality matters.  School achievement data is an incredibly effective marketing tool, but quality goes beyond test scores for many families.  Quality certainly isn’t the only factor for families, but it’s consistently the most important one.  Strong marketing highlights a school’s academic quality in ways that differentiate them from other options.

2.   Caring Teachers

The last thing parents want is a teacher for whom this is just another J-O-B.  Families are looking for a school with teachers who are deeply invested in their child’s success and their future. Underscoring how your teachers go the extra mile for students is a great way to connect with families while standing apart from your competition.

3.   Safe Environment

Fans of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs are usually surprised that safety doesn’t rank higher, but it consistently comes in third or even fourth in the surveys we analyzed.  It’s certainly true that many families assume a school with quality academics is also safe, so safety probably doesn’t need to be a key aspect of a school’s marketing in most communities.

4.   Welcoming Environment

It seems obvious, but I’m surprised how many schools are working hard to recruit new students don’t work hard to make sure families feel welcomed and valued when they visit.  Of course, a welcoming environment also goes a long way to reduce attrition, too.  Good student recruitment extends well beyond digital ads and postcards and guides every interaction with prospective and even current families.

Focusing your marketing on quality academics and a caring staff is an easy way to attract more prospective parents.  Of course, offering them a quiet place to lie down for a minute probably wouldn’t hurt either.