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Refining Your School Tour: Being Different is About Being Memorable!

When early childhood leaders commit to school improvements, and the intentional hard work it takes for them and their staff to adopt innovative practices, they sometimes lose site that those changes won’t mean a thing if they aren’t simultaneously recruiting new families for their school.  To help you find your marketing voice and identify ways to translate all the goodness that’s happening IN your school with prospective parents, we turn to Chanie Wilschanski, founder of DiscoverEd Consulting. Also, to see other previous posts related to “marketing your school” click here

Chanie Wilschanski

Do you ever wonder why some schools fill their slots months and sometimes even years in advance?!  Why can some directors engage with parents and have them sign up on the spot, while some struggle to get even 3-4 parents to register?

While some of these results can be due to living in an overpopulated area of young families, there are also some key steps that you can take to fill your slots, max out your registration and build meaningful relationships with your parent body.

I believe that being different is about being memorable.

Do parents remember your school after the tour? Or was your school just another one of the very many schools they visited?

Do you want the parents to be talking about the tour well after it’s over?

  • Like at the dinner table
  • Or even the following week at a dinner party with family or with friends?

Or does the tour they went on become a faded memory, like what they wore to their friend’s wedding 6 months ago? (who remembers that?)

How can this even happen?

Do things that no other director would even think of doing and you will be memorable!

Here is the fact! People are busy!

The very act of needing to choose a school for their child can be a very daunting task.

They have so many options and they simple don’t know what will be the best place for their child.

As a leader – your job is to show the parents WHY your school is the best option for their child. You need to show them what your school offers that nobody else does. Why your school will be the best place for their child to thrive.

But here’s the secret – you need a team to do this.

Your staff need to help you create this in your school.

In this series, I will show you

  1. How your teachers can create their USP – unique selling proposition for their class.
  2. How to be a super connector and stand out.

PART 1: HOW TO CREATE YOUR USP

What is a USP?

Every business and company has a USP. It’s what sets this company apart from everyone else.

FedEx- Same day delivery

Costco – Bulk and save

Apple – Innovation

Zappos- Free shipping both ways

You get the idea. Each of these companies has something about them that is unique and special.

That’s why you know them and REMEMBER!

I’m going to venture a guess, that every single person reading this guide knows each of these companies! So crafting your USP is about thinking why I’m different? Remember, that high school phase- when all we wanted was to fit in and be like everyone else? We all needed the same hairstyle and shoes and clothes and oh my, if we didn’t have the same bag as everyone else!

Well now, you want to be different and stand out.

Your teachers need to know how to market their class in 2 minutes or less and position it to the parents in a way that has their jaw dropping!

You want parents to walk out of each class saying “Oh my gosh!” “Wow!”

I NEED my child in this school. This is an amazing place.

Here’s another piece.

If you are reading this guide, you are a committed director and leader for your school. You take the time to invest in yourself and you want to learn more. You probably have great teachers you do incredible things in your school. And here is where you wish things were different.

Many directors have shared with me.

“I feel like we are slice of heaven that nobody knows about.”

“Our program is amazing, why don’t we have full slots”

“My staff are so creative, and they do amazing things, but we are still not full”

Teachers are educators. They know how to connect with the children. They know how to create engaging provocations that invite the children to learn and explore.

They aren’t marketers or salespeople. And they don’t need to be.

What you want them to be able to do is position what they do in the classroom in a way that highlights to the parents the tremendous values of the school. So parents know this is the place to be!

Every educator should start by thinking through these three steps below.

Step 1

What age do they teach?

Step 2

What are some of the skills that the children are learning right now that are developmentally appropriate?

Step 3

What is happening in the class? What unit, projects, or investigations are the children currently immersed in?

Let me share a sample so you can get the idea

“At this time of year, our children are 21/2 years old. We are focusing a lot of social skill building and independence. Some of the way that we facilitate this learning is through our center play.

In the block center you can see that the children are still in the parallel play stage – which means they play alongside each other. Our goals is to offer experiences that allow the children to play interactively and build their social skills.

If you take a look in our art center, we have individualized trays. This helps the children understand personal space and also assists with cleaning up independently.  

These are some of the experiences that we offer to the children so they can process concepts, information and make meaningful connections.”

Now let me break this down for you.

“At this time of year, our children are 21/2 years old. We are focusing a lot of social skill building and independence.”

This class is a 2 year old class and chose to share with the parents 2 skills they are working on now. Your staff can choose any skills. But it should be 2. This keeps it short and specific and easier to remember.

“Some of the way that we facilitate this learning is through our center play.”

You want to highlight to the parents that play is a valuable part of the learning process in your school.

In this next part – I chose 2 centers.

You can pick any 2 centers that you want to speak about. But again, pick 2. This will help you stay focused when a parent comes in and you want to share with them in under 2 minutes what’s happening in the class.

“In the block center you can see that the children are still in the parallel play stage – which means they play alongside each other. Our goal is to offer experiences that allow the children to play interactively and build their social skills.”

Notice how I subtly added what parallel play is- this SHOWS the parent that you are educated. Telling them you have a Master’s degree doesn’t really mean anything to the parent.

“If you take a look in our art center, we have individualized trays. This helps the children understand personal space and also assists with cleaning up independently.”  

To sum up: here are the guidelines for you and your staff.

  1. Remember the age you teach and what skills you are working on at the time of the tour.
  2. Pick 2 centers that you will highlight to the parents during the tour.
  3. Close off with a short sentence about how these experiences are beneficial for the child.

In the next post, I will share some simple strategies for a school tour and how to follow up as a super connector!

To download the “Market your school” Cheat Sheet – click here

photo-of-chanieChanie Wilschanski M.S.Ed is an early childhood strategist and leadership coach – founder of DiscoverED Consulting a RESULTS driven company designed for early childhood progressive directors who want top talent teachers, maxed out registration, parents who value their work and more strategies and time with less overwhelm!

With a decade of experience and extensive training in the Reggio Approach she has had the privilege of training thousands of educators spanning 6 continents and 16 countries.

She is also the author of the DiscoverED curriculum series – The Ultimate Idea Generator which guides early childhood centers to bringing in more progressive materials and provocations into all the centers for many different units of study and the Jewish Holidays.

In addition, Chanie currently directs the early childhood program at the Beis Rivkah Seminary in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, NY where she lives with her husband and 3 children.

Note: To view other posts related to “marketing your school”, click here.

 

Tip #10 Marketing is Documentation

Part of our Summer Series: Jewish Early Childhood Marketing Tips

Click here for our previous tip!

Shariee Calderone and Susan Remick Topek

By this time most of you will be back to “business”, the business of running a high-quality school for young children, a warm and inviting place for families, the core of early learning and discovery.

During the past nine weeks, we have shared what we think are important tips for marketing your school to its best advantage in a highly competitive market. Sharing these ideas with you has been a wonderful experience for both of us. Our goal is to inspire Jewish preschool programs everywhere to think year-round about how they reach out to potential parents and how their school is viewed within the community.

Our series has shared so many good ideas that schools can use to market themselves, advertise to families and promote what they offer that is uniquely specific to them.  Questions we hope you are asking yourself are: What sets you apart when someone asks about your program? What is a special take-away that visitors walk away with? What is the community saying about you?  How do your teachers represent you in and out of the school building? What senses are tapped into when families come to see your school? Does your web page represent the ideas and vision you have for the school?

Here is a link to the first of our 9 tips and list of all 10 tips below:

ECFEMarketingTips

 

For our last and final tip we turned to our colleague Karen Deerwester, owner of Family Time Coaching & Consulting* to share what SHE thinks would be a valuable last tip for early childhood educators. We are honored that Karen has been following our summer series of tips and wanted to contribute through the lens of her expertise with families.

Karen had this to share with us:

bio_karen_deerwesterMarketing is on-going and emergent, like best early childhood practices.  As much as we’d like it to be otherwise, we are never done. Our efforts need to be consistent and predictable. People need to know where we are and what we do in each of our centers or programs. Yet, if the message gets too familiar it becomes stale and clichéd. Marketing is documentation – it’s how we make our message visible to families. Just as in best early childhood practices, when we make our students learning visible, so too should we use marketing to document how our centers and programs are continually growing.

The language that supports this will vary depending on where the information is being shared. Tweeting and blogging keeps your voice in the loop with community members, other educational professionals as well as with parents. Your website should look and feel a little different each year by adding information that is current and that reflects where you’ve been and where you are going. From the bios of your teachers to video and photo documentation of the learning that’s taking place, this information helps you communicate who you are to others and what’s happening in your center. Be sure to also add information in print and on your website about anything that’s new for the year. Things like “extended hours”, “meet the new teachers”, “come see our garden growing”, “now available”, “new mommy and me classes”. The idea here is that when you and your school grow so should your marketing grow.

Karen adds:

When I’m thinking about a marketing post and complimentary photo, I often have a feeling I’m trying convey, something very specific I’m trying to share – my excitement over something we’re doing, a parenting challenge (fear of messes), or trying to say “welcome” (e.g., I hear the Bev Bos song We’ve Been Waiting for You and want to create that feeling in the picture).  I believe if we aren’t personally engaged in our documentation, we miss the emotional piece.  Learning really is personal, and so is marketing 🙂

Selling your school, here are photos that inspire marketing documentation from Family Time at B’nai Torah Congregation of Boca Raton, FL:

 

We hope you refer to these tips often and apply them to your marketing and enrollment plan.  You could procrastinate and delay, or say “I wish I could do this, but…” and come up with an excuse (probably one you have used before).  But we hope not. Get busy NOW with an action plan, set goals and deadlines, find those who can help you best and go forward and become the place where everybody knows your name.”

The Sample Action Plan below includes columns for Objectives, Tasks, Success Criteria, Time Frame, and Resources. Click here and the image to download a template of this action plan.

Action-Plan-Template

*Family Time’s mission is to be a leader in parent/child development by providing resources and decision-making strategies to parents and the professionals who support families.

*We gratefully acknowledge being inspired by Childcare Marketing Tips: 10 Must-Do Marketing Tips to Grow the Enrollment of Your Early Childhood Program (July 2012) published by Memberhub. The e-book was coauthored by Matt Harrell and Kris Murray, President and Founder of Child Care Marketing Solutions.

Tip #9 Managing Your Online Reputation

Part of our Summer Series: Jewish Early Childhood Marketing Tips

Click here for our previous tip!

Shariee Calderone and Susan Remick Topek

After reading Tips #1-8 you are probably beginning to see that marketing your Jewish early childhood center isn’t all that different from any small business marketing themselves in a highly competitive very connected world.

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BUT, like any small business your school is also vulnerable to some occasional bad press. Like parents chatting in person – this negativity may end up online. A quip about your school hours, the outdated playground, or the somewhat unhealthy snacks provided once in a while. So what do you do? The short answer is: you need to respond. But first you need to know it’s happening, even if it’s only once in a while.

PressHat3_2

LISTENING

In our highly connected world parents turn to the internet to find new resources and recommendations. List servs and FB pages are two places you might find that your school or program gets mentioned by parents looking for information – and other parents willing to provide it! Random comments by parents may also happen happen via twitter and mommy blogging. Here’s an example of positive mommy blogging about a preschool. But don’t be alarmed by the bad press. According to Mark Harrell of MemberHub, “This is a good thing. If these people are discussing your program offline then you can’t listen to the feedback and you don’t get to join the conversation.” Being aware of conversations or postings taking place about you, your school, and your program is an important first step in managing your online reputation. In this case, you’ve got to be in to win it.

So how do you do that? There are several ways to hear chatter about your school:

  1. Look to see if your community has a FB group or page for residents. I live in the Eastport South Manor school district on Long Island and I’m part of a Facebook page called ESM Community. Everything gets discussed there from pot holes to lost puppies. See if your community has a page and join it if you can. If you are not local see if someone on your staff is or maybe this is a good way to get a current parent involved. Their role would be to share relevant news for you AND if they hear something say something – to you that is.
  2. The same goes for local parent listservs. Chatter about local daycare and preschools happens most often on these types of sites because they are specific to the needs and interest of parents. In NY you can take a look at nymetroparents.com/parentgroups . This publication lists groups by different regions and possibly your region will be included. But other areas do the same thing. I did a quick search in the DC area and I found DCtots which is maintained by a frustrated dad of a toddler. His list of parent listservs can be found here for another example: http://dctots.com/parent-groups-in-the-district/
  3. You can also set yourself up with Google Alerts. It’s a bit more technical but IT can be there when you can’t. You simply set up Google Alerts (which is free) to monitor certain keywords such as your school name and your name, and you will receive an e-mail any time they find those keywords in their search. Mark Harrell recommends adding keywords with every configuration of your school’s name that a parent might use. Google Alert will notify you when and where any content was placed on any social media platform. This approach can also help you keep track of your competition and topics relevant to your business and work.

google-alerts-screenshot

RESPONDING

Bad press is inevitable for any business. You can’t stop it but what you CAN do is respond politely. “Confess and be sincere”, says Smart Insights in their article How to Respond to Positive and Negative Online Conversations. “If someone complains about something and you know they are right i.e. something isn’t working as it should, or they have genuinely had bad service, then own up, apologize and offer some form of compensation if applicable.” This doesn’t mean you have to grovel but do take responsibility and show that you care about your families’ concerns. Be prompt and stay on topic. Offer an explanation and share if you know things are going to change. Here’s an example:

Parent Post: After three phone calls to my daughter’s preschool today I still couldn’t get in touch with the director. XYZ school just doesn’t get it.

Potential Response: I’m sorry your calls and concerns went unanswered. Looking back at our records I see that Ms. H was at an early childhood conference all day and there was a miscommunication on our end as to who was going to respond to parent questions. You’ll be happy to know that we have now put Ms P in charge whenever Ms H is unable to take a call.

In this example the respondent is professional, takes ownership and offers a very specific response. Having this kind of dialog live in the social media stratosphere isn’t all that bad. It shows that your school can communicate effectively even when things go wrong. Depending on the topic, type of comment and the situation you can also respond by asking for suggestions, share ideas that you and your staff may have been playing around with, or simply giving the reason the challenge may exist in the first place.

My daughter recently shared with me that she read a negative comment online about really poor signage for a particular business. The person trying to locate the business was frustrated and said so. The business owner got wind of the comment and responded by sharing that they were having difficulty working with the town obtaining the permits for their sign. Two weeks later the business posted a picture of a costumed character on the street holding a sign that said “ABC Business This Way” with a big arrow on it! Responses by lurkers to that post were numerable and completely favorable. In this case the business turned a negative comment into a positive by being prompt and using some humor. Here’s another example of how important it is to be IN these types of conversations if they are going to take place.

No one expects perfection. But they do expect to be listened to. In order for you to listen to your customers (your parents) you have to have a plan in action to manage your online reputation. Having a social media plan or policy in place will enable you (or someone who is designated) to communicate effectively and promptly. Even if you only hear something negative once in a blue moon, being responsive and providing updated information is all part of an overall strategy to market your Jewish early childhood program.

*We gratefully acknowledge the permission we’ve received by Matt Harrell, CEO & Co-founder of MemberHub, to reference Childcare Marketing Tips: 10 Must-Do Marketing Tips to Grow the Enrollment of Your Early Childhood Program (July 2012). The e-book was coauthored by Matt Harrell and Kris Murray, President and Founder of Child Care Marketing Solutions.

Tip #8 Every Teacher is an Ambassador For Your School

Part of our Summer Series: Jewish Early Childhood Marketing Tips

Click here for our previous tip!

Shariee Calderone and Susan Remick Topek

Do not underestimate the influence of your staff when potential parents come to visit. Last week we discussed making a good first impression and put ourselves in the role of a visitor. We asked ourselves, “what does the visitor see, hear and smell, and what are they able to touch and taste?” All their physical senses come into play on this first visit. Digging in a little deeper into the emotional experience for this family it is important to realize that they are there to learn about your school and to meet with their child’s potential teacher. For this reason, every teacher needs to be an ambassador for your school! They need to look happy and confident and be aware that they are being “seen” as families observe the entire environment of the school!

Preschool

Personal case in point:

My daughter invited me to visit potential schools for my grandchild. In one instance we were walked through in a very impersonal manner by the director. She answered our questions but in a very condescending way. And although there were very few other children present at the moment, NO ONE including the director talked to or looked at my grandchild who was with us. But, at another school, we were given a tour and this time, despite being a busy time on a special event day, EVERY teacher stopped to smile, ask my grandchild’s name and say welcome.  Guess where this child is now a happy student with happy parents?  My daughter liked the school’s environment, philosophy, curriculum, and the director – but the personal touch and involvement of the teachers and their enthusiasm for the school was really the tipping point. And this is not only for visitors… every time since then, when I have walked in, every teacher smiles and says good morning to my grandchild.

 

One of the most difficult moments for an educator can be when a potential parent and child enter their classroom to see or visit.  Some teachers can smoothly move from an ongoing activity to welcome the parent and spend some time with them while others are just not as comfortable doing this or find that the timing is poor to exit from an activity with students. Establishing ground rules among the faculty can relieve this anxiety and help plan for a smooth visit for everyone.

parent-teacher-p

The Classroom Visit

Not all visits can be scheduled ahead of time but directors should try to give educators a 10 minute (at least) head- up if a parent is coming to their room. Because of this short notice teachers should ALWAYS be ready for a visit.  A teacher should know that they are representing the school, and they need to be able to answer questions about the classroom schedule and activities, curriculum, Jewish learning and experiences. Teachers are usually looked on as experts in child development, and should be able to speak in a professional style using professional vocabulary with parents. They should OWN that information and the language and feel connected to it.

NAMC-Montessori-teachers

A Team Approach

The director should not just “drop off” a parent, but rather go in the classroom and cover for the teacher who is speaking with the family. In this way, a team approach is taken and observed by the potential family. It also helps to ensure that the family is escorted out by the director after a reasonable amount of time. This should also be determined in advance by faculty when ground rules are established so everyone knows what to expect.

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Practice Makes Perfect

Some schools practice with staff as to what to say and how to act with families that are visiting. I think this is a wonderful idea. Not everyone is a “natural with parents” although they might be the most outstanding teacher with small children. Try ROLE PLAYING at a staff meeting.  All teachers have had many interactions with visiting families.  Together a staff can develop a shared vocabulary and positive strategies that will work when potential parents visit based on those experiences. It can also be a wonderful team builder to share this learning with each other. It is also important to establish consistency in what teachers say about the school. If a parent visiting a three-year old class hears that there is one kind of outdoor activity time policy, and a friend with a child in the four-year old is told something else, the school appears to be in conflict. This goes for all areas of learning and classroom regulations.

Mopsmorningin

Being Part of the Larger Institution

I have talked to many teachers in Jewish schools who do not feel that they are part of the greater institution – be it a JCC or synagogue or temple. They love the early childhood center but might not know anything about the institution they are in! How can they be an effective ambassador without this knowledge? This can be a disconnect and a missed opportunity to support not only the families with young children, but also for the early childhood educators who connect the family to their first Jewish school experiences.  All educators within a building should be part of the team that cares about the families and their Jewish journey.  It should be common knowledge when there are synagogue or JCC events and teachers should be invited to attend events on site. All teachers should know the history of the building, the names of the clergy and board executives and other lead educators. Clergy and board should be invited and included in early childhood events so they become recognizable faces to the teachers and families in the early childhood center. Potential families will benefit from the welcome and genuine warmth of the “family atmosphere” of the educators and institution that they visit.

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When directors help staff own the experiences of parent/child visits – through shared language and protocols set up in advance – they become confident ambassadors for your school! Marketing your school to potential parents may begin with great advertising and empowering current families, but your teachers can quickly become the deciding factor in a family’s decision to choose a school!

 

*We gratefully acknowledge being inspired by Childcare Marketing Tips: 10 Must-Do Marketing Tips to Grow the Enrollment of Your Early Childhood Program (July 2012) published by Memberhub. The e-book was coauthored by Matt Harrell and Kris Murray, President and Founder of Child Care Marketing Solutions.

Tip #7 You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression

Part of our Summer Series: Jewish Early Childhood Marketing Tips

Click here for our previous tip!

Shariee Calderone and Susan Remick Topek

From the first time that a family arrives in your parking lot to the moment that they exit, you need to be aware of your first impression. Your school, and the experience a parent or family has when they visit with you for the first time, is an essential component for marketing your school effectively.

Photos below from Kehillah School of Early Learning, Temple Israel New Rochelle, NY

Let’s pretend that YOU are visiting your school for the first time. What do you see, smell, taste, hear and touch? In other words, just as a child would – lets employ your FIVES SENSES!

According to Kris Murray, this is essential and here is the breakdown:

  • SIGHT: Do you have “Curb Appeal”? What do parents see when they drive up – flowers, signage? And what do they see when they walk in? Are there interesting pictures or documentation up? Are the pictures framed and displayed in respectful manner so that families can see that children’s’ work is valued?  If the entrance is NOT near your office/school, is there CLEAR signage to help them find you? Are there friendly helpful office staff (whether they are from early childhood or from the institution!)

And with all these senses, let’s also employ JEWISH senses. What, other than possibly the word “Jewish” in your name, says that your school is a Jewish school? Can parents see Jewish art or artifacts displayed in a beautiful way that is also age appropriate for children’s curiosity and interest?

  •  SMELL: Is the initial smell positive, negative or neutral? Does it smell like lunch? Diapers? Potpourri? This can be a serious issue when parents walk in. Everyone wants a clean, safe environment for children.  When a place is odorous it gives an impression of being unhygienic. You want to make sure that the smell is consistently positive. Research shows that this sensory experience is especially important to women!

And are there “Jewish smells” you can incorporate? Perhaps there is some traditional cooking/baking smells? Perhaps you have an outside area with flowers and herbs that are labeled for their Jewish content and/or use say for the celebration of Havdalah.

  • TASTE: Do you offer coffee, tea, water and/or a snack to visitors? This can set you apart from other schools and people feel that they are visiting a friend’s home by this small act of kindness. Having it readily available also shows that this is the culture of your school – that you welcome parents and guests frequently.

Are you incorporating traditional foods from different Jewish cultures? What about food snacks that might be specifically Israeli – chocolates, sesame pretzels – look for some labels and make sure that they are also displayed to show the intent and culture of your school.

  • SOUND: It is recommended that you have soft music playing in the lobby area to set the tone for the environment. The right music can have a calming influence during drop-off and pick-up time. “You want your prospects and customers to feel as if they’ve come into a ‘safe haven’ away from the stresses of the outside world.” Kris Murray, Secrets of Effective Prospect visits in a Child Care Environment. You cannot control the sound of crying children – it is a reality of school life. But you can control the sounds of teachers’ voices and the volume and tone that can be heard from a hallway.

Incorporating fun Hebrew songs and classical music by Jewish composers sets a specific tone and mood in the building as well.

  • TOUCH: Come out from behind your desk! Provide a warm and comfortable environment for perspective parents AND children to sit and get to know you better. Have a play area for the children while you talk with parents. Be intentional about beginning and ending in this comfortable place. It will garner more trust and connection! AND BY THE WAY – HOW DOES YOUR OFFICE LOOK? It should be a professional space that reflects your school – not a store room for every extra game and puzzle and carton of juice. A MESSY SPACE SPEAKS VOLUMES!  Clean off your desk and try to organize it so that whatever you want to share with perspective parents is at your fingertips!

What Jewish objects are in your office? A framed quote or picture by a Jewish artist; most especially something of Jewish content that is made by a student, such as a Kiddush cup or framed drawing, should be proudly displayed. A stuffed mitzvah bear or Israeli doll, holiday puzzles and Hebrew blocks, Shalom Sesame books, or Hebrew Cat in the Hat should be available in an attractive manner for children who are with visiting parents. These items will attract attention and be great conversations starters with parents and children.

Photos below from Congregation Kol Ami, White Plains, NY

I have learned from many directors that there are some selling strategies that they use at the end of a visit with potential families. These tips should also become part of your marketing strategy when parents come to look at your school.

  1. Give “goodie bags”. According to Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, when people are given a gift they feel compelled to reciprocate. Kris Murray suggests that the goodie bag should contain a logoed item from your school ( magnet, cup, pen, hat) maybe include an education item, a children’s book or toy, and even some inexpensive fun things like bubbles or crayons from a dollar store. Don’t forget that the bag or wrapping should have the logo of the school on it! Have several of these ready for any visits. Registration material should be shared at this time, but given to the parents, not put in goodie bag.
  2. Many directors have told me that they write “thank you” notes to families that have visited. This is a wonderful marketing tool. Remember it is a THANK YOU note, for visiting the school- whether or not they decide to enroll their child. Let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and you are available to answer any questions that might occur to them later AND they should certainly feel free to visit again if they would like to discuss the school more. WRITE THIS THE DAY THAT THEY VISIT SO THEY WILL RECEIVE IT IN A TIMELY MANNER.
  3. Ask for their email address and send they updates or invitations to upcoming events that might be appropriate. Invite them to visit your Facebook page, if you have one.
  4. If you have not heard back from a family within a week or so, email or call to ask if they have any questions or if you can help them in any way.  Sometimes, it is just not a good fit. If you can be the person that helps them to find the right fit – it could come back to reward you later. IF NOTHING ELSE, YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT WORD OF MOUTH REPUTATION FROM PARENTS!

*We gratefully acknowledge the permission we’ve received by Matt Harrell, CEO & Co-founder of MemberHub, to reference Childcare Marketing Tips: 10 Must-Do Marketing Tips to Grow the Enrollment of Your Early Childhood Program (July 2012). The e-book was coauthored by Matt Harrell and Kris Murray, President and Founder of Child Care Marketing Solutions.

Tip #6 Empower Parents to Spread the Word About Your Program

Part of our Summer Series: Jewish Early Childhood Marketing Tips

Click here for our previous tip!

Shariee Calderone and Susan Remick Topek

It’s nearing the end of summer and both your returning parents and your new parents – who are trying to enjoy the last few weeks of sunshine and those less rigid schedules – are thinking about one thing… SCHOOL!  For this reason August is an ideal time for you to start thinking about parents as one of your best marketing strategies yet!

word_of_mouth

With this being such an important transition time for families with young children, it’s likely that school is much of what they are thinking about AND probably all they’re talking about too. They are talking to their friends, their neighbors, their family and possibly even the woman standing behind them on the checkout line at the store! They are sharing advice and gaining insight from one another and/or they are calming their fears and relieving their own anxieties. So why not empower them with a little extra support and encouragement now – and throughout the year!

YOU SET THE TONE

Your warm and inviting communications at this time of year, prior to the start of school, to your returning parents AND your newbies will set the tone (and your intention) with them right from the start. Use language that reflects your school’s vision, philosophy and culture repeatedly. This conveys to parents that your school really stands for something special and when particular language is used consistently and frequently, others pick up on it! It won’t be long before your parents begin to adopt and transmit this shared language to others as they share stories about why they enrolled their child in your school.

ASK PARENTS FOR SUPPORT

“Happy parents want to share the experience their children are having” says Charles D. Snowden, Senior Consultant at ISM, an organization dedicated to the advancement of private schools. We can’t emphasize this more. It’s not an imposition to ask parents to share information about your school with colleagues and friends in their social circles. This says to the parent that you value their position in the community and think that they are a good and trustworthy extension of your school.

PROVIDE PARENTS WITH USEFUL AND USABLE INFORMATION TO SHARE

Not all your parents are chatty (Yes, it’s true!) but they still value your school and with a little extra support on your part they can become great marketers for your program. This refers to your typical ‘pass it forward’ strategy – You create it and they pass it along.

  • Think FB posts about early or discounted enrollment, information nights, guest lecturers, and fundraising events.
  • Think brochures they can bring to their local Gymboree class, place of employment, or local playgroup.
  • Think re-tweets from you about the school and aspects of parenting that directly relate to the things you as a director are most passionate about. If you give it they will share – especially if you ask.

SOLICIT STORIES AND TESTIMONIALS FROM PARENTS

Websites are an excellent place to house testimonials from parents. Ask parents to share stories of positive experiences of how the school has engaged and affected them.

THANK-YOU-LETTER

Tell your parents that you like to include a few stories each year on your website. More often than not you will be rewarded with at least one or two that probably tells the story of your school better than you ever could. These are the stories you’ll add to your website. But don’t discard all the other input you’ll receive. All the shorter answers together add up to extremely valuable information and help you tell a collective story. When you tell the story of your school to perspective parents share that collective information with them.

SAYING “GOOD BYE”  

There’s a zillion things on the mind of a parent who will be leaving your school for good at the end of the year and venturing off on the next leg of their journey. It’s an exciting time. But that doesn’t mean they can’t help introduce you to new families before they leave. I like to encourage directors to have exit interviews with parents. This gives you an excellent opportunity to listen to them once again about what they especially valued while being a part of your school community and for you to hear about their next steps and address any new concerns or fears that have surfaced as the school year winds down. Doing this type of exit interview sends a strong message about how much you care about your families and becomes another concrete example of how your school’s vision and mission is communicated. (picture of a parent teacher conference)

During the exit interview ask parents if they will participate in a quick survey in one year’s time. And then follow through by sending it to them!  This is a great way for you to collect some useful data a year after and get additional feedback from parents about the time their family spent with you and the impact that it had on their child. A year down the road it’s likely that the parent will have seen several different ways the education you provided to them has either resurfaced during other activities or translated especially well in their new setting. What great data that is for you to have!

Parents who are invested, engaged and informed will always be THE most important channel of marketing that you have.  Before, during and after students enter their classrooms, you have the power to empower parents to be an extension of your marketing efforts. Being intentional about your opportunities and supporting parents in a variety of ways will serve you greatly in the long run!

*We gratefully acknowledge the permission we’ve received by Matt Harrell, CEO & Co-founder of MemberHub, to reference Childcare Marketing Tips: 10 Mus-Do Marketing Tips to Grow the Enrollment of Your Early Childhood Program (July 2012). The e-book was coauthored by Matt Harrell and Kris Murray, President and Founder of Child Care Marketing Solutions.