Are you employing a school secret shopper?

When I was a college student, I did secret shopping for a couple of the fast food restaurants in my town.  I went to the restaurant, ordered a meal, interacted with the employees, visited the restrooms, etc. and wrote a review of my experience. However, it was only when I was designing customer experience programs in the Fortune 500 did I realized how critical this data really was. Getting feedback through the eyes of a consumer can be an invaluable tool and allows improvements to both marketing and operations.

So how does this apply to marketing your charter, private or Catholic school?  Ideally, you want to maximize the entire experience that a parent gets when they are considering your school. From the minute a parent takes a look at your web site to the second they end a school tour, is their experience going to impress them enough to enroll?  A school secret shopper or recruitment experience analysis provides concrete feedback which highlights your strengths and reveals areas for improvement.

To do this, become your potential customer:

First, understand how easy it is to find your school online.  Do a quick Google search based upon how you think parents would search for your school.  Use terms like “best school in [my city]”, “Catholic school on the north side”, etc., use terms that will help you understand if the parent doesn’t even know your name, if they will find you on the first page of Google.   Per, 95% of people searching on Google won’t go to the second page.  If you are not on the first page, you need to consider improving your search engine optimization (SEO).

Second, what are the online reviews about your school saying?  According to a recent survey by Bright Local, 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.  If you are not actively encouraging parents to post glowing reviews about your school, you are missing a key (and free) marketing channel.  The review site also provides content to people who are looking at buying a new house.  If you don’t have strong reviews on that site, it can hurt your chances of recruiting prospective parents who are moving into your area.  If your digital presence is weak, you are going to have to work harder to get people to engage with your school.

Finally, how good is your school tour?  This is literally where the rubber hits the road.  The vast majority of your marketing efforts are designed to get parents to a school tour.  To maximize those efforts and make your school tour shine, ask yourself these questions:

  • Have you worked out a script or key talking points? Is it based upon what parents want to hear or what you want to say?
  • Do you have opportunities to showcase the unique experiences that their child would only get at your school?
  • Is the person leading the tour the right combination of information and sales?
  • Is the tour of sufficient length to give parents enough information about your school or are they being rushed because the person giving the tour has other responsibilities?
  • Are the promotional materials that you give to the parents a strong representation of your school or are they just the application form?
  • Are you trying to “close the deal” at the end of the tour?
  • What is the follow up like after the tour? Are they touring the school but then never hearing back from you?

These are all questions that you should be asking about your tour experience.  Maximizing the tour experience is one of the most important improvements you can make to your recruitment efforts.

Bright Minds Marketing has done recruitment experience analysis and school secret shopper for several districts and schools.  A secret shopping engagement is a low cost way to improve your marketing and recruitment efforts.  Most programs can be done for approximately $2,5000 and they give your school admissions team a lot of actionable recommendations.  Call us if we can help!


Nick LeRoy

Nick LeRoy

Nick LeRoy, MBA, is the president of Bright Minds Marketing and former Executive Director of the Indiana Charter School Board. Bright Minds Marketing provides enrollment and recruitment consulting to private, Catholic and charter schools. For information about how Bright Minds Marketing can help your school improve its’ student enrollment, send an email to or call us at 317-361-5255.

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