Are you employing a school secret shopper?


When I was a college student, I did secret shopping for a couple of 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 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?  Your school tour can often be the make or break moment when a parent is trying to select a school for their child.


Improving your school tour and the percentage of parents who tour and then enroll is one of the most cost-effective and important improvements you can make in your whole enrollment process. The biggest challenge in school enrollment (and where you spend most of the money) is identifying potential parents and getting them to tour.


If you are not “closing the deal” through the school tour process, you are wasting all of your efforts that made them interested in your school in the first place.


To improve your school tour, become your potential customer:


Understand how easy it is to find your school online.

Do a quick Google search based on 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 how a parent that doesn’t know your name would search for you.


What page was your school on?  If you were not on the first page, you have some work to do. Per, 95% of people searching on Google won’t go to the second page.  Remember that a parent can’t choose your school if they don’t even know about you.


To improve your chances of showing up first in a Google search, you need to improve the keywords and search engine optimization (SEO) of your website.  Your web design agency should be able to help you do this, but often unless you specifically ask for SEO assistance, they didn’t do it when they launched your site.


Though you can do SEO on your own, this is a service that you want to hire a professional to assist you with.


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.


These sites are gaining in popularity as more and more consumers turn to the internet for information about schools.


You also probably noticed when you were Googling in Step 1 that a lot of these sites show up first.  That is because they have done a great job in their SEO at owning terms like “best school in X city”, or “Top STEM school”.


Chances are that if your prospective parents are using terms like that, they may hear about your school from one of these review sites before they even go to your website.


The other reason why you want to have a good presence on these sites is that many of them provide content to the local real estate sites like Zillow or Realtor.  If you are trying to capture the interest and attention of people moving in, you need to have a strong showing on these sites.


If you want to dig into online reviews more, I covered them in more depth in this blog post.


Analyze your school tour.

This is literally where the rubber meets 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 this script 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.  If you are looking for more tips on improving this critical function, this post goes into a bit more depth.


Bright Minds Marketing has done recruitment experience analysis and school secret shopper for several districts and schools around the country.  A secret shopping engagement is a low-cost way to improve your marketing and recruitment efforts.


A secret shopper analysis looks at over 25 different metrics to ensure that you are providing the best school tour experience possible.  Most programs can be done for approximately $3,500, and they give your school admissions team a lot of actionable recommendations.

Find secret shoppers at your schools today!

Lets Chat! Lets Chat!

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.

Discover the difference

531 West 83rd Place
Indianapolis, IN 46260

P: 317.361.5255

Bright Minds Marketing

Sign up for our Newsletter

Get our best enrollment advice sent directly to your inbox.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Get our best enrollment advice sent directly to your inbox.