I have been conducting a lot of secret shopper engagements recently. For these projects, I take on the role of a parent and experience exactly what a typical parent goes through during a client’s school tour. In the last month alone, I think I have taken around 8 different school tours!
Getting the school tour right is one of the most critical things that you can do to improve your student enrollment. The hardest part of enrollment marketing is getting a prospective parent interested enough to take a tour of your school. But what is almost more important is giving them an incredible school tour, and most critically, “closing the deal” as they are walking out your door.
What are the benefits of having a strong school tour? Let’s look at two hypothetical K-8 schools.
The ten incremental students that school B enrolled equates to about $65,000 in additional state funding or tuition (1 student = $6,500). That is enough to hire an additional teacher! Taken over the entire time these students are at the school (assuming these 10 were kindergarteners), this is an additional $585,000 more for the school!
You can see how improving your school tour can have significant financial benefits.
Though each school will present itself differently, here are four effective ideas to improve your school tour experience and enroll more students.
Your target parent is generally going to be a millennial parent. These parents, who grew up with the internet, can be frustrated when they go to your website and can’t find the dates of your open houses and tours. And please, don’t ask these parents to call you to schedule a tour. If they wanted to call you on the telephone, they wouldn’t have gone to your website in the first place.
In this critical “buying stage”, you need to make it very easy for them to register for a tour. The ideal solution is to create an online form that allows them to sign up for your school tour right there. This same form should also provide them with a link to put the tour of your school on their calendars. There are many plugins for WordPress websites that are free and can automate this for you.
Once you have all of their contact information from this online form (remember to ask how they heard about you for future marketing purposes), send them a nice confirmation email with a link to your marketing video about your school. You are in the courting process now and this is going to set the overall tone and their perceptions about your school.
First impressions are everything, so go the extra mile to be as welcoming as possible when families arrive for their tours. Consider reserving a few prime parking spaces out front for “Future Parents” so these families won’t have to scramble for parking. If it’s a private tour, put a sign out front that welcomes the Smith family by name to your school.
When these families check-in, the administrative / reception staff should greet them by name and let them know that the school tour guide is expecting them. You probably only have a few families a day touring. This makes it very easy to print the list out to give to your front desk so they can greet guests by name. By the way, notice that good hotels will always do this when they welcome guests. This instantly creates a relationship and a warm feeling.
Also, ensure that your front reception area is clean and doesn’t have boxes or other things stacked around it. Too many schools don’t think through the fact that your front office creates the first impression. It is not a storage closet.
These are all small things, but they add up to creating the impression for these prospective families that they are wanted and welcomed at your school.
Once the school tour guide shows up, it might be tempting to jump right into the tour, but before you do it stop!
Take the first 5 minutes to ask the parents more about their child. What are her strengths? Her interests? What does she want to get out of her time at her school? Knowing these things will allow you to customize the tour for that child’s interests, and show the family that you are interested in providing a them with a great experience.
Armed with your knowledge about the child, you can now use much more powerful language during the tour. “This is where Emily will take her freshman English class.” Or, “This is where Nate will meet for robotics”. Talking in this fashion helps the parent to envision their child at your school.
During the school tour, try to have your principal or head of school at least stop by and say hello. If you are the principal who is giving the tour, great, but if it is a different staff member, the principal needs to at least make an appearance and introduce him/herself. People want to meet the leader of the school.
I can appreciate that a principal is pulled in many different directions during the school day, but student enrollment needs to be prioritized and families will appreciate that you thought they were important enough to interrupt your day.
One of the most critical things that many schools don’t do is showing a classroom in action. You must include this in your tour!
Tell your faculty that since they are the stars of your school, you need to show them off during the school tour.
Your school tour must be scripted out with key talking points. There is so much to cover that if your school tour guide hasn’t thought through your tour in advance, it can be very easy to forget something. Once you write it out, you may find that you have missed an important point that you want to tell people.
When I review school tours for a client, I always want to see if they cover the following things:
Don’t make the mistake of finishing the tour, wishing them goodbye, and hoping that they call you. The follow up is the most important thing you can do to drive your enrollment numbers higher. Let them know what the next steps are. Is it a shadow day? Is it filling out an enrollment form? Don’t be afraid to try to close the deal. At the very least, make sure that you ask them if they have any additional questions or concerns that you can answer.
Once they leave, follow up with a thank you card. Continue to touch them weekly to encourage them to enroll. I once worked for a sales manager who told me that he never lost a sale by following up, but he lost a lot because he didn’t follow up. You can automate a lot of this and it doesn’t take a lot of time, but don’t be afraid to court and recruit these parents.
These are all simple tactics that you can start to employ tomorrow to improve your school tour process. Some of them might seem a little challenging at first, but over time, they will become second nature to you.
If you would like to talk about a secret shopper engagement for your school, go ahead and click below to schedule a free consultation. Clients repeatedly tell me that having me conduct a secret shopper project was the best money that they have spent on their enrollment and recruitment.
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 email@example.com or call us at 317-361-5255.
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