Are your school tours doomed to fail?

Many school tour offerings are doomed to fail because they miss the basics. Here’s a lightning-fast desk audit you can conduct without leaving your office.

School tours are often the make-or-break moment in the enrolment process. Prospective parents are deciding if your school is the right fit for their child, and the tour is one of the few times you have the opportunity for meaningful face-to-face interaction with them.

Unfortunately, most school tours are bland, uninspiring and forgettable. They don’t do justice to your school’s mission, and they don’t connect with the families’ needs and aspirations. Most importantly, they don’t clearly demonstrate what sets your school apart.

Make it easy for families to sign up for a tour

Your website is the first point of contact for prospective families, and it should be user-friendly, informative and accessible. Your prospective parents — mostly Millennial families — are digital natives and expect to find all the information they need online. They don’t want to call the school or be forced to navigate through complicated menus.

This means you need to provide them with a clear call-to-action leading to an online booking form on your homepage or landing page. By putting a clear call-to-action where it cannot be missed, you not only make it easy for them, but it’s clear what the next step in their enrolment journey should be.

Aim for the fewest number of clicks possible to make a booking and after booking, offer them a link to put the tour on their calendar and send a confirmation email with a marketing video about your school. The confirmation email is your first opportunity to establish a relationship and set the tone for the school tour.

Make a welcoming first impression

First impressions are crucial, and they shape the perception of the school in the minds of families. So, go the extra mile to show that you value their visit and that you want to make it as smooth and pleasant as possible. Some of the things you can do to create a welcoming first impression are:

  • Reserve a few parking spaces for ‘Future Families’ so they don’t have to struggle to find a parking spot.
  • Put a sign at the entrance that welcomes the families by name and lets them know that the school tour guide is expecting them.
  • Greet the families by name and make them feel special and valued.

Get to know the child before the tour

Asking for information can cut both ways. Some tour signup forms ask for an excruciating amount of detail which can be perceived as invasive and perhaps a little bit creepy. On the other hand, parents will often drop gems of information about their child in pre-tour emails, phone conversations, or even as you greet them for the tour. To them, their child is unique, and they want you to know and recognise that they are different from other children.

If you can understand the child’s and their family’s strengths, interests and aspirations, you can customise the tour to meet their needs and show them how your school is a good fit for them. It is also a simple way to establish rapport.

Tours can be doomed before they start when a family has given information pre-tour and you fail to acknowledge it. It is surprising how many tour guides will ask the child’s name and their year group at the start of the tour when this basic information was supplied in the booking form. Lack of preparation is perceived as being unwelcoming, that the tour is a simple rinse and repeat experience.

Make the tour about the child

Tours can be doomed to failure when your tour guide slips into their ‘sell the school’ spiel. The tour is always about the child, not the school, even if the child is not there. Show the family how your school can help their child grow, learn and thrive. Highlight the programs, activities and opportunities that align with the child’s strengths and interests and with the aspirations of the parents.

Show off what sets your school apart

Your tour is doomed if the prospective parent is left unclear why they should choose your school over the next one on their list … and there are other schools on their list. Research from MMG Education shows that, on average, prospective parents tour 3.5 schools before making their decision and they then go on to enrol their child at 2.7 schools.

Tour guides often fall back on the visible expression of your school’s edge as a crutch to make their point rather than doing the hard work of selling the invisible. For example, is the expansive, architect-designed open space highlighted on the tour because it is newer and better looking than other schools, or is it because it is a reflection of your school’s belief that the academic learning and social growth of students is optimised by the right built environment?

Ask the question

Too many tours are doomed to fail because asking ‘the question’ is not built into the plan. Tours end with nice refreshments and friendly chat, but prospective parents are never asked if they would like to take the next step.

Depending on your sales process, ‘the question’ might range from, “Would you like to enrol your child today?” to “How can we help you with the next part of your journey?” If you don’t help them solve their problem (choosing a school for their child), you have done them a disservice. Almost as bad, you will have wasted the marketing investment in generating the lead and nurturing them this far through the process.

Prospective parents are silently begging to be led. Working out where they want to go and helping them get there is why you are doing a tour in the first place.

School tours are often doomed to failure because they remain unchanged year after year. With this simple desk audit you can ask the right questions and reap the rewards.


insight applied

  • It is easy for school tours to miss the basic ingredients for success.
  • Converting a website visitor to a tour booking should be optimised.
  • Plan to actively ask the right questions to help the parent solve their problem.
Alissa Cass loves all things digital marketing and seeing schools embrace and maximise their marketing technologies and digital channels.

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