Word-of-mouth is the number one way that prospective parents discover your school.
Think about it. A parent begins the search process. She reaches out to her friends who have children. She asks about their search process and school choice. Then, based on the friend’s experiences and perspective, the parent will determine whether or not to take the next step. It’s a simple process that occurs over and over again.
Your parents are your most important marketing tool because their word-of-mouth is rooted in their own passion and experiences at your school. It is the story they tell that will help motivate their friend to consider your school … or not.
The irony is that we all know this to be true, but we don’t have a plan to drive word-of-mouth in our own communities.
A core word-of-mouth marketing strategy should be to develop and implement a parent ambassador program. Your parents are key to your enrolment and marketing effort. By recruiting a team of parents to help, you can exponentially increase your reach.
One of the first steps you need to take is to recruit your team of parent ambassadors. However, you don’t want to recruit just any parent. Your goal is to find the right parents and ask them to join you in your efforts. For example, putting out a mass communication (like an email or phone call) asking for parent volunteers usually doesn’t yield great results. The best parent ambassadors are recruited individually and are honoured when you ask them directly to be a part of your team.
That’s right — your team. I believe that a parent ambassador is a selected member of your enrolment and marketing team.
The following is my definition of a parent ambassador: “Chosen because of their passion for the school, credibility among peers, connections in the community and desire to advance the school, parent ambassadors are instrumental in expanding the reach of your school in the community and growing your enrolments.”
This definition includes four qualities to look for when recruiting your parent ambassadors:
- Passion. It is important to identify parents who are passionate about your school. These parents eat, sleep and breathe the spirit of your school. They are positive about their child’s experiences and are already advocates of your school in the community.
- Credibility. Parent ambassadors should be selected because of their credibility among their peers. In other words, you don’t want to select a parent who isn’t respected within your school community.
- Connections. Your parent ambassadors should be selected because of their connections in the community. For example, you might select a parent because of the market segment they represent — a feeder school, church or neighbourhood. Whatever the case, your goal is to create a group of parent ambassadors who reach into every segment of your community.
- Desire. It is critical for you to select parents who have a desire to advance the school. There are parents within your school who will do anything to help your school grow and they love to be part of the admissions effort.
If you can keep these four qualities in mind as you consider the parents you want to recruit, your result will be a great team of parent ambassadors who will help advance your school. This team should be large in number. In fact, a good benchmark is to target at least 20 percent of your enrolled families to be ambassadors.
In addition, I want to encourage you to include new parents as part of your parent ambassador team. Don’t just consider the parents who have been at the school for years and have been over-involved. New parents have just gone through the search process and have chosen your school. They are excited about their choice and about your school. And, since they are new to your school, nothing has gone wrong for them yet. For these reasons, and through their enthusiasm and connections in the community, new parents can help fuel your grassroots word-of-mouth marketing effort.
In my coaching, I have helped many schools successfully launch a parent ambassador program. This should be a core strategy in your enrolment and marketing plan. An effective parent ambassador program will drive word-of-mouth in your community.
Do you have a parent ambassador program at your school?
Can you use these four qualities to identify and recruit parents to your program?
Dr Rick Newberry is the President of Enrollment Catalyst. Based in the USA, his goal is to provide school leaders with effective marketing and enrolment strategies, as well as staff accountability, direction, and results needed to grow their enrolment. enrollmentcatalyst.com