I have been a huge proponent of word-of-mouth marketing. Why? Because word-of-mouth works and is the most effective way to reach your customers — the prospective parents in your community.
Many of my blog posts and presentations focus on this concept as it relates to word-of-mouth marketing in independent and faith-based schools. Word-of-mouth is always the number one way that a prospective parent discovers an independent school.
Several years ago, as I considered word-of-mouth marketing in light of inbound marketing and its differences from outbound marketing, I decided that it was time to refer to word-of-mouth marketing in a new way.
WOMbound is your word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing strategy. It is how you get your customers talking. It is how you harness the power of word-of-mouth and turn your satisfied customers into active promoters.
This is my definition: “WOMbound is the intentional and proactive strategy to generate, facilitate and inspire word‑of‑mouth through your customers, advocates and ambassadors. It is how brand advocacy works by harnessing the power of word‑of‑mouth to reach your potential customers most effectively in today’s market.”
I believe that WOMbound should be the driver of your marketing strategy. It should be the starting point for all your marketing efforts. Your goal is to get word-of-mouth moving in the right direction. In order to effectively drive your school’s WOMbound marketing strategy, you must understand what drives word-of-mouth. This is why I wrote my most recent ebook on this topic. In it I discuss the following nine drivers of word-of-mouth.
- Experience. Word-of-mouth is shared as a result of experience. As your parents experience your school, they have a basis from which to talk and to share with others. Prospective parents are interested in the experiences of current parents. Not only does the overall experience at your school drive word-of-mouth, so will experiences along the way. From the relationship with your child’s teacher to the life-changing impact on a child, the parent will talk from this experience base.
- Satisfaction. Satisfaction is a measure of your parent’s experience. Your parents experience your school every day. From the morning car line to interacting with the teacher or front office staff, viewing online grades to receiving your most recent email newsletter, hearing from their child about their day at school; these experiences can affect parent satisfaction.
- Quality. You have to admit that the quality of a school sells itself. If the school has the reputation and repeated success of producing graduates that excel in college and life, the proof is in the results. The higher the quality of your school’s programs, faculty, facilities and overall experience, the greater likelihood of positive word-of-mouth.
- Passion. In your school, you will find that your parents are passionate about their children. Their children are the number one passion in their life. Because of this, they will do anything they can to make sure their child gets the best education they deserve. If you drive this passion in your parents, you will increase word-of-mouth.
- Loyalty. Parent loyalty equates to brand loyalty. Loyalty is built from all of the above drivers and it grows over time. When a current parent becomes loyal, their love for your school will be shared with their friends as a loyal ambassador.
- Trust. Parents trust their friends (other parents). When current parents trust the leadership, faculty and staff of a school where their most important possession — their child — is enrolled, this will in turn drive word-of-mouth. Andy Sernovitz says that word-of-mouth only works “if people like you and trust you.” Your current parents have to like and trust you in order to drive word-of-mouth among their friends.
- Service. The way you treat your current parents will impact on word-of-mouth. From the returned phone call or email to the individual meeting, or from the car line greeting to a personal birthday card, these service opportunities create memorable moments that leave lasting impressions. When you serve your parents or students in an exceptional way or do something that is memorable, you create a moment that will be shared by word-of-mouth.
- Stories. The stories you tell at your school will help to drive word-of-mouth conversations. After all, everyone likes to pass on a good story. Most schools aren’t putting out many stories. Storytelling should be an integral part of your word-of-mouth marketing effort.
- People. The final driver of word-of-mouth comes down to people. People drive word-of-mouth. It’s your parents, faculty, board members, alumni, students and anyone else connected to your school who will drive word-of-mouth.
All nine of these drivers can work together to provide strong and positive word-of-mouth for your school in your community. Through this, you will be able to effectively grow your school’s enrolment.
To dig deeper, you can download my ebook.
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