School leaders: bet you’ve heard this a million times: ‘It just felt right’. The Stickman team have carried out research in lots of schools, large and small, rural and city, day and boarding, junior and senior, and there’s one constant finding: when we ask parents why they chose that particular school for their child, they refer to a ‘feeling’, an ‘atmosphere’ or more often, they say ‘it just felt right’.
Schools therefore want to bottle this – that intangible feeling that families talk about after a visit or Open Day. Why? Because in so many cases, that ‘feeling’ is the deciding factor for prospective parents. Powerful huh?
“Make the most of your school’s je ne sais quoi”
We thought we’d share three ways you can support the creation of that ‘wow’ feeling at your school for prospective parents:
- Obtain insight about where ‘the feeling’ stems from
In order to make the most of your school’s particular je ne sais quoi, it’s firstly essential to understand how your stakeholders see your school. Are you known as a calm, happy school? Busy and bustling? Creative and characterful? Outdoorsy and sporty? Understanding this – through conducting focus groups with existing parents, or surveys following school visits for example – will allow you to drill down and gain specifics about how both prospective and existing parents feel about your school and where that ‘feeling’ actually comes from. Then use the insight obtained, to create an experience which shines a light on factors which contribute to ‘the feeling’.
- Ensure every ‘touchpoint’ creates the ‘WOW’ feeling
The ‘feeling’ will only be created if the prospective parent’s experience is consistent. If just one touchpoint disappoints, it will compromise that family’s impression of, and potentially their interest in, your school. Every touchpoint therefore needs to impress.
Even before prospective parents have visited your school, there are numerous touchpoints they are likely to encounter. These might include your school website, social media channels, prospectus or telephone calls with office staff. Let’s face it, if your school’s fantastic atmosphere and ethos is not communicated outside the walls of the school, all is for nought.
“Every touchpoint counts”
Similarly, during school visits, every touchpoint counts. From a smart and tidy exterior, to the greeting and hospitality visitors receive, to the information shared during the visit, to how staff and pupils interact (with visitors but also between themselves), to wall displays and more. Ensure you’re blowing prospective parents away at every engagement and maximising their ‘wow’ feeling.
- Harness your best asset – your people!
Time and again, the parent research we carry out reveals that it is personal interaction and behaviours that make the most impact with visiting families – both positive and negative. It’s imperative to ensure all staff realise the power of fantastic customer service. Many may recoil from the term ‘customer’, yet they have to realise that that is what parents are.
Consider running a customer service workshop for staff during your next inset day (we can help). Involve every member of staff – teaching and non-teaching – to highlight the importance of creating a great experience for everyone who sets foot on your school grounds.
“Empower your school, boost prospective parents’ experience and enhance pupil recruitment”
Remember, your starting point is understanding where the ‘feeling’ may stem from (as per point 1). Knowledge is power. You may not be able to bottle that ‘feeling’ that so many talk about, but drilling deeper into what contributes to that feeling will empower your school, boost prospective parents’ experience and enhance pupil recruitment.
If your school would like help with creating the intangible ‘WOW’, or if you’d like to know more about any aspect of our market research, marketing and admissions services, simply get in touch. We’re always happy to explain how our work helps schools to get results that impact positively on their school recruitment and revenue.
School Marketing & Research Consultant, Chief Cheerleader at The Stickman Consultancy