School Leaders/Marketing & Admissions staff: let me start by asking you a question. Do you ever put yourself in the shoes of your prospective families to see what the experience is like that you’re offering to them? Are you going the extra mile at every given opportunity so that you’re at least meeting or ideally surpassing parental expectations during the admissions process?
Much of what schools offer to prospective families is expected. it is pretty much a ‘given’ in the minds of prospective families – especially at independent schools – that the school offers a decent level of teaching & learning; that it puts on school plays; that it does school trips, that it’s strong in sports and music. These aspects won’t necessarily set a school apart from the competition in the area.
No. Instead, schools have to create the ‘WOW’ factor when engaging with prospective families. Otherwise they just ‘blend in’ and become lost in a sea of choices that a prospective family is faced with.
3 golden rules for creating the ‘WOW’:
Below are 3 golden rules for ensuring the ‘WOW’ is created for YOUR school’s prospective families:
Customer is King
Although schools sometimes struggle with the term ‘customers’ in relation to their parents (historically seeing the term as overtly commercial and downright ugly), there is no doubt that that is what they are. Parents pay Independent schools substantial amounts of money each year for a quality education service for their child. Those parents are therefore the school’s customers…and should be treated as such.
The prospective parent experience should be at the centre of all planning surrounding the admissions journey you’re offering. And their wants, needs and desires should be considered at all times.
2. It’s the little ‘WOW ‘touches’ as well as the big
It’s amazing what a dollop of good, old fashioned, ‘thought’ can do! Personal touches count. Not only do they count, but they will set your school apart from the competition.
When you interact with prospective parents, include personal touches wherever you can. This can be anything from sending out your prospectus wrapped in beautifully-branded wrapping paper and attaching a handwritten note, to remembering a younger sibling’s birthday by sending them a card in the post. Imagine their surprise and delight when they receive it! Imagine the ‘feel good’ moment that will create in the child and their parents. And best of all, imagine the warm feeling that creates towards your school!
Details about the prospective child’s interests taken on the phone by the office staff, can be impressively woven in at the School Tour. To give you a flavour, it might go something like this:
- Headteacher <speaking directly to the prospective pupil with his parents in full ear and eye shot>: “Tom…I understand you’re the outdoorsy type and have just joined Beavers. What a great thing to do. You’re simply going to LOVE our Forest School.”
- Parent response: delighted by the detailed knowledge of their son and excited about the close match between their son’s interests and what the school offers.
- Pupil response: proud that the ‘super important’ Headteacher a) knew his name b) spoke directly to him c) praised him for joining Beavers and d) thinks he’ll fit in.
Simple, but impactful. Essential to plan at this level of thought and detail all the way along your admissions process.
“Are school office staff relating what your school offers to the pupil’s interests and aptitudes during a telephone enquiry? ”
3. Go above and beyond at every touchpoint
A wise marketing and admissions team will have this as their mantra. This applies to everything from how the school office staff are creating the ‘WOW’ during telephone enquiries, to how clear and visible your school signage is, to how pupils and teachers are engaging with those visitors during a school tour.
Telephone enquiries for example – is there a procedure in place for how these are conducted? Are office staff helpful and professional? Do they know your school ethos and is this woven into the conversation with a prospective parent? Are those staff showing an interest in the prospective pupil during the call? And are they relating what the school offers to the prospective pupil’s interests and aptitudes?
Below are the 8 areas Stickman examines during our Admissions Audits. The steps are interdependent. If even ONE of these areas is weak, you’ll put doubt in the mind of that prospective family, and their interest in your school will be compromised. It’s imperative to create the WOW across every single one – both consistently and powerfully – in order to make your school stand out from the rest.
So, make today the day that you put yourself in the shoes of your prospective families and plan their ‘WOW’ experience from start to finish. And if you need help doing it, simply get in touch or read more about our Admissions Audits here! We’re more than happy to explain how our Admissions Audit process helps schools to get results.