Part of our Summer Series: Jewish Early Childhood Marketing Tips
Shariee Calderone and Susan Remick Topek
It’s nearing the end of summer and both your returning parents and your new parents – who are trying to enjoy the last few weeks of sunshine and those less rigid schedules – are thinking about one thing… SCHOOL! For this reason August is an ideal time for you to start thinking about parents as one of your best marketing strategies yet!
With this being such an important transition time for families with young children, it’s likely that school is much of what they are thinking about AND probably all they’re talking about too. They are talking to their friends, their neighbors, their family and possibly even the woman standing behind them on the checkout line at the store! They are sharing advice and gaining insight from one another and/or they are calming their fears and relieving their own anxieties. So why not empower them with a little extra support and encouragement now – and throughout the year!
YOU SET THE TONE
Your warm and inviting communications at this time of year, prior to the start of school, to your returning parents AND your newbies will set the tone (and your intention) with them right from the start. Use language that reflects your school’s vision, philosophy and culture repeatedly. This conveys to parents that your school really stands for something special and when particular language is used consistently and frequently, others pick up on it! It won’t be long before your parents begin to adopt and transmit this shared language to others as they share stories about why they enrolled their child in your school.
ASK PARENTS FOR SUPPORT
“Happy parents want to share the experience their children are having” says Charles D. Snowden, Senior Consultant at ISM, an organization dedicated to the advancement of private schools. We can’t emphasize this more. It’s not an imposition to ask parents to share information about your school with colleagues and friends in their social circles. This says to the parent that you value their position in the community and think that they are a good and trustworthy extension of your school.
PROVIDE PARENTS WITH USEFUL AND USABLE INFORMATION TO SHARE
Not all your parents are chatty (Yes, it’s true!) but they still value your school and with a little extra support on your part they can become great marketers for your program. This refers to your typical ‘pass it forward’ strategy – You create it and they pass it along.
- Think FB posts about early or discounted enrollment, information nights, guest lecturers, and fundraising events.
- Think brochures they can bring to their local Gymboree class, place of employment, or local playgroup.
- Think re-tweets from you about the school and aspects of parenting that directly relate to the things you as a director are most passionate about. If you give it they will share – especially if you ask.
SOLICIT STORIES AND TESTIMONIALS FROM PARENTS
Websites are an excellent place to house testimonials from parents. Ask parents to share stories of positive experiences of how the school has engaged and affected them.
Tell your parents that you like to include a few stories each year on your website. More often than not you will be rewarded with at least one or two that probably tells the story of your school better than you ever could. These are the stories you’ll add to your website. But don’t discard all the other input you’ll receive. All the shorter answers together add up to extremely valuable information and help you tell a collective story. When you tell the story of your school to perspective parents share that collective information with them.
SAYING “GOOD BYE”
There’s a zillion things on the mind of a parent who will be leaving your school for good at the end of the year and venturing off on the next leg of their journey. It’s an exciting time. But that doesn’t mean they can’t help introduce you to new families before they leave. I like to encourage directors to have exit interviews with parents. This gives you an excellent opportunity to listen to them once again about what they especially valued while being a part of your school community and for you to hear about their next steps and address any new concerns or fears that have surfaced as the school year winds down. Doing this type of exit interview sends a strong message about how much you care about your families and becomes another concrete example of how your school’s vision and mission is communicated. (picture of a parent teacher conference)
During the exit interview ask parents if they will participate in a quick survey in one year’s time. And then follow through by sending it to them! This is a great way for you to collect some useful data a year after and get additional feedback from parents about the time their family spent with you and the impact that it had on their child. A year down the road it’s likely that the parent will have seen several different ways the education you provided to them has either resurfaced during other activities or translated especially well in their new setting. What great data that is for you to have!
Parents who are invested, engaged and informed will always be THE most important channel of marketing that you have. Before, during and after students enter their classrooms, you have the power to empower parents to be an extension of your marketing efforts. Being intentional about your opportunities and supporting parents in a variety of ways will serve you greatly in the long run!
*We gratefully acknowledge the permission we’ve received by Matt Harrell, CEO & Co-founder of MemberHub, to reference Childcare Marketing Tips: 10 Mus-Do Marketing Tips to Grow the Enrollment of Your Early Childhood Program (July 2012). The e-book was coauthored by Matt Harrell and Kris Murray, President and Founder of Child Care Marketing Solutions.