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Tip #7 You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression

The Jewish Education Project
The Jewish Education Project is a beneficiary of UJA-Federation of New York

Part of our Summer Series: Jewish Early Childhood Marketing Tips

Click here for our previous tip!

Shariee Calderone and Susan Remick Topek

From the first time that a family arrives in your parking lot to the moment that they exit, you need to be aware of your first impression. Your school, and the experience a parent or family has when they visit with you for the first time, is an essential component for marketing your school effectively.

Photos below from Kehillah School of Early Learning, Temple Israel New Rochelle, NY

Let’s pretend that YOU are visiting your school for the first time. What do you see, smell, taste, hear and touch? In other words, just as a child would – lets employ your FIVES SENSES!

According to Kris Murray, this is essential and here is the breakdown:

  • SIGHT: Do you have “Curb Appeal”? What do parents see when they drive up – flowers, signage? And what do they see when they walk in? Are there interesting pictures or documentation up? Are the pictures framed and displayed in respectful manner so that families can see that children’s’ work is valued?  If the entrance is NOT near your office/school, is there CLEAR signage to help them find you? Are there friendly helpful office staff (whether they are from early childhood or from the institution!)

And with all these senses, let’s also employ JEWISH senses. What, other than possibly the word “Jewish” in your name, says that your school is a Jewish school? Can parents see Jewish art or artifacts displayed in a beautiful way that is also age appropriate for children’s curiosity and interest?

  •  SMELL: Is the initial smell positive, negative or neutral? Does it smell like lunch? Diapers? Potpourri? This can be a serious issue when parents walk in. Everyone wants a clean, safe environment for children.  When a place is odorous it gives an impression of being unhygienic. You want to make sure that the smell is consistently positive. Research shows that this sensory experience is especially important to women!

And are there “Jewish smells” you can incorporate? Perhaps there is some traditional cooking/baking smells? Perhaps you have an outside area with flowers and herbs that are labeled for their Jewish content and/or use say for the celebration of Havdalah.

  • TASTE: Do you offer coffee, tea, water and/or a snack to visitors? This can set you apart from other schools and people feel that they are visiting a friend’s home by this small act of kindness. Having it readily available also shows that this is the culture of your school – that you welcome parents and guests frequently.

Are you incorporating traditional foods from different Jewish cultures? What about food snacks that might be specifically Israeli – chocolates, sesame pretzels – look for some labels and make sure that they are also displayed to show the intent and culture of your school.

  • SOUND: It is recommended that you have soft music playing in the lobby area to set the tone for the environment. The right music can have a calming influence during drop-off and pick-up time. “You want your prospects and customers to feel as if they’ve come into a ‘safe haven’ away from the stresses of the outside world.” Kris Murray, Secrets of Effective Prospect visits in a Child Care Environment. You cannot control the sound of crying children – it is a reality of school life. But you can control the sounds of teachers’ voices and the volume and tone that can be heard from a hallway.

Incorporating fun Hebrew songs and classical music by Jewish composers sets a specific tone and mood in the building as well.

  • TOUCH: Come out from behind your desk! Provide a warm and comfortable environment for perspective parents AND children to sit and get to know you better. Have a play area for the children while you talk with parents. Be intentional about beginning and ending in this comfortable place. It will garner more trust and connection! AND BY THE WAY – HOW DOES YOUR OFFICE LOOK? It should be a professional space that reflects your school – not a store room for every extra game and puzzle and carton of juice. A MESSY SPACE SPEAKS VOLUMES!  Clean off your desk and try to organize it so that whatever you want to share with perspective parents is at your fingertips!

What Jewish objects are in your office? A framed quote or picture by a Jewish artist; most especially something of Jewish content that is made by a student, such as a Kiddush cup or framed drawing, should be proudly displayed. A stuffed mitzvah bear or Israeli doll, holiday puzzles and Hebrew blocks, Shalom Sesame books, or Hebrew Cat in the Hat should be available in an attractive manner for children who are with visiting parents. These items will attract attention and be great conversations starters with parents and children.

Photos below from Congregation Kol Ami, White Plains, NY

I have learned from many directors that there are some selling strategies that they use at the end of a visit with potential families. These tips should also become part of your marketing strategy when parents come to look at your school.

  1. Give “goodie bags”. According to Dr. Robert Cialdini’s book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, when people are given a gift they feel compelled to reciprocate. Kris Murray suggests that the goodie bag should contain a logoed item from your school ( magnet, cup, pen, hat) maybe include an education item, a children’s book or toy, and even some inexpensive fun things like bubbles or crayons from a dollar store. Don’t forget that the bag or wrapping should have the logo of the school on it! Have several of these ready for any visits. Registration material should be shared at this time, but given to the parents, not put in goodie bag.
  2. Many directors have told me that they write “thank you” notes to families that have visited. This is a wonderful marketing tool. Remember it is a THANK YOU note, for visiting the school- whether or not they decide to enroll their child. Let them know that you enjoyed meeting them and you are available to answer any questions that might occur to them later AND they should certainly feel free to visit again if they would like to discuss the school more. WRITE THIS THE DAY THAT THEY VISIT SO THEY WILL RECEIVE IT IN A TIMELY MANNER.
  3. Ask for their email address and send they updates or invitations to upcoming events that might be appropriate. Invite them to visit your Facebook page, if you have one.
  4. If you have not heard back from a family within a week or so, email or call to ask if they have any questions or if you can help them in any way.  Sometimes, it is just not a good fit. If you can be the person that helps them to find the right fit – it could come back to reward you later. IF NOTHING ELSE, YOU WILL HAVE A GREAT WORD OF MOUTH REPUTATION FROM PARENTS!

*We gratefully acknowledge the permission we’ve received by Matt Harrell, CEO & Co-founder of MemberHub, to reference Childcare Marketing Tips: 10 Must-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.

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