After successfully launching an advertising campaign, the next challenge that faces private schools is understanding why enrollment inquiries from ads are different from the word of mouth inquiries with which they are used to dealing.
Understanding the difference between enrollment inquiries from ads and those from word of mouth referrals is key to any school’s enrollment success that does not fill up exclusively from the latter.
Here’s the thing. Marketing is just a process of building trust with a prospective customer. Until prospective parents believe you will deliver on their vision, they will not be ready to hand over their hard-earned money.
Consider how much trust parents need to build with you before they are ready, to not only hand over average annual tuitions of $10k, but the futures of their children. In the lifecycle, this is one of the most significant decisions a parent can make. Compared to grabbing a last-minute coffee on the way to work, which is a split-second decision with no real consequences, deciding on the right school for their child comes with enormous risk. That is why it is a long process, with many laborious steps, often spanning over months.
Consider the difference between enrollment inquiries from ads to those from a word of mouth referrals.
Let’s take two moms from two families, Family A and Family B.
Mom A reaches out to you because her older sister has a child in your school, and after hearing about how great your school is for years, she has pretty much already concluded that your school is right for her child.
Mom B lives in the same zip code as Mom A. She has the same values, social class, education level, family structure, net worth, religious and political beliefs. She is even the same age as Mom A, and they even share the same astrological sign. For all intense and purposes, she is a clone of Mom A.
The only difference is that Mom B just moved into the area and didn’t have any connections to a family in your school.
Luckily you have a well designed and well targetted Facebook ad campaign that Mom B saw. The ad spoke to her directly, so she clicked on it. Then she landed on a well-designed landing page that made her interested in learning more about your school. It directed her to fill out an inquiry form, which she did. After submitting the inquiry form, the system took her to a professional tour-booking system. (Yes, this is a plug for Hubbli’s hands-free enrollment marketing solution)
So YAY! Your marketing strategy is working correctly. You have a self-driving marketing system that finds the right moms in the right area and drives them into your school for tours.
What could go wrong? A lot.
Trust is a sensitive thing, especially when it comes to making large, high-risk investments. The good news is that Mom B has already felt enough trust to give you her contact details, make time in her schedule, and hire a babysitter so she can drive over to your school for a tour.
Now for the counter-intuitive part. The worst mistake you can make now is to communicate with Mom B the same way as you would with Mom A.
Why is that? Well, whereas Mom A is 90% sold on your school due to trusting her sister, Mom B has no idea what to expect.
Unlike Mom A, Mom B hasn’t seen any tangible examples of results from your school. For all Mom B knows, you could be a crazy person running a school in a building that has been condemned by the city.
Let’s compare this decision to one of similar size, dating for marriage. Consider if your sister, who knows you best, set you up on a date with someone you have seen around town for years and has respect from the community. Now compare that to meeting someone from a dating website with no other reference points. Would you go into that first interaction feeling the same level of trust and comfort? Of course not.
People do it all the time and end up in great marriages, but that first date is a different experience than it used to be.
Here are all the forms of communication that need to be approached differently for enrollment inquiries from ads than those from word of mouth.
- Web pages
- Text messages
- Phone calls
- Tour scripts
Until enrollment inquiries from ads have completed the tour, they need to be treated very differently from word-of-mouth referrals.
The good news is that once you get the process of managing enrollment inquiries from ads figured out, it will work with consistency and predictability. As unique as each person is, humans, respond with incredible predictability to a communication system designed to address the risk they feel at each stage of the decision making process.