Looking for a proven strategy to increase your school’s enrollment numbers? Target larger families. Having one child is great—but getting that child’s brothers and sisters to join your school is exponentially better.
Traditionally, larger families gravitate toward public schools. That’s mostly due to financial reasons. It’s expensive to educate privately, and it can be a strain to foot the bill for a larger family. Although parents want the best education for their children, choosing a school often boils down to how much a family can afford to pay.
But the good news is affordability isn’t the only thing to consider when formulating your marketing strategy. Exposure is also essential. Most parents are able to justify paying more for a private education if they can see the value of it.
In this post, we’ll discuss how to reach parents (even those who head up larger families) and get them to consider your Montessori school. Let’s get started.
Create a Parent Ambassador Program
If you haven’t started one yet, don’t pass go and don’t collect $200 until you set up a parent ambassador program for your school.
While I love marketing teams—outbound, inbound, all around—a parent ambassador program is essential to your enrollment success. It’s like word of mouth marketing on steroids. Let me explain why it works.
A parent ambassador is a hand-selected representative who will promote and champion your school tirelessly. He or she is someone who “gets” your school, understands the Montessori method, has seen success with the method, and is passionate about it. It’s not hard to pick this type of parent out from the crowd. He or she will be one who’s singing your school’s praises during open houses and other special events.
When you see this parent, invite them to participate in your parent ambassador program.
The idea of getting parents to advocate for your school is nothing new. But a lot of schools get it wrong. You shouldn’t take a relaxed, “we’ll see what comes of it” type of approach to your parent ambassador program. You also shouldn’t include any and every parent in your program.
Instead, your parent ambassador program should be intentional, goal-oriented, and strategic. You should hand-select the right parents for your program (somewhere between 5 – 10% of your parent population). Each individual should be selected using the following criteria:
Excitement – Every parent ambassador should be enthusiastic about your school. But keep in mind that everyone shows enthusiasm differently, and not everyone will be over-the-top. You’re looking for an eagerness to share.
Knowledge – The parent ambassador should be knowledgeable about both your school and the Montessori method. He or she should be able to explain what the method is and why it’s such a great way to educate children. But, knowledge can also be taught through a solid parent ambassador program.
Connections – Last, but certainly not least, choose parents who are connected with the community. In other words, think of people who have large social circles and deep roots within the town. For example, it’s probably best to avoid people who’ve just moved to the area and haven’t established a friend base yet. Go for people who are likely to motivate other people that they know locally.
And since we’re targeting larger families, it’s a smart idea to pick parent ambassadors who happen to have large families. Why? Large families often know and associate with other large families. So, it makes sense: A parent with a large family is likely to refer your school to a large family. Also, this type of parent understands the unique pain points of large families and is likely to serve as both an influence and an example during the consideration process.
Once you’ve selected your parent ambassadors, it’s important to equip and then activate them.
To equip, you’ll need to meet with your parents and give them the information that they’ll need to properly refer others to you.
I recommend educating them on your school while infusing them with school pride at the same time. Here are a couple of suggestions:
You can show these parents how to use your website to sign up for your mailing list, inquire about admissions, or see upcoming open house events.
You can hand out fliers and brochures about your school that the ambassadors can give to their interested friends and family.
If you have a large amount of parent ambassadors, consider dividing them up into smaller groups, based on interest and each with a targeted goal. Some can set up, host, and attend recruitment events. Others can help with marketing your school by distributing promotional material or through social media outreach.
Encourage your parent ambassadors to host informal information meetings at their own homes. These meetings can be more successful than open houses because a home isn’t a high pressured environment. Families are more likely to attend and feel comfortable doing so.
Overall, the focus of your meeting will be to train the parents as knowledgeable school ambassadors.
Schedule meetings that accommodate your parents’ schedules. Many parents may be working during school hours, so consider hosting a meeting in the evening or weekend.
But don’t go crazy with meetings. Too many meetings can dilute your parent ambassadors’ passion and drive. Twice a year may be all that you need.
Once, at the end of summer before the new school year starts, host a meeting to motivate parent ambassadors to spread the word. And again, host the second meeting at the end of the school year to celebrate your parent ambassadors and motivate them to endorse your school throughout the summer.
You can keep in touch with your parent ambassadors throughout the year using Hubbli. Hubbli allows you to create private groups with real-time updates so that everyone can stay in-the-know about the most important events.
Offer Discounts to Additional Siblings
As I mentioned earlier, affordability is also hugely important to large families. It can be a financial stretch to send even one child to private school, but exponentially so when you consider sibling number two, three, four, or more.
A lot of schools address this financial difficulty by offering discounts. Sibling discounts sweeten the pot by offering the family incentives for enrolling more children. But in the interest of being fair to all your enrolled families (including those with only one child), your discount should be considerate. So, consider how much you would likely spend on marketing to fill this otherwise empty seat. A 5% discount may be fair. But, it could even be upwards of 25%, depending on your tuition and retention rate.
Another idea is to match tuition to the family’s annual income. It’s offering a sliding scale to families based on their ability to pay. You’ll need to look closely at the family’s finances, analyzing their annual tax returns to determine what tuition break, if any, you can offer. Although this method may be somewhat intrusive, it can give you the ability to accommodate larger families who could not afford your school otherwise.
Whatever you do, go simple with pricing. Too many fees can confuse a family that wants to find a way to budget for your school.
The number one marketing channel at your disposal is always word of mouth. It’s crucial that you encourage your parent ambassadors to get the word out. And don’t forget about sibling discounts. Special discounts like these woo large families and help increase your enrollment rate.