The adage is different in every business…. don’t roll anyone under the bus…live by the book, die by the book…but the idea is the same.

You may think that the reason is because you should “be nice,” and respecting the other schools and educational environments you’re competing against as parents discern where they’ll enroll their children is what you’re expected to do.  Your school is more than likely a non-profit organization, and cut-throat competition is something that’s more aligned with the world of for-profit businesses, right?

Actually, no.  Remember that when you compare yourself as better to someone or something else, every entity of the same genre suffers.

If a car salesperson says he or she offers the best car, and that Brand Y can’t compare, where will that person’s credibility be when he/she changes jobs, perhaps even to work for Brand Y itself?   Similarly, if a teacher says that the Catholic School at which they are teaching is “better” than the public school, then how will that reflect on the school when the teacher decides to leave for whatever reason (relocation, return to school, or better employment opportunity)? Although it can be explained, remember that marketing is all about perception…. not necessarily logic.

The best strategy is to focus on the strengths of your school.

The other adage used to be to “sell the benefits – not the features.”  Well, that’s changed too!  You now need to sell the benefit of the benefit – which is the experience of the school, and what enrolling in your school will do for the parent’s child.  Remember that in today’s marketplace, the customer really doesn’t care about the company’s history, commitment to service, or product excellence.  What they really care about is what the product or service will do for them.

You may have a great science curriculum…but why is that important to me as a parent if my child is a talented musician? You may have a great new arts facility and program…but why is that important to me as a parent if my child is a genuinely talented athlete? You may have a top-notch sports program…but why is that important to me as a parent if my child has created Web sites that can help their classmates with their homework? You may have retreat programs, weekly Mass, Eucharistic devotion, and a service program that ministers to those in need in the community…but why is that important to me as a parent if my child has a beautiful singing voice, is an integral member of the basketball team, and has a 4.0 average?

Perhaps the New Year would be a great time to think differently about the “features” of your school, how they’re actually “benefits” to parents who are considering enrolling their children there and what the benefit of those benefits are.  Interestingly, the real meaning of the word “repent” is to think and act “different from” what was done in the past.  When they ask about other schools, and why they should enroll children in your school rather than the others, be prepared to reiterate your key differentiators.

If they ultimately come to the decision to choose another school over yours, ask them what the compelling reason was that motivated them to choose a different school.  If you also possess those benefits, share that information with them.

You must be able to substantiate your distinctive differentiators, and don’t be afraid to ask those parents if they’ve substantiated your competitor’s claims.  But isn’t that knocking the competition?  Absolutely not.  You’re wanting parents to make the best decision they possibly can for their children, and, just perhaps, they haven’t really discerned their decision as completely as possible.

May you and yours be blessed with safe and happy new year, and may we all continue to hope and pray for peace.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2020 (Original Publication Date: 20041227)