This idea came from a principal at a Catholic school in upstate New York. While giving her “State of the School” report, she announced a new initiative to increase enrollment in the school. Many of the points of the plan actually focused on marketing items:
- Creating programs to enhance the school’s “remarkability;”
- Improving the physical plant with new playground equipment;
- A plan to construct a gym; and
- Empowering current parents to be “evangelizers” by sharing the good news about the school’s academic achievements, its outstanding activities, and its commitment to preparing students for the world they’re going to face.
Perhaps best of all was the school’s statement concerning its Catholic Identity: “Our school isn’t a place where students know about God – they know God.” It’s the “experience” that makes the difference.
One of the programs put into place to make the vision a reality was called “Learning Curves,” and took its cue from the success of home parties, such as Pampered Chef and Silpada Jewelry events.
Rather than selling products, current families in the school invite their friends and neighbors that have children who are AND aren’t part of the school community for an evening of fellowship and a speaker on a topic of interest to today’s parents – bullying in schools, Internet safety, helping children to learn how to handle money responsibly, etc. The school provides the expert resource, which is accompanied by a “pitch” for the school, either through the host parent’s positive word of mouth, or though a video.
Not only does this plan empower current parents to share the good news about the school, it brings the school to the parents. There might be open houses or information nights at the school as well as interactive information about the school on its Web site, but the prospective parent must make the first move to access these points of contact. A personal invitation by a friend to experience something they have found to be worthwhile provides the opportunity for a more emotionally compelling presentation than information which is logic-based. Not only is the experience recommended, but the experience is shared. If a parent enrolls their child in the school, then the host family receives a nominal tuition incentive for their child.
To demonstrate the power of this program on a more basic level, consider your friend’s recommendation of a great restaurant they found. Which of the following two statements would compel you to try the restaurant?
A) “That reminds me, we found this great restaurant that just opened. The food’s great, the prices are really reasonable, and the service was just outstanding.”
B) “That reminds me, we found this great restaurant that just opened. Great food, really reasonable prices, and the service was just outstanding. You know what? We should all go there for dinner some night. Are you free on June 12th?”
Which is the more compelling recommendation? This also demonstrates the difference between a reference and a referral. A) is just a statement of fact…but when someone is so excited about something that they want others to share the experience, a statement like B) will produce more results. Interestingly, A) is marketing – sharing information hoping to educate; B) is sales – energizing the statement with an emotional endorsement, and a request for a commitment.
Every school community needs to speak and act this way about their school if they want it to continue to grow. If you’re uncomfortable with it now because of the coronavirus pandemic, think about utilizing it when conditions are more favorable to gathering, as we move toward being able to get together once again.
© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2010-2020 (Original Publication Date: 20100531)