Isn’t it amazing how fast the rate of change continues to increase? Just when we think technology has come to the point where things can’t possibly continue to be changing as fast as they are, they change again – this time, fueled by a worldwide pandemic. In times past, isolation would have made us go stir crazy in about three months time. Thanks to technology, those that had the foresight to have technological resources in place for emergency situations were able to pivot to a new way of connecting virtually. Those that did not have a plan in place had two choices – adapt as best as they could, or shut down altogether.
Technology has permitted us to be isolated for a while, but at some point, we must all emerge from isolation, and begin to establish a “new” normal, since “That’s the way we’ve always done it” is now a recipe for disaster. The transportation industry learned that about 20 years ago; school safety and security became a priority shortly thereafter; and today, health has been added to the list of things that receive priority consideration – and that’s going to have continuing effects on how faith-based schools continue to do business, and stay in business.
I’m not sure if you follow any online businesses today, but it is a growing trend. Even MaryKay and Pampered Chef representatives have their own Web sites rather than hosting parties or personally visiting their customers. Others in the business coaching business have published documents and books, have produced videos and podcasts, and have held online seminars long before our pandemic hit. One of the things almost all these entrepreneurs advise is to give something in return for an email address in order to avoid sending “spam” emails to people who may not be interested.
How does this marketing approach apply to your school? It deals with your virtual tour.
More and more schools have been using their Web sites to host a Virtual Tour of the school through a well-produced video presentation. The goal at that point was to offer a look at the school to entice the parents of a prospective student to contact the school and make an appointment for an in-person tour and conversation about the experience they were seeking for their child.
And that’s different today. While every state, and even some communities, have different laws and policies regarding travel and participating in public activities, your school marketing tactics need to pivot just like your school’s educators pivoted to provide online instruction to continue the previous school year and start this new one. And since marketing is education, the comparison makes sense.
Until now, those who viewed your Web site could probably just click a link to watch the virtual tour. And that’s a process you need to change.
Today, parents of prospective students should “sign up” for your school’s virtual tour. Don’t put the video on YouTube where anyone can access it. If you want to put short videos on it that give a glimpse of what your school is like as “teasers,” that’s fine. But your highly produced video tour that puts your school in the best light possible should be something people request. Have them complete a short form, and in return, you can send them a link to a hidden password protected page to your school’s virtual tour video or to a site that hosts videos which can be password protected, like Vimeo. The point is that you don’t want to give them unfettered access to your school’s highly produced virtual tour anymore – you need their email address so you can communicate with them. You could even ask for a phone number, but many won’t provide that until a relationship has been established between the school and the parent.
Will it be like this from here on out? Probably not. But since we can’t predict what life will be like, but can only hope that we’ll be able to get together once again soon, your tactics need to be agile so they can be shifted to accommodate the changing needs of your school’s parents in addition to the changing needs of your school’s students.