didyouhearThere’s a Web site today that pokes fun at static ads, creating humorous slogans for iconic companies.  One of my favorites is for the Yellow Pages (TM) with the tag line, “Throw this away.”

The world of sales has undergone a dramatic change since the advent of the Internet, as it’s now the first place people look for information.  More than that, however, it’s the place where people go to transact business.  Local businesses have been shuttered because the goods they once offered are now delivered to consumers after they place their order for it on a Web site.

Not only commerce, but industries have seen their traditional way of doing business derailed by technology. Musicians used to spend much of their time writing and playing songs, hoping to be discovered by a record producer who would refine their sound, strike a deal with a record company who would publish, record and distribute their music, and contract with a promoter who would book their tours for them.  Now, musicians create their songs, record and refine them on their computers and distribute them via the Internet hoping others will share them.  Songs created this way have won Grammy Awards over the past few years.

Time was when the purchase of a new car meant going to a dealer, finding something close to what you were looking for, then haggling over the price, never sure if you got the best deal – even though every dealer said they had the best deal, and if they didn’t, they’d beat the best deal you received.  If you haven’t looked closely in the past few years, there are no longer “dealers.”  They’re “retailers,” which means they sell the car at the retail price.  Why?  Because now the consumer can find out all the details they need to on the Internet, and visit the “retailer” when they’re ready to buy.

It’s been said that 70% of the traditional “sales” process that we used to experience has been eliminated by the use of the Internet.  Even in hiring processes, the interviewee is now “Googled” by the prospective employer, to see what kind of information exists about this person, what they’re posting to their Facebook account and what they’re sharing on their LinkedIn profile.  Then, they candidate will be called in for an interview, and references will be checked, right?  Not necessarily.  If their LinkedIn profile contains recommendations about them, the company interested in the candidate might call them directly.  Then, when the candidate comes in for an interview, there’s not a 1st, 2nd and 3rd round of interviews.  The less time a company needs to spend looking for and finding a qualified candidate, the more money they save.

What does this mean for your school?  Plenty.

It means they’re not coming to your school to see it for the first time.  They’ve seen it on the Internet as a part of your school’s Web site.  Your school’s Web site is now the face of your school to the interested parent.

They’re not asking you about what your school can offer to their children.  They’re asking other parents that they might see in your school’s parking lot, or that they see in their neighborhood, or at the grocery store, or at worship services.  How do these parents know who to contact?  They display your school’s logo on their car, or show that their child participates in one of your school’s activities.  You may think that’s a “raving fan” of your school, but it could simply mean that they love the activity that they child participates in, and really have some nasty things to say about some particulars of your school.

They may have seen what your school’s parents of current students have said on your school’s YouTube channel or Vimeo videos posted directly to your school’s Web site.

More than likely, they’re coming to you to see the school for themselves, ask you a few questions, and “are ready to buy,” since, after all, enrollment = sales.  The processes are the same.  Sales has a funnel; enrollment has a funnel.  Sales asks for a commitment; enrollment asks for a commitment.  Sales deals with price; enrollment deals with tuition.

Which conversation do you think is more powerful today?  The one a parent of a prospective student has with your admissions representative who is coming off lunch duty (because you must assign them some tasks  during the day to appease the board), has 28 emails to get to before the end of the day along with 7 financial aid applications to review, or the one a parent has in the parking lot with a current parent who just loves your Kindergarten teacher because when her child came home last week, she excitedly conveyed, complete with wild hand gestures, the great story that was read to her during storytime?

The key selling point today isn’t price. It’s not even benefits anymore. It’s the emotional experience your customers have. Those who have a positive emotional experience of your school is a “raving fan” of your school.  You need more of them. Why?  They’re your marketing team…and they’re the ones who will help make your school grow.