Word-of-mouth advertising is the single most powerful marketing tool you have. This is because parents perceive far greater value in a recommendation from family or friends than any marketing campaign could ever offer. The reason ultimately boils down to credibility. We trust what we hear from others. We know that the school’s objective is to build enrolments, whereas people are just sharing their experiences and honest reviews.
Before the digital age and even before print media, we relied on talking to one another to share opinions and determine whether or not to engage in a particular transaction. Even today, it remains the simplest and most trustworthy way for parents to evaluate their purchase decision.
Why is word-of-mouth so important for your school?
According to MMG Education's prospective parent reviews which surveyed 9,040 participants in Australia, talking with existing and past parents is the single most important source of information for parents considering schools for their children with an importance rating of 82 percent.
So how can you harness this tool for your school?
Here are 5 steps that you can take to influence word of mouth advertising:
- Ask for referrals
A lot of us find this uncomfortable, but it is critically important to encourage future enrolments and build advocates of your school. Bring it up in the conversation early, rather than randomly asking for a referral down the track. Craft your referral appeal carefully and be sure to personalise it rather than sending a mass communication to all parents. Don’t be apologetic; be proud that your school and its offering is worth talking about. Happy parents are happy to refer.
- Create opportunities to trial
Reach out to your parent community and ask them to bring a friend to an open day, information morning or school event that’s open to the public. This is a great way to encourage families to build prospects for your school and in turn become advocates of your brand. By being invited by their friends, prospects have the opportunity to experience the school in a low pressure environment whilst giving them a taste of the school.
- Surprise and delight your parents
There are many ways in which you can generate word of mouth but more than anything else, to surprise and delight parents is probably the most effective way to get people talking about you.
“You will get more word-of-mouth from making people happy than anything else you could possibly do.” Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing
It is often the small things that leave a lasting impression. It could be a personalised email or friendly phone call inviting them to a school event – or maybe you remembered their birthday – it is anything that sees you going the extra mile to wow parents. It’s a simple tactic that will have parents talking about you in no time.
- Make the referral process easy
Prospective parents are heavily engaged online, in seeking recommendations from online groups, looking through topic relevant forums and doing online research. Often existing parents are more than happy to ‘spread the word’, but simply don’t know how. Empower your existing parent community by providing sharable content, engage parents by asking for their thoughts on subjects of interest, and be proactive and equip parents to share the good news and spread the word.
- Equip influencers
Inside every circle of parents you will find influencers. It’s a personality type that’s difficult to distinguish from your other parents, but it’s one of the most valuable, so be sure to get to know them well. Influencers have a powerful way with words and enjoy spreading information about a school they feel passionate about.
As Steve Barton, president of the Word-of-Mouth Marketing Association says: “Word-of-mouth marketing works best when you’ve got something new to say – not necessarily a new product, but perhaps an innovation on a product,” explains Barton. “The key is to identify the ‘talking point’ – what your influencers want to talk about, rather than what you want to say.”
Word-of-mouth is one of the most powerful tools for your school, and while you can’t control what other people say and do, you can encourage them through the process. Stimulating word-of-mouth is just another aspect within the parent relationship, just be sure to encourage the positive kind, as we all know how quickly negativity can spread. At the end of the day, if you do the right thing by parents and reward them for their loyalty and engagement, they will pay you back tenfold with their word-of-mouth promotion of your school.
To learn more watch our webinar recording on the best way to influence word-of-mouth webinar:
This blog was written by Clare Ravasini
Clare joined imageseven in 2013. Since then, no two days have ever been the same and she has loved every minute. Clare considers herself an out-of-the box thinker, which serves her well in her work with a variety of clients. She’s got a spring in her step, always has a smile on her face and has a passion for all things creative. In her spare time, she enjoys the outdoors and loves living the country life with her horses.