Firstly, let’s take a look at what reciprocity is. Reciprocity speaks to the human need (and tendency) to want to give something back when something is received. People feel an obligation to do something for you when you’ve done something for them.
Reciprocity affects us every day. Have you ever: invited someone to your wedding because they invited you to theirs; bought a Christmas gift for a person because they gave one to you; donated money to a charity or subscribed to a magazine for the free gift?
When done right, the principle of reciprocity is a powerful tool in procurement of new enrolments and the nurturing of relationships with existing families. It can facilitate stronger, deeper and longer lasting relationships with parents and advocates alike.
At your school an opportunity to engage in reciprocity marketing may be as simple as including a small gift in your prospectus or enrolment pack, such as stationery, travel bottle, clothing, USB device or small promotional toy. Personalising such items with your school’s brand also makes the gift more valuable and creates a lasting brand impression. It’s also important to consider ways that you can make the parent feel special and valued. Small but thoughtful personal touches can make all the difference. If including correspondence, tailor the message to them. Follow it up with a warm phone call and invite them on a tour of the school. .
Schools can use reciprocity marketing to make parents feel valued. When implemented correctly, the reciprocity principle can have a powerful impact on your school’s marketing. Conversely, it can also backfire when executed badly. A school runs the risk of appearing inauthentic if its perceived as a deliberate attempt to solicit a specific response.
Top 5 reciprocity marketing tips
Here’s our top tips for inspiring parents and advocates to reciprocate favourably towards your school:
- Make parents feel special and unique. Parents should believe what’s being offered is specific to their needs. This may be a gift or benefit that’s related to their particular interests or demographic. You could also provide a self-selection process that gives parents the option to choose an offer that best suits them. Some kind of personalisation, such as a handwritten note that accompanies the gesture can make all the difference.
- Give parents a gift of value that benefits them above their relationship with you or your school. If you’re trying to encourage a parent to enrol their child in your school, without taking into consideration their personal circumstances, then it’s likely to be ignored and the relationship is likely to be short-lived.
If you know that the child has a particular affinity to a co-curricular activity, for example, it would a good idea to highlight the program at your school. Perhaps go that extra mile and introduce them to a current student who’s excelling in this field.
In the book Youtility, author Jay Baer recognises there’s only two letters differentiating helping and selling, but those two letters are critical to a school’s success today.
- Suggest ways parents can reciprocate. People feel valued if you take the time to ask their feedback. It helps to develop your relationship with them and their trust in you, especially if you take their opinions on board. Listening is the key, responding promptly to feedback, and putting it into practice where necessary. Engaged parents are happy parents and they are more likely to reciprocate, whether that be promoting by word of mouth to their friends, participating actively in school events, or giving back in the form of volunteering.
- Be the first to give. Thanking parents for their time or rewarding them for their decision to enrol in your school may encourage them to reciprocate favourably in other ways, but be sure to be the first to reach out.
- Don’t let the circle end, keep the relationship going. When a parent responds in-kind to the offer of enrolment you’ve extended, continue the relationship by bestowing another incentive, recognition, or value-added information. Then make it easy for that parent to recommend you to their friends.
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.