Utilizing the Power of Brand Advocates to Market Your School

Word of mouth is the number one way that prospective parents discover your school. It is the power of a referral that will drive your enrollment success more than any advertising campaign you can develop.

Brand AdvocatesThe key to word of mouth marketing is to harness the power of your parents—your brand advocates.

Because of this, I was excited to discover and read Rob Fuggetta’s book, Brand Advocates. If you read no further, make sure you order this book for your continued professional development in word of mouth marketing. This book is an excellent resource for all school leaders seeking to turn parents into a powerful marketing force.

Rather than provide you with a book review, I wanted to share seven quotes that stood out to me as a sampling from the book and my reflections on how Fugetta’s advice applies to private school marketing.

1.  “Advocacy—not ads—is what drives purchase decisions and perceptions in nearly every product category.” Isn’t it interesting that we typically spend more time trying to develop ad campaigns and purchase media buys than we spend time developing our brand advocates? If we truly believe that our brand advocates—our parents—are our best marketers, then this is where we should focus our energy and resources.

2.  “Brand Advocates—those customers who serve as trusted champions for your brand and influence purchasing behaviors of other consumers—are truly your most valuable customers. Advocates are worth at least five times more than other customers because they act as champions for your company and products and they spend more than average customers. And Advocates are even more valuable than loyal customers because—unlike many frequent buyers—Advocates recommend your brand and products.” This is the key to your word of mouth marketing effort. We need to discover who our brand advocates are and utilize them in your marketing effort. We also need to develop others into brand advocates because the more advocates we have, the more positive word of mouth your school will have in the community.

3. “But how do companies create more Brand Advocates? Here’s what it takes: 1. Provide an insanely great product. 2. Deliver memorable service. 3. Focus on good profits. 4. Do the right thing, even when it costs you money. 4. Have a social conscience, or get one fast.” These five ways are applicable to schools. It takes a great school with outstanding service, positive revenue, integrity, trust and an effective mission of making a difference in the lives of students to create brand advocates.

4. “Compared to traditional marketing, getting your Advocates to do your marketing for you is significantly more effective, credible, sustainable, less expensive, and has a higher ROI.” This is the exponential power of word of mouth marketing. Focusing on your parents should be your number one marketing strategy.

5. “Advocate Marketing is a disruptive marketing idea. It shakes up the marketing apple cart by leveraging trusted Advocates rather than paid media and salespeople to deliver brand and product messages to prospects.” Just last week I talked to an admissions director at a school that was being influenced by her supervisor to purchase an ad in the Yellow Pages—you know that big book that typically ends up in the garbage upon delivery! Traditional, outbound marketing strategies don’t work like word of mouth marketing. And yet, the focus in many schools is on these strategies because this is what is known and many are afraid to let go of these ineffective tactics.

6. “The only reward these genuine Advocates want is the validation of knowing that they’ve helped a peer.” I’ve seen school leaders try to buy word of mouth advocates through tuition discounts. However, this approach never works. It may also border on being unethical. You shouldn’t have to buy advocacy. This cheapens word of mouth. Your parents will be your brand advocates when they believe in their experience and want to share it with a friend by helping them in their school choice.

7. In the last paragraph of his book, Fuggetta shares a story from Nancy Terry, a SVP of a fitness club. She says, “‘I am one hundred percent convinced that getting our enthusiastic members to help market our club is an approach that will work,’ said Nancy, as she launched an advocacy program in early 2012. ‘After all, word of mouth is the number one way we get leads today. Why not invest in what’s working?’ she asks. Good question.” This is a very good question for you to consider. Do you have a word of mouth marketing plan? Are you investing in brand advocates? If not, then you should make this your priority.

There is so much more in this book than I have been able to discuss in this blog. Brand Advocacy should be part of your word of mouth marketing plan and the book should be part of your key resources. This book will show you how to encourage your parents to share your school to their friends.

What are you doing to develop and motivate your brand advocates?

Are you spending more time focused on traditional advertising strategies or on word of mouth marketing?

Are you harnessing the power of your brand advocates to market your school?

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