Door Busters, Black Friday and Re-Enrollment

Black Friday Line at Best BuyOn the Saturday before Thanksgiving I stopped by Best Buy to pick up a birthday present for my son. When I pulled up to park, I couldn’t believe what I saw. There were three tents on the sidewalk forming the start of the Black Friday line.

Can you believe it? Six days before Thanksgiving and there was already a line forming at my local Best Buy! 

I know I wouldn’t want to spend six days of my life living in a tent in front of a big box store.

As I saw this line, I thought about the upcoming re-enrollment period and the strategies that private schools use to encourage parents to re-enroll. 

What if your re-enrollment looked like a Black Friday line? For most of our schools, this is just a dream.

However, is it possible to create demand for re-enrollment? 

At Best Buy, the demand is created through advertising special door-buster deals. Essentially, they slash their prices on some desired electronics to entice the shopper to do anything to secure their spot early in line. The key is that the product is desired and the price is right.

It’s not likely that school leaders will want to slash their tuition cost to create the door-buster effect. However, as I am working with several school heads, admissions and marketing directors, everyone is asking the same question. 

What can we do to encourage our families to re-enroll early?

There are essentially three answers and solutions to this question: 

First, and perhaps the one most desired, is to create such a high quality educational experience that the demand is created through waiting lists and the desire to secure their spot. When there is a possibility that the demand is greater than the available seats, the likelihood that you will motivate your parents to re-enroll early is high. However, for most private schools, this isn’t a reality.

Second, some schools use the discount strategy. By discounting the registration fee or tuition prior to a certain date, parents are “hopefully” motivated to re-enroll before the special period ends. This strategy is like a door-buster without the tents on the sidewalk days before your re-enrollment period begins. Discounts or incentives can be one way to entice families to re-enroll. 

Third, some schools use the penalty strategy. In some ways, this is just a marketing spin that is the same as the discount. If a parent re-enrolls after a specific date, then a financial penalty is applied. The problem with this approach is that you have to stand your ground once the penalty phase begins. The difficult time comes when the parent comes to your office with their “special case” after the date and wants to re-enroll.

Most schools use the second or third approach. Few schools in today’s market have the benefit of the first. 

Is there a magic solution to motivate your families to re-enroll early?

Not really.

It really comes down to open seats, demand and price. When a parent is satisfied with the educational experience, and there is the willingness and ability to pay, then the parent will re-enroll. However, it will likely be in their timeframe unless the demand for classroom seats is high, the discount is significant, or the penalty is great.

What strategy do you use to re-enroll parents at your school?