Mouth-to-Mouth – Your School’s Best Marketing Strategy

Now that I have your attention, the “mouth to mouth” image you might have isn’t the mouth-to-mouth I am talking about!

Let me explain.

It seems like all the talk on marketing a school today is about web-based strategies. From Facebook to Twitter to blogs to YouTube to the newcomer Pinterest, private school marketing and enrollment leaders are embracing these web-based, inbound strategies. And this is a very good thing!

While these strategies are very important to generating leads, engaging your audience and telling the stories that help to fuel marketing, it is important to keep face-to-face contact as the focus.

Let me share a statistic with you that might shock you.

In my summer reading, I have enjoyed The Face-to-Face Book by Ed Keller and Brad Fay. In their research they say that “more than 90 percent of the conversations about products, services, and brands that take place every day in America happen offline.”

That wasn’t a typo — they said “offline.”

With the interest and focus on the Web, a stat like this makes you stop and think about your efforts in marketing your school. Marketing a school always works best when a satisfied parent tells a friend about your school.

This quote by Keller and Fay helps to put it all in perspective: “While the growth of social networking sites is impressive, the largest social gold mine is literally right beneath our noses: in the word-of-mouth conversations that happen in our kitchens and living rooms, in our churches and synagogues, next to the office water cooler, on the sidelines of youth soccer and baseball games, powered by the intimacy of face-to-face communications.”

Their point is that word of mouth is still about the face-to-face conversations that take place in the real world. Your parents will talk about your school to someone face-to-face and this is still the number one way that marketing works for your school.

So what does this mean about your investment in social media? Social media is still very important as it provides the online stories that can be shared in off-line conversations.

However, it’s face-to-face and mouth-to-mouth that works best (just don’t take the mouth-to-mouth literally!).

As you consider your marketing effort, it is important for you to have a face-to-face marketing strategy. As Andy Sernovitz suggests, you want to find a way to get your “talkers” talking about your school. The following are five ways to implement “face-to-face” strategies at your school that provide connections with your parents.

1. First Day of School – The first day of school is an important time to make a positive “face-to-face” impression on your students and families. Think about greeting your families in car line and giving them a school-branded car magnet or coffee mug. A coffee mug with an invitation to attend one of your head of school coffee meetings would make a great impression. One school head I worked with several years ago greeted families in the car line wearing and waving a giant Mickey Mouse hand!

2. Coffee and Conversation – Coffee meetings are a great way to connect with your parents face-to-face. They provide an informal opportunity to share some news and stories about the school and then to interact with them about their experiences at the school.

3. One family at a time – Anytime you can connect with a family one-on-one at your school or at Starbucks can help to build your relationship with them and their connection to the school. An example of this approach is one that several school leaders take by meeting personally and individually with all of their new families about one month into the new school year.

4. Mentors – Connecting new parents to current parents in a mentoring role can help make their transition easier to your school.  This concept can also be applied to student to student relationships.

5. Home Vision Meetings – When I was head of school, I enjoyed meeting with small groups of parents in homes to share my vision and to interact with the parents. I worked with a select group of parents to host these events in their homes and then they invited other parents to attend. This gave me some great face-to-face contact in an informal and comfortable living room environment.

As you connect with your parents in person, this will propel your word-of-mouth marketing effort into the community. In some future blog posts, I will explore how you can get your talkers talking in the community.

What are some ways that you use face-to-face, mouth-to-mouth marketing strategy at your school?

How are you encouraging and motivating your parents to talk about your school in the community?