How One School Encouraged Current Students to Market to Their Friends
In our never-ending quest to implement the best school marketing strategies to reach prospective parents, it is important that we don’t forget the power of the student-to-student referral.
Students themselves not only have influence with their parents in the choice of schools, they can also influence their friends.
Current students can reach out to their friends in the community to recruit them to their school.
A couple of years ago I began working with First Baptist Academy in Naples, FL (www.fbalions.org). One of the marketing strategies they had already implemented stood out to me – Friend Day.
Because of the success of this program, I reached out to Rebecca Curran, Director of Admissions at FBA, to conduct a virtual interview with her and to share this with you in a blog post.
1. What is Friend Day?
“Friend day is a day we established to invite friends of our current students as a means to introduce them to FBA. When we talk about Friend Day with our families and studentsand, we describe inviting friends that might be interested in FBA, and FBA would also be interested in.”
2. How did you first develop this idea?
“The idea sprang from the Administration brainstorming over our Shadow Days and Open Houses. Just like we had set aside days for Open House, we thought it would be effective to create a day strictly for friends to visit FBA. We decided to schedule the day when public school students were out of school so they would not have to miss school and would be more inclined to come to our Friend Day.”
3. How do you involve your current students in inviting their friends?
“We created a special invitation for current students to give to their friends. Friend Day is focused on grades from K-11. The invitation does include a RSVP section that needs to be turned into the school office that includes parent, pick up and medical information. Initially, in order to encourage participation, we challenged our grade levels to see who could invite the most friends. However, in later years we opted not to stress quantity but inviting the ‘right friend.’ Previous challenge rewards included a dress down coupon or coupon for an ice cream from our school cafeteria.”
4. How do you help your current students understand the purpose of the day?
“We talk about the day, the schedule of events and who to invite at parent meetings, chapel, on morning announcements, in teacher’s newsletters, in parent communications specific for the day, RenWeb announcements, Facebook postings, the School Administrator’s Blog and on our website.”
5. What is the schedule like for Friend Day?
“Our friends typically arrive sometime between 7:30am – 8:00am. We have staff stationed in the school’s drop off areas to check the friends in and assign them to designated teachers and to give instructions for the day. For elementary students they were given a pre-made nametag with an assigned teacher’s name on it as well. All teachers were given a list of friends visiting for the day broken out by grade, the FBA student who invited them and FBA teacher assignment.
The day ended at 11:30 am. We designated a pick up area at each school level where we greeted the friend’s parents and provided upcoming event and contact information for their future interest in the school.
From 8:00am – 11:30am, the friend would shadow with their FBA student. They would go to related arts classes, library and all other classes on the student’s schedule. To give the friend an authentic experience, we choose not to alter our school schedule for the day.”
6. How is this planned for elementary, middle and high school students?
“In elementary, special activities were planned in classrooms as welcome and get-to-know-you type activities for the friend. Teachers purposely plan to have activities designed as take home items for the student to share with parents. Some include a picture with FBA students or a craft/art project that went home in a special envelope or folder.
Middle and high school would try to keep a normal routine as much as possible.”
7. What have been the results from Friend Day? Does it help to generate interest in FBA?
“Our students enjoy this day and are enthusiastic about inviting their friends to their school. Our teachers have tried to be creative with the day’s lesson plans to include fun educational experiences for the friends to also enjoy.
Over the years we have had between 62-96 students visit on Friend Day. We also have had a range of 8%-16% of those students become FBA students the following school year.”
8. Do you have any advice for other schools interested in launching a Friend Day at their school?
“Plan, Plan, Plan! Planning ahead truly does help the day go smoothly.
Plan your marketing of the day well in advance. Our Friend Day coordinates with our open enrollment time in the early spring. We talk about Friend Day even at our first Parent Meeting in the fall and continue to increase exposure for the event as the day draws closer.
Teachers should understand the importance of this day and be prepared with an activity and take home items to demonstrate what they did during their time at the school. Our teachers also include a note to the friend and their parents from the class and themselves thanking them for coming to our Friend Day. In addition, I give each friend a giveaway item that includes key school materials and contact information. This can be low budget item or something more as your budget allows.
Plan for extra chairs in the classrooms and hallways, as friends will show up that did not RSVP.
Be prepared that some friends will come with no intention or interest in enrolling at your school.
Be prepared that some students will invite friends who are not in the some grade level so have a way of handling this.
Think about having a whole school welcome or ‘thank you for coming assembly’ that could include the friend’s parents. This is a good way to talk about your school and share some key information with them.
Think about having the event on a scheduled half-day of school. This day is a lot of work for staff and teachers. By having a half-day, this format would be a relief to them plus the friend and student could then possibly share the rest of the day together off campus.
Plan how you will follow up with the friends and their families. Be as creative as you want with this!
Encourage feedback from staff, teachers, students and families so your Friend Day can improve each time.”
Thanks Rebecca for sharing how the Friend Day strategy works at First Baptist Academy. This is a great way to get your current students involved in the marketing effort by reaching out to their friends and exposing them to your school.
If you have any questions for Rebecca, please provide them here in the comment section.
Have you implemented a strategy like Friend Day at your school? How does it work for you?
Have you successfully implemented other strategies to involve your current students in the marketing effort at your school?