What Drives Word of Mouth at Your School?

Some of the things I love about Southwest Airlines include their affordability, consistent experience, quality, no-change fees and outstanding service. I really like the numbered line-up process instead of how other airlines invite zones to crowd the front (I especially like it now that I am on their A-list and always get one of the first numbers).

My bags also love that they can fly free!

I am a brand ambassador for Southwest and I enjoy sharing the love.

There are several things that drive me to be a word of mouth ambassador which are the same drivers that motivate your current parents to spread the love about your school to their friends.

Think about your prospective parents, or parents searching for a school for their child.

They are reaching out and talking to their friends at their current school, church, gym, play group, Mom’s group, and local Starbucks. These conversations are taking place in person and online. Prospective parents are talking to your current parents right now trying to determine if your school is the right fit for their child.

Have you ever thought about what drives these word of mouth conversations?

From my experience and research, there are at least seven drivers of word of mouth in private, independent, and faith-based schools:

1.  Experience – Word of mouth is shared as a result of experience. As your parents experience your school, they have a basis from which to talk and to share with others. Prospective parents are interested in the experiences of current parents. Not only does the overall experience at your school drive word of mouth, so will experiences along the way. From the relationship with your child’s teacher to the life-changing impact on a child, the parent will talk from this experience base.

2.  Quality – You have to admit that the quality of a school sells itself. If the school has the reputation and repeated success of producing graduates that excel in college and life, the proof is in the results. The higher the quality of your school’s programs, faculty, facilities and overall experience, the greater likelihood for positive word of mouth.

3.  Satisfaction – I believe it is important to measure parent satisfaction levels on an annual basis at your school. The more satisfied the current parent is with your school, the more positive word of mouth will be among their friends. Your parent’s satisfaction level is a key ingredient and driver for word of mouth.

4.  Trust – Parents trust their friends (other parents). When current parents trust the leadership, faculty and staff of a school where their most important possession—their child—is enrolled, this will in turn drive word of mouth. Andy Sernovitz says that word of mouth only works “if people like you and trust you.” Your current parents have to like and trust you to drive word of mouth among their friends.

5.  Service – The way you treat your current parents will drive word of mouth. From the returned phone call or email to the personal meeting or from the car line greeting to a personal birthday card, these service opportunities create memorable moments that leave lasting impressions. When you serve your parents or students in an exceptional way or do something that is memorable, you will create a moment that will be shared by word of mouth.

6.  Loyalty – Parent loyalty equates to brand loyalty. Loyalty is built from all of the above drivers and it grows over time. When a current parent becomes loyal, their love for your school will be shared with their friends as a loyal ambassador.

7.  Stories – The stories you tell at your school will help to drive word of mouth conversation. After all, everyone likes to pass on a good story. Ironically, I just read a quote from Gary Vaynerchuk in an article in the most recent issue of Success Magazine in which he says, “If you’re not putting out stories, you basically don’t exist.” Most schools aren’t putting out many stories. Story-telling should be an integral part of your word of mouth marketing effort.

If you want to stimulate word of mouth at your school, you need to focus on these seven drivers. These seven drivers should be the foundation and core of your enrollment and marketing strategy.

Is there another driver that I missed?

In what ways are you working on these drivers to increase word of mouth?