A Private School Secret Shopping Experience

Recently, I conducted a “secret shopper” project for one of my school clients. I hired an associate to act as a prospective parent in this private school secret shopping experience. She began her search by looking for schools on the Web. Then, she contacted about 7-8 schools through their website inquiry forms and placed phone calls to the admissions office.

Her experiences with the schools varied and so did her impressions. However, one thing stood out. Besides sending an admissions packet to her, these schools did not follow-up with her with any additional contact beyond the first call. In fact, one school never responded by email and didn’t even call back after a couple of calls were made and messages left with the admissions director. My school client did well but the competition lost.

Let me say this again.

None of these schools that were secretly shopped provided any additional follow-up beyond the mailed admissions packet or answer to an initial email.

I am actually speechless from this experience.

This is a lost opportunity.

Half of the effort in admissions is to generate leads. However, you also need your leads to convert to visits, applicants and new students. After all, admissions and enrollment management is all about enrolling new students and reaching these goals.

Based on my work with schools, I believe that many admissions offices fail in their effort to nurture their leads—to provide effective follow-up to encourage and motivate the family to take the next step.

Many admissions offices take the “wait and see” approach. They receive the lead and have initial contact with them. Then, they will “wait and see” if they will respond and make additional contacts with the school. There is no additional nurturing that takes place. And if there is, it most likely isn’t strategic. A random invitation to visit campus may be sent but that is usually the extent of the follow-up.

In a previous blog post on lead nurturing, I compared lead nurturing to dating. If you want to encourage your prospective parents to increase their love and commitment for your school, you need to court them. It’s during this courting process that you and the parent determine if you want to continue the relationship and commit to taking the next step–enrollment.

Brendan Schneider recently wrote a blog post on this topic, “Lead Nurturing for Schools,” and he outlined the steps of his lead nurturing strategy. This is a helpful example of what you could do to nurture your leads. I really like how Brendan has a sequential steps of key messages and call-to-actions to nurture the lead and keep the school in front of the parent.

For me, the most important thing to keep in mind about a lead nurturing strategy is that you want to keep your school in front of your prospective parent once they have inquired. You have the opportunity to showcase key messages and stories about your school. If you don’t, then you may lose out on the opportunity to grow the relationship and interest in your school.

Back to the private school secret shopper experience I mentioned earlier. These schools lost out on the opportunity to nurture their leads and to convert them to visits, applications and enrollees.

As you consider your admissions strategy, how are you nurturing your leads?

Do you have a lead nurturing strategy in place?

Have you had someone secretly shop your school and your competition? Let me know if you are interested in discussing this possibility at your school.