9 New Family Retention Strategies to Begin Now
It’s hard to believe that the start of another school year is here. This year, many private, independent and faith-based schools experienced a surge of interest from prospective parents dissatisfied with their current school’s reopening plan in light of COVID-19.
This resulted in more new students enrolling in private schools.
With more new students enrolled, it should be a consideration to implement effective retention strategies.
Retention is a key ingredient to your school’s enrollment management strategy. It is more cost effective to keep a current family enrolled than to recruit a replacement. Just because they enrolled this year doesn’t mean that they will return.
The retention strategy for your new families begins on their first day of school. Their first day and every day thereafter will determine whether or not they continue to enroll in the future.
It is critical for you and your team to focus on the retention of your new families now by implementing these nine strategies.
1—Conduct a New Parent Survey
As part of your comprehensive research strategy, you should plan to conduct a new parent survey in late August or early September. By assessing their school search process and evaluation of your enrollment and marketing effort, you will gather critical information to help you improve this year’s strategy. You can also identify issues among new families that may affect their continued enrollment. I have developed a new parent survey that can be customized and conducted for your school. This is part of my School Survey Solutions package (see webpage for pricing). Please contact me directly at Rick.Newberry@EnrollmentCatalyst.com if you are interested in utilizing this important tool.
2—Grade Your New Parents
Since the new families have just completed the admissions process, you will know a lot about the personal reasons why they selected your school. In fact, you may already know the parent’s intent for the future. Is this a long-term decision or did they enroll for the short-term until the world gets back to normal? Because of this, you should grade your new families on the likelihood to continue at your school next year. This will help you to target your new families in the retention effort.
3—One Family at a Time
This grade will give you direction to know who to focus on personally. Once you have graded your families, assign a member of your administrative team or retention committee member to focus on developing a relationship with these families. Through these relationships and outreach, you will better understand the future plans of your newly enrolled families.
4—Reinforce the Value of Your School
While it will add more work to your plate, you could create an onboarding email message series for new families. This could be sent every two weeks and contain key messages, stories and onboarding information that will help to reinforce the value of the choice they have made for their child. This is an opportunity to continue to sell your school to new families and reinforce the value of continuing their enrollment.
5—Collect Stories from your New Parents
Stories are a powerful way to market your school. Your new parents have great stories to tell about why they selected your school. Through a personal interview, questionnaire, or video vignette, you could collect stories from your new parents and share them on your website and social media channels. This will help to spread word of mouth by showcasing real people and their real stories of why they selected your school. I regularly recommend that school marketing leaders share these new family stories throughout the month of September.
6—Call all New Parents
It is very important for the head of school and principals to welcome new families to your school. While this happens naturally at back-to-school nights, I have seen this strategy work well when the head of school and the principals call new parents during the month of September to welcome them to your school. Your head of school could simply call three to four new parents every day. Even if the new parent is not reached, a personal welcome message could be left on their voice mail. This is also a great way to check in on the new parents to find out how they are adjusting to your school community.
7—Continue Contact from your Parent Ambassadors
Many schools have Parent Ambassador programs and assign new parents to them to help ease their transition in a school. Although the school year has begun, continued contact from Parent Ambassadors can help new parents navigate the newness of the school during the next several months. This will also lead to retention as they develop relationships with current families.
8—Connect New Parents and Students to your School Community
I believe that if a parent and student are both connected with their peers and are involved in groups and community on your campus, then they will be less likely to leave your school. Therefore, it is critical for you to make sure that your new parents and students are making connections and developing relationships at your school.
9—Convert New Parents to Parent Ambassadors
Andy Sernovitz, author of Word of Mouth Marketing, often talks about the power of new love as one of the best forms for word of mouth marketing. Your new parents represent this new love for your school. They have just gone through the school selection process and chosen your school. They are in love with your school (and nothing has gone wrong yet!). Actually, your new parents will make great parent ambassadors for your school and should not be overlooked. Check out my new course for you to develop your School Ambassador Program.
These nine retention strategies should be implemented now as you work to convert your new families to long-term enrollees in your school.
How many of these nine retention strategies are part of your plan?