Enroll, Enroll, Enroll!
Many Montessori schools, including those that have been around for decades, are still unclear on the best time of year to market their school. While we believe that marketing is a year-round activity, there are clearly times throughout the year that are better than others if you are on a tight budget.
What’s the best time for marketing?
There is no doubt that the majority of Montessori schools would be best served by marketing their schools to coincide with the timing of their counter-part local school district re-enrollment period.
Most school districts throughout the country send home re-enrollment packets sometime after the start of the New Year, and usually before the end of March. Your first step in determining the timing of your marketing is to call the school district and ask when those packets will be sent home.
If the date is February 1, for example, you might consider starting your big push for marketing a few weeks before that. This way, you’re marketing is still fresh in the minds of families who are beginning to think about enrollment for the fall. If you wait too long, that family may make up their minds before they ever see your marketing. Even though they could easily reverse their decision, sending those forms back in creates a psychological barrier to even considering another option.
Know your audience
Parents usually fall into three categories when it comes to school enrollment: 1) parents who look for enrollment options during the school district re-enrollment period, as mentioned above; 2) parents who are new to enrolling their children in school, and 3) parents who are seeking a mid-year enrollment as their child is coming of a certain age criteria will usually begin thinking about this during the challenging marketing months of November and December. The largest group is the first group, and therefore, if you’re only going to spend money once a year on marketing, this is the best group to try to reach from January through March or April.
There are two other small groups to consider, or at least be aware of. The first are parents who wait until a week or so before school starts (the real procrastinators) to make any decisions. The other is a group of parents who tends to plan a year out. Meaning, in the fall of 2013, they will be thinking about school in the fall of 2014. These tend to be parents who live in areas where many affluent schools have long wait lists.
Position your school
There is nearly an unlimited number of ways that you can market your school through advertising and public relations, both on and offline. However, in our experience, nothing recruits new families as well as sending a postcard mailer to targeted households in your community. This process is simpler and less expensive than it sounds and Go Montessori can help you with any or all of the tasks involved.
Before you begin getting the attention of families in your community, make sure that your website is up-to-date, easy to navigate, and contains the type of information that parents are looking for as they research schools for their children. This will be the first place that parents look for information as they do their research. NOTHING is more important in your overall marketing effort, as keeping your website professional and with good content.
Finally, provide your front-line staff with customer service training in terms of handling new phone calls, email inquiries and walk-ins. First impressions are incredibly important to new families searching for a place where their children are going to spend a great deal of time. Be sure that the person answering the phone has a bullet list of the school highlights at their ready, and/or have email templates written in advance as a way to respond to email and website inquiries. A person on the phone that sounds frazzled, unorganized, or even rude, can cost the school tens of thousands of dollars over the lifetime enrollment of a new student, and erase all of your marketing efforts in a matter of seconds.
To summarize, January through April is likely the best time that you can market your school to families in your area if you’re on a limited budget. If you put marketing off until summer, you are likely hurting your enrollment potential. Having spent the last 10 years helping over 350 schools with marketing, we have found that nothing works better than direct mail combined with a clean and easy to navigate website. Put these things in place if you haven’t already, and call Go Montessori if you need any help!