What benefits can a school secret shopper bring to your school/district?
When I was a college student, I did secret shopping for a couple of fast-food restaurants in my town. I went to the restaurant, ordered a meal, interacted with the employees, visited the restrooms, etc. and wrote a review of my experience.
However, it was only when I was designing customer experience programs in the Fortune 500 did I realize how critical this data was. Getting feedback through the eyes of a consumer is an invaluable tool and allows improvements to both marketing and operations.
So how does this apply to marketing your school?
Your school tour can often be the make or break moment when a parent is trying to select a school for their child.
Improving your school tour and the percentage of parents who tour and then enroll is one of the most cost-effective and important improvements you can make in your whole enrollment process. The biggest challenge in school enrollment (and where you spend most of the money) is identifying potential parents and getting them to tour.
If you are not “closing the deal” through the school tour process, you are wasting all of your efforts that made them interested in your school in the first place.
Understand How Easy it is to Find Your School Online
Do a quick Google search based on how you think parents would search for your school. Use terms like “best school in [my city],” “public school on the north side,” etc. Use terms that will help you understand how a parent who doesn’t know your school’s name would search for you.
Where does your school appear in search results? If you weren’t at the very top (or near it), you have work to do. Per Niche, approximately half of all parents begin their search for a school online (both through Google searches and review sites).
But they can’t choose your school if they don’t even know you exist.
To improve your chances of showing up first in a Google search, you need to improve the keywords and search engine optimization (SEO) of your website.
Although you can do SEO on your own, this is a service you’ll likely want to hire a professional to assist you with. SchoolMint can assist you here.
Whether it’s through a marketing audit of your current SEO efforts or through SchoolMint Engage, our enrollment consultants can help you improve your search engine visibility and increase awareness of your school to families in your community.
What Are Your School’s Online Reviews Saying About You?
If you’re not actively encouraging parents to post reviews about your school, you’re missing a key (and free) marketing channel. These school review sites are gaining in popularity as more and more consumers turn to the internet for information about schools.
You also probably noticed when you were Googling in Step 1 that these sites tend to show up first. That’s because they’ve done a great job in their SEO at owning terms like “best school in X city” or “STEM school near me.”
Chances are that if your prospective parents are using terms like that, they may hear about your school from one of these review sites before they even go to your website.
The other reason why you want to have a good presence on these sites is that many of them provide content to your local real estate sites, like Zillow or Realtor. If you’re trying to capture the interest and attention of people moving in, you need to have a strong showing on these sites.
If you want to dig into online reviews more, I covered them in more depth in this blog post.
Analyze Your School Tour
This is where the rubber meets the road. The majority of your marketing efforts should be designed to get parents to register for a school tour.
To maximize those efforts and make your school tour shine, ask yourself these questions:
Have you worked out a script or key talking points?
Is this script based upon what parents want to hear or what you want to say?
Do you have opportunities to showcase the unique experiences that their child would only get at your school?
Is the person leading the tour the right combination of information and sales?
Is the tour of sufficient length to give parents enough information about your school — or are they being rushed because the person giving the tour has other responsibilities?
Are the promotional materials you give to the parents a strong representation of your school? Or are they just the application form?
Are you trying to “close the deal” at the end of the tour?
What is the follow-up like after the tour? Are they touring the school but then never hearing back from you?
These are all questions you should be asking about your tour experience. Maximizing the tour experience is one of the most important improvements you can make to your recruitment efforts.
SchoolMint has done recruitment experience analysis and school secret-shopper engagements for several districts and schools around the country. A secret-shopping engagement is a low-cost way to improve your marketing and enrollment efforts.
A school secret-shopper analysis looks at over 25 different metrics to ensure you’re providing the best school tour experience possible. These programs are fairly low-cost, and they give your school admissions team a lot of actionable recommendations.