Parents go through three stages as they move toward a decision for early care and education. For school directors and owners, the moves you make during each of these stages impacts how many of those prospects end up choosing your school.
- Investigation – In this initial stage, parents are just beginning their search. They talk to friends, search online, and read reviews In a post-tour survey of over 6,300 schools, 74% of respondents indicated friends and family as a top source consulted when considering a school. Online reviews were next at 69%, followed by Internet search at 68%. You want to generate brand awareness, recognition of your uniqueness and make the prospect want to know more. This means having a presence in the venues where prospects investigate, with a message that attracts them, because it can be a ticket to staying in the running.
- Consideration – This is the stage when prospects create a short list of three to five schools they will seriously consider contacting and visiting. They inquire for more information or to schedule a tour. Important for you is to respond rapidly to inquires – by the end of the business day. Personalize your response as much as possible, and schedule or confirm a tour as soon as possible. If you are still doing virtual tours, set the time, and immediately send the invitation, along with a piece of collateral that can help the prospect know something unique about your center. This might be what I like to call a “Documentation of Differences” . This one-sheet identifies one unique advantage of your school, such as low ratios, and tells the prospects what that means to the child and family.
- Decision – Parents serious about making an ECE choice, do so within a short period of time. Diligent follow up on your part – via emails, texts, and calls – is imperative. However, the more valuable and personalized you make that follow up, the more likely the family is going to be to trust you and believe you really care. The better they feel about your school, the more likely they will be to decide to enroll there.
Remember, your enrollment conversion job is to help young families make a good buying decision AND to get them to act on your recommendation. Being diligent and sincere in every stage of your prospects’ decision –making process will help you guide them toward becoming your customer.