Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that the parent of a child you teach is recommending your enrichment program to another parent, telling them how absolutely wonderful, nurturing and inviting it is for their entire family.
Unable to resist the nirvana described by this parent, the friend registers their own child for a class, and they have the same incredible experience, finding it unlike anything offered by other programs in the community. So they tell a friend or relative and they can’t resist trying it either, so they register their child. And on and on it goes.
Of course it’s not as simple as that, right? Exceptional experiences with businesses are so rare that nobody tells just one person; they tell anyone who will listen, including strangers on social networks. What could this free marketing mean for your business? What financial milestones could you hit?
Open another location? Hire more teachers? Retain a marketing agency? Invest in better marketing technology?
It’s all within reach, and it’s as easy as delighting the families in your database right now — the ones that come through your doors every day with their precious cargo in tow. A little business savvy plus a dash of personalized automation, and you’ll have an army of community evangelists on your hands so unstoppable, that your biggest problem will be hiring fast enough to keep up with the waiting list.
We’re All Just Looking for a Tribe That Wants Us
When a parent searches for an art, music or other type of enrichment program for their child, a lot of things go into the decision, but the most important is the feeling that you really want their child to be in your class.
As your business grows, it can be easy to lose touch with the families that come and go with each week’s classes, and the only contact families may have for months at a time could be just a few minutes here and there with their child’s teacher. If you’re looking to make an impact on parent’s emotions, they need to feel connected to you, your teachers and your entire brand, and not like they’re just a “faceless mom with a credit card.”
How to Nurture Your Tribe
So how can you make parents know you like them, really really like them (as Sally Field would say)? It starts at the beginning, with how you register families for classes. Website signups should be easy, and email confirmations should be quick, fun and full of helpful information, like links to course-relevant blog posts written by your teachers. Right off the bat this positions your school as an expert in the field, making parents feel like members of an exclusive club, and lucky to be part of it.
Email Automation is a Tribe Builder’s Best Friend
Remember that parents are busier than ever, so send email reminders a couple days before classes start. If the child is attending an art class, include an introduction from the teacher and mention that art is messy business, so they might want to leave the Burberry pants at home. Tell a funny or embarrassing story. Engage them, make them laugh. If they’re starting a music class, embed a video of the teacher introducing him/herself with a silly song!
A few weeks into classes, consider doing what traditional schools do, and have a “back to school night” (or morning/afternoon). An informal reception is a great way for parents to get to know the teacher and director, meet other teachers at the school, see their child’s work, and ask questions about what they’ll do for the rest of the course. It also provides an opportunity to meet the parents of their children’s new friends and set up playdates.
About three quarters of the way through courses, an email should come from the director checking in with parents. The following can easily be accomplished with marketing automation software and workflows that use personalization tokens (in bold below):
I just wanted to check in with you about Matthew‘s painting class. Teacher Jessica tells me he is doing great, so I’d love your feedback about the program. We’re always looking for ways to improve our curriculum and keep our kids and families happy.
By the way, we have a few new blog posts on our website with easy at-home painting projects (the Farmer’s Almanac is predicting another rough winter, so maybe they’ll come in handy!):
If there’s anything we can do to make Matthew‘s last few weeks of class extra special, don’t hesitate to email or call.
Of course, those blog posts we just sent to Momma Jane are going to have calls-to-action advertising next season’s classes, winter camp programs, and how to book a birthday party (smart, eh?).
Remember, Kids Suck at Details
This is how a typical after school conversation goes in my house:
Owen, what did you do at school today?
Played with my friends.
Thankfully, his kindergarten teacher a few years ago was on to this, and the first day of school she sent a lovely personal email describing how “content” he was, how eagerly he contributed to class discussions, and that he tried to finish his lunch (because mom said he had to). It was a special email to receive on a special day for our family, and she did that for every parent in the class.
Keep Parents Updated With Weekly Newsletters
A personal email to each family after each class would be a lot of work, so consider sending a weekly newsletter. It will help them feel connected to your school and what their child is doing in the classroom, because I can assure you, they’re getting the “I played with my friends” response at home.
To produce a successful newsletter, simply ask your teacher to write a letter to parents each week describing what happened in class. Any specific anecdotes or clever “overheard in class” quotes that will make them laugh or go “awww” are great things to include.
If you run an art program, for example, consider having your teachers take photos each week of the students artwork, even if it’s a photo of a wall gallery (although it would be cooler if it were an online gallery!). If possible, include each week’s lesson plan recreating how parents can do a project at home with their child. It will give them something familiar to do on a snow day or during a school break, some of the longest days of the year for parents!
If you run a music program, consider filming a short video of the end-of-class song. It doesn’t take much effort to make parents’ eyes water and love you for loving their child so much that you would do that for them. They’ll send the video to friends, grandparents, anyone who will watch it. If you use HubSpot for your marketing platform, this is simple to film, upload and password-protect. You’ll even get detailed reporting on how many people watched it. All you need is an iPhone, free Wistia, a tripod and these lighting tips.
The newsletter should also include a “From the Director’s Office” section with any notable updates on programming — people love feeling like they have the inside scoop on an organization. If you’ve signed to open a new location for example, announce it first in your newsletter so that families have an opportunity to spread the word in the community. Free publicity is a great thing.
Turn Your Clients Into Your Muses
As often as possible I use real conversations with potential clients as inspiration for blog posts. The reason is twofold:
- If the topics are real, you know they’ll be relatable to at least the person you had that conversation with, but probably many more
- It makes people think you’re magically on the same page as them, when really you were just listening carefully (maybe that’s the same thing?)
When you run a children’s enrichment program, you’re uniquely positioned to do this on a massive scale, because you have so many questions coming at you. Let’s say you have an open house or “back to school” type of event mentioned above. You could expect to field at least 25 unique questions per program that you offer. That’s 25 blog posts, which in most cases can be split into 50.
Take the most intriguing questions — the ones that require the most thought to research and turn into blog posts — and after they go live, reach out to the parents that asked them. Send them the posts and thank them for inspiring such thoughtful material to include on your website.
Remember, great blog ideas don’t just come from parents! You’ll really wow mom and dad if you blog a great answer to one of their kid’s trickiest questions. Consider putting a special “question chalk board” in each class, where the best child queries can be recorded throughout the week. At the end, consider which ones can be turned into blog posts, and run with it. Make a point of giving credit to the child that asked the question (first name only) and add it to your weekly newsletter.
Big Bucks, Fragile Egos
Remember, parents have the money and they need nurturing as much as children do. If they don’t feel connected to your whole brand, one negative experience with a staff member could be all it takes to sour them from returning. And heaven forbid they tell a friend or vent on Facebook, and it turns into an ugly telephone game slandering your business. That would be the opposite of how this post started.
So go now … take these ideas and delight a parent: