It’s that time of year again – the school open day. A powerful weapon in any school marketer’s arsenal. Done right, they can be extremely beneficial, but done wrong, they’re more than an expensive waste of time.
Let’s have a look at 9 tips that you can action to make your open day a roaring success.
Tip 1: Plan Ahead of Time
Organising an effective open day takes time, so give yourself enough of it! Agree your promotion strategy (use multiple channels for maximum exposure), check you have a healthy stock of prospectuses and other marketing materials (if you’re an independent school, a step by step guide to admissions could be useful) and save yourself the headache of a last-minute rush.
Tip 2: Think like a parent
If you’re a parent, then the chances are you’ve been to a school open day. What did you want to know? What did the prospective school have to do to satisfy your questions or concerns? An article by the BBC suggests that prospective parents should, among other things, ask to see the toilets (these won’t be the shiny new areas) and visit the school at the end of the day to look at behaviour. Parents’ decisions won’t be solely based on the open day experience, so consider all of your touch points.
If you need help understanding your customer and what their motivations are for considering your school, take a look at our recent article for inspiration and a free Customer Persona template.
Tip 3: Ensure everyone plays their part and understands the importance of open days
Get your best students and your best staff on the job. They’re your ambassadors and you need them to show parents around and talk to them as part of school tours.
Hold a briefing meeting with everyone who is going to be involved in the open day and ensure they understand your school’s key strengths and who visitors can talk to if they have a specific problem or difficult question to answers.
Tip 4: Coach your Headteacher on approach and key messages
You are the marketer, not the Headteacher. While we all know that they are brilliant at running their school, not everyone is perfectly at ease with public speaking. We’ve heard so many horror stories of well-meaning Heads that get this part totally wrong. Parents won’t want to sit and listen to a long-prepared programme, so keep points brief, agree key messaging and speech duration in advance, while also building in opportunities to get active and move around the school.
Tip 5: Be creative with your open day activities or events
It’s easy to fall into the same routine that you’ve used year after year, so how about shaking things up and using a different format such as a panel style discussion, featuring both teachers and pupils? If you have a particularly impressive departmental facility, how about offering a couple of masterclasses that pupils can book on to? Mayfield Girls offer Saturday Workshops where girls can learn how to make bags in their Textiles Suite.
Tip 6: If you’re a boarding school, offer a sample of boarding school life
Boarding school can be a huge leap for children that are used to the comforts of home and for some, it can instil all sorts of mixed emotions. Why not offer a taster session of boarding life at a sleepover session with current boarders? It’s a great opportunity for the children to calm any initial fears, as well as getting a feel for how life in a boarding school setting works in practice.
Tip 7: Create Solutions for Time Poor Parents
Some parents are time poor. Try to be as accommodating as possible when it comes to visits and offer a variety of options to parents. If you’re lucky enough to have a bigger marketing budget and are looking to showcase your school before parents even step through the door, then you might want to consider a 360° virtual tour. Both Abingdon School and Bryanston have great examples of these.
Tip 8: Gather Data at Your Event
Visitor feedback is key. Getting first-hand accounts of what your prospects think about your event is crucial in improving future events. If you accept registration for the event via an online platform like Eventbrite, it’s easy to send out forms afterwards. Alternatively, you can also hand out forms or have iPads at the event itself. Finally, having parents sign up for the event through your own website will give you access to extremely useful analytics that you can use to your advantage, so try and capture as much data as you can without putting them off.
Tip 9: Follow Up on Leads
Following up on leads is an important, yet delicate process. Too much and you’ll turn them off… too little and they’ll forget about you. If you’ve been given the privilege of staying in contact with a prospect, use that to your advantage. Keep them up to date with the school’s achievements, relevant developments etc. One to two times per term is a good frequency, scaling up when your signup deadline is approaching.
As a school marketer, the open day is a landmark fixture in your calendar. A lot hinges on this event, so it’s important that you do all you can to make it a success.
If you’d like to discuss your school’s open day in more detail, why not book a free 30 minute strategy call at a time to suit you below.