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Open House - How to Market Your School
Showcase Your School With An Open House
There are times when being a good school just isn't good enough. Even the best private schools must constantly introduce themselves to new families, again and again.
After all, no child automatically attends a private or Christian school. It costs money to put children in private education and changing schools from public to private is a big decision. It is important to give people the opportunity to stop by and see what you do.
Open Houses are a great way to do just that.
Hosting an open house is a "numbers game". No matter how well planned and advertised, you will find that some Open Houses are more successful than others.
Even the best attended still may not bring results. It's like going fishing. You know there are fish out there but will they bite?
Here are some quick tips to help you on your way:
Plan Your Open House
Date: select a weekday when school is in session.
Time: schedule it for early evening, after parents are out of work. You may want to have several times on the same day so that people who are able to get away while school is in session can see your school "in action". 9:00 am , 12 noon and 7:00 pm would be three convenient times that should enable anyone who wants to be there to come.
Location: your school, of course. Pick a common-room as the starting point where the principal can greet the parents as a group. Post attractive easy-to-read "welcome signs" directing parents to that room and other key locations of your event.
Who: invite parents and families. If you limit it to adults only, some people may never come. You are a school...be very family friendly.
Format: open with a greeting and brief overview of the school given by the principal or highest administrator available, if the principal is unavailable.
Ask the families to complete a brief sign-in sheet where you will capture their contact information. What you will need is: name, address, phone number, email address, children's names and grades, current school they attend. If you have a school informational video, show it at this time.
Open the meeting to general questions and then take the families through on a tour.
Refreshments: refreshments are not necessary but they add a nice touch. Put out cookies, crackers and cheese and beverages: coffee, cold bottled water and punch or lemonade.
Focus: what are your school's strengths? Academics? Spiritual? Athletics? Sciences? The Arts? While parents are looking for a well-rounded offering, each school has it's own personality. Capitalize on it and emphasize what makes you special.
Materials: have promotional materials, such as brochures, ready along with your application packets. Double check to make sure all of the important items are there.
If you have a lot of promotional material, use attractive pocket folders to create a "visitors pack" to hand to them. You may want to include the school calendar, newsletter and dress code literature. Be sure that the school contact information is on everything!
Pre-Open House Tips
Housekeeping: Have your classrooms, rest rooms, cafeteria and hallways in tip-top shape. Excellent colorful bulletin boards and displays; clean & neat. Do a walk-through to check for clutter. Do it early enough that you can do something about it, if things are out of order. Look at your surroundings with "new eyes", as if you were seeing the school for the first time.
Behavior: Students and staff should be prepared in advance that it will be a day of guests in the building. Remind them to be on their best behavior. Your school is a friendly place to be. Let them see it! You may also want to ask some teachers to plan a special classroom presentation that will be more interesting to see, should someone drop in. This is not a day for everything to be test taking and study halls!
Getting People to Come to Your Open House
Planning a great Open House is one thing, getting people to come to it is another. You must advertise.
Advertising: use your own parent population to invite friends and family of school-age children. Word of mouth is key. You may want to offer a tuition incentive for those families who recommend families that do enroll.
Other forms of advertising, depending on your budget, might include eblasts using Constant Contact or other email marketing software, fliers, posters in local businesses and libraries, print ads in community newspapers and magazines, free community calendar spots on radio and TV.
Keep your school in the news with human interest stories and slip in your Open House information whenever they'll take it. If you are a Christian school, notify the local churches about your open house.
Maintain a healthy online presence is important, as well. Keep your own website up to date with information important to parents and include lots of engaging photos of student-life. Establish a Facebook Fanpage or Twitter account, too.
Set up your school on school reference sites like Great Schools. This website shares FAQ's about your school and invites parents and other interested parties to comment and rate the school. If you are not getting comments, ask a parent who loves your school to take a moment to go online and help you out. Do not spam. A sudden influx of commentary looks suspicious.
Contact the Open House Visitors
- Record the contact information that your guests gave you on an Excel Spreadsheet.
- A day or two after the Open House, call or send a nice letter to those who attended. Thank them for coming and ask if they have any new questions that you can answer for them.
Let them know that if they have friends or family who may be interested, as well, you have another Open House coming up and give them the dates. Also share your web address with them. Make it know to all that your school available for tours, should parents be unable to come to your event. They just need to call!