Create Urgency with “ONLY”

As you begin to prepare your school for the 14-15 school year, I’m sure there are fears as to whether or not parents will re-enroll their children amid today’s on-going uncertain economy. The latest Marketing Matters have focused on the theme of “Marketing is Education,” educating your current parents that your school is a community (and dare I say it, NOT a family – more about that in a later Marketing Matter), and the importance of keeping the community together in order to survive. Indeed, now more than ever, united, we stand; divided, we fall.

But what about incoming students? How do you create urgency so that new parents sign up now, rather than waiting until the last minute to decide to enroll their child?

Create urgency by using the word “only” in your school’s marketing contacts at this point. Rather than living with the reality that you have room in your classrooms for more children, you can create a message that appeals to our culture’s use of the word “only,” as it implies that one is receiving a good deal (such as, “For only $25, you’ll receive not just one, but two bottles of scratch remover for your car.  But wait…there’s more!). Remember, you must manage your message as seriously as you manage your money, and your money as seriously as you manage your time.

For those of you still putting messages in your supporting parishes’ weekly bulletins, try this: “Only 5 more desks remain in our 5th grade for the coming 14-15 school year. Space is limited in our other grade levels too. Call (XXX) XXX-XXXX today to reserve your child’s place in St. Polycarp School.” Each week, pick a new one-digit “only” for a new grade level. The number should be higher than four, unless of course there are only 3, 2 or 1 seats remaining.

Then, start creating waiting lists – and as soon as word gets out that you have a waiting list, reservations start coming in fast. While an optimum number per classroom is 20 students, you never want to go above 29 per classroom. Create the waiting list until you reach 39. Once you hit 40 or so, you have enough critical mass to split the room into two grades.

And don’t “hold” spaces for those currently enrolled. There’s nothing more effective for generating interest than a current parent who’s placed on a waiting list. It only takes one.

Is this a radical approach? Yes. Is it an approach whose time has come? Yes. Remember, you have been appointed as a leader of this school at this time in history for a particular purpose in God’s plan. Is that purpose to close the school, or is it to ensure that it remains a place where Christ-centered values can be instilled in the next generation of leaders?

Pray, then decide.

© Michael V. Ziemski, SchoolAdvancement, 2009-2014 (Original Publication Date: 20090302)