Retention Course

In Texas, the STAAR (also referred commonly as the mandated standardized test – although the “test” seems redundant since the first “A” is for “assessment”) is the Spring standardized test administered to students of the Texas public school system (at various grade levels, there are different schedules). I am in Texas so it is the talk of the state about this time every year.  Even McDonald’s offers free food to students taking the STAAR!

Do you know your target market's biggest frustration with their current educational choice?

While the exam is mandated, the mandated standardized test has widespread disapproval by students, parents and even teachers (read what one Christian school teacher says about “teaching to the test”).  Yes, there are those who approve and feel the necessity of it. But as a private school, you should target those dissatisfied public school families.  These are families who are frustrated that the fun has been taken out of learning, that the anxiety level for their 3rd grader is too high, or convinced that their child is too young to wrestle with text anxiety.

Caveat #1:  just because a family is unhappy in their public or homes school environment does not make them your “ideal family” – I do not wish to equate the two. Your ideal family is the type of family that can become a “loyal ambassador” who embodies the values of your school AND repeats and refers with great joy. In marketing, you are hoping to target your ideal family who is frustrated with their current educational choice.

Caveat #2:  your school may administer standardized tests, or least be preparing your students for the college preparatory standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. You do not wish to convey a false sense that “we do not believe in standardized testing” because this could set you up for disillusioned parents later.

Here are 3 key considerations when marketing to your ideal family’s needs, pains, problems, frustrations and fears:

  1. Provide, Don’t Pounce – yes, it is easy to prey on the frustrations of public school families and wag your private school finger at the government-mandated standardized test, but your ideal family may get an ugly taste in their mouth if you mock their frustration. Rather than rubbing it in that you are exempt from the mandated standardized test, provide a helpful resource during the STAAR testing week that could add value to any family’s life (public, home, or private school).  EXAMPLE:  You might provide a free ebook, “How to Help Elementary Students Deal with Test Anxiety” or even often complimentary (or low-cost) tutoring in subjects like math, reading or science in the months prior to the standardized test.  You do not want to perpetuate the label that “the rich kids are too good for the standardized test” (this is a commonly perceived opinion on the street because your parents can afford the tuition at a school that doesn’t administer the standardized test). Instead, offer valuable help to parents and students in your community. You might be surprised at how HELPING your community may attract new leads.
  2. Emphasize the Evidence – when you are differentiating yourself from the government school system, one of the best tools to use is a family’s personal testimony.  While you could issue bullet points, brochures and billboards, the authentic voice of similar families who have left the public school will speak much louder to those frustrated families. Those prospectives will hear similar families who made the jump to private school and these stories will resonate. They will begin to see themselves at your school and start talking about how they could also begin that transition.  EXAMPLE: during the STAAR week, release a campaign of parent and student video testimonials on your Facebook page that speak to the joy and value of being in a place where skills are learned in the classroom and through service projects. Make sure the families articulate their frustration with being in the public school where their children are subjected to tricky tests and an overwhelming amount of pressure to perform just so the school can get additional funding. But do not camp on that point – just use that pain point as a connecting point. Talk more about your positives.
  3. From Frustration to Freedom – you want to tap into that ideal family’s pain point, perhaps their frustration that thiss tandardized test is making their child feel like a failure (a common comment). Identify the ways in which your families feel free to explore learning in a creative and challenging environment, yet not “teaching to the test.”  Highlighting your school’s likely lower class size emphasizes your school’s ability to offer more personal attention.  Through the powerful use of parent testimonials, other frustrated families can begin to picture their children in a familiar environment in which they grew up where school was a well-rounded and rich experience of rewards.

If you are not in the State of Texas where I am, this may not mean as much. But your take-away can be similar by answering these 3 questions:

  1. “What is the top 3 needs/problems/pains/frustrations/fears of our ideal family?” Perhaps your state also mandates standardized tests or perhaps it is another frustration they have with the public school system.  Or even many home school families have fears about the quality of college preparation they are offering (in this case, some families may fear their child will not be ready for the SAT). Can you segment your ideal families? And then can you pinpoint their pain points?
  2. “What are the ways our school is unique in terms of such pain points frustrations?” If a family’s frustration is with the standardized test, reminding parents of an alternative experience is smart. If their frustration is in the playing time their child is not experiencing at the large high school, then perhaps you can share how an athlete at your school not only experienced more time on the court, but maybe how he/she went on to receive a college scholarship in that sport. Do you know how you are unique?
  3. “Do we have the right kind of evidence to prove our school is the best solution?” Examine your written communication (case studies or blog articles), audio messages (telephone interviews work well) and your visual testimonies (as mentioned before, have plenty of brief but powerful video stories that speak directly to these frustrations). Be direct and address the prospective families where they are at in their frustrations. Have your current parents talk about how frustrated they had once felt and then have them share their path of action. Prospective families will follow their lead even more than being led by you or the school’s Admissions Director. Share these stories all over social media, your website, on longer videos via DVD or during an Open House presentation, etc.

Differentiation is essential in a competitive environment. Connecting your uniqueness with a specific frustration of a prospective family is the pathway to a successful enrollment season!

Learn more about your school’s marketing strategy