As I was driving through my neighborhood this week, I noticed small signs scattered about town that advertised the local Montessori school. All that was written on the signs was the name of the school and the phone number. I don’t think there are many parents who would pull off the road to stop and copy the phone number down. However, these types of signs are meant to call attention rather than give information. If the school is lucky, parents will remember the name and Google it when they get home. If the school has planned well, they will have a strong online presence to satisfy curious parents.
Increasing Montessori Enrollments with Online Marketing
Why online, you ask? Why wouldn’t just a simple phone number work? Today’s parents are anything but simple. Eighty percent of all births can be attributed to Millennial Generation parents, people born between 1981 and 2000, and these parents are “wired.” (Murray, 2014) A 2012 eMarketer.com survey says that of the 86 million Millenials:
- 94% use the internet
- 83% view digital videos
- 81% use social media
- 87% have a cell phone
- 67% have a smart phone
- 76% use Facebook
- And 41% don’t have a landline phone
Ask a Millennial a question and they go immediately to Google or another search engine. Ask them to contact someone, and they are more likely to text rather than email or phone. If you are relying solely on a sign with your phone number to attract potential families, you will probably miss a very large portion of your enrollment population.
So What Do I Need?Just as Montessori schools strive to meet the individual needs of students, we must also recognize the needs of parents. If parents communicate online, through texting, and using social media, then we need to optimize those connections, too. And while many Montessori schools don’t incorporate technology in the classroom, it does make sense to use technology in the business of running a school, especially as a means of attracting and retaining enrollments.
The key reasons for using technology are to help families find you and to build their trust in your school. Using technology wisely will do just that.
Your School WebsiteAll Montessori schools should have a website, regardless of their size. Search engines, like Google or Bing, are today’s Yellow Pages, and if your school isn’t online it cannot be found. There are several free resources to create modern, easy-to-navigate, professional websites. (Try searching “free website creator” for a list of resources.) When creating, or revising, your website, here are a few ideas to remember:
Use key terms to help optimize your online listings. Some ideas include: Montessori, preschool, kindergarten, day care, child care, infant care, active learning, hands-on learning, and natural environment.
Use real testimonials from satisfied parents. Include their photos, real names, and even names and ages of their children to add credibility. Consider using a multi-media approach and include video and audio clips as well. Encourage parents to talk about why they are happy with the school. Ask them to talk about what they love about the program and the teachers, and how the school has helped their children and family. Make sure to include a testimonial on each page, not just hidden on a back page. This gives interested parents added assurance in your program.
Use photographs that show off your environment and actively demonstrate how your school is different. We know how Montessori differs from conventional schools. Use your website to show this. In order to protect the children, try to take photos that focus on the activities and the environment, without using photos of the children. Before posting any photos, videos, or statements from parents and/or children, make sure you get the parents’ written permission.
Social Media73% of adults who are online use social networking sites.
- 71% use Facebook
- 17% use Instagram
- 21% use Pinterest
- 22% use LinkedIn
It makes sense, then, that in addition to having a current website, you should also have an active, business Facebook page for your school. Remember to keep this separate from your personal page. Invite the parents of your school to “like” the school Facebook page to increase your following. Post events at the school, pictures of activities, invitations to open houses, etc. Invite your teachers and parents to post, too. An active Facebook page will dynamically promote your school to interested families. For an example of an active Montessori page, visit: https://www.facebook.com/North.American.Montessori.Center Most importantly, be sure your posts are current. If an interested family looks at your Facebook page and sees that you have not posted anything in the last 6 months, chances are they will not continue to look.
Optimizing Your Search ResultsWhen someone is searching for your school, you want it to show up in the top search results and preferably on the first page. You can get a free scorecard of all your online listings and check how your search rankings by using a website such as www.getlisted.org . This type of website shows you exactly where your gaps are online, so you know where to concentrate your efforts.
If using the internet and social media to promote your Montessori school seems daunting, look to your staff for help. Engage teachers who are internet savvy to be responsible for creating and maintaining your internet presence. Whatever you do, do not discount the power of your online presence to increase and maintain your enrollment.
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Thursday, July 24, 2014.