With many schools struggling to attract and keep Lower School families, it is clear that this generation, viz. The Millennials, needs to be understood and appreciated. The traditional approaches to marketing—visibility efforts, advertising, etc.—seem to have limited impact.
Here are 10 Keys to help understand what motivates the Millennial Generation:
1. Both parents are deeply involved in the enrollment decision. Even if only one has been the point person with your admissions office, do not assume that this is Mom’s decision; Millennials are going to discuss and examine your school as an option together. Be sure both are included in all communication and visits. Respect both parents’ careers.
2. These are not “helicopter” parents; they are on board the plane with the kids. They want to do everything together as a family and the kids are going to be involved right alongside their parents.
3. They want guidance, but are wary of sales pitches. Marketing better include hard data about program, performance, and personnel.
4. Word of mouth is king. They will believe their friends and anecdotes. Do your best to control the message with your current parents who will be your best recruiters.
5. They like brands. Make sure your school has a great one. And diversity better be part of that brand.
6. Social media is very important to this group. This may seem obvious, however many schools still rely on ad spots on NPR as their marketing vehicle.
7. Be flexible. Millennials want things that are custom. “I’ll have a half-caf, skim soy latte. Do you have organic sugar? Are the hazelnuts locally sourced?” It may drive you crazy but you need to realize that they are used to getting things their way.
8. Money: while Millennials may be able to afford your school, they are used to shopping for bargains. Consider the loss-leader, i.e. lower pricing at the entry grades.
9. Quality of experience, diversity, and results trump prestige for Millennials. If your school evokes exclusivity, it’s at a disadvantage recruiting these families.
10. Parents of Millennials need to be courted to enroll AND to re-enroll. Schools may see strong pre-school numbers, but then lose students in kindergarten and first grade because they assume that once enrolled, families are going to stay. This is not true, especially if there are good public school alternatives. Schools need to work actively to keep these families with internal marketing efforts that include clear messaging, family-oriented events that bond them to one another and to the school, and clear data and anecdote-based information about the value of your Lower School.
Financial sustainability and making sure your enrollment pipeline is as full as possible are in the hands of this Millennial generation. Make sure you understand them and know how to meet their expectations.