Innovative thinking, practical tips and some crazy ideas

Are you ready for a whole new generation?

There’s something going on with your prospective parents and some of your newer parents. You may not know exactly what it is by I bet you recognize some of the symptoms. The diagnosis is that we’re on the cusp of a generational shift.

Here’s just a bit of background. Demographers categorize generations by year of birth. Each generation has unique characteristics shaped by the social dynamics and world events of its time. Knowing that, consider this.

Age in 2015
Gen X

You can see that over the past five years, more and more of your prospective parents have become millennials. They are very different than the GenXers that preceded them. So, what do you we know about millenials? Here are eight distinctive qualities.

  • Entitled. They have always been treated as special and important.
  • Sheltered.  They were highly protected as children.
  • Confident.  They are motivated and goal-oriented.
  • Collaborators. They are team-oriented and like to share
  • Achievers.  Grade point averages and other success markers are rising with this generation.
  • Pressured.  They are trophy kids and feel pushed to work hard, plan for the long term.
  • Conventional.  They are very respectful of their parents’ opinions.
  • Digital Natives. They were raised on technology.

Is this starting to ring a bell yet? Parents that are driven, expect high levels of attention and are prepared to tell the world when they receive it – and when they don’t.

But wait. There’s more. Here’s some interesting marketing data on the millennial generation.

  • According to a recent study, millennials said they trusted the reviews of peers (68%) more than professionals (64%)
  • Millennials trust product information from user-generated content (social networks 50%; peer reviews 68%; conversations with friends 74%) far more than from traditional media (TV 34%; Radio 37%; Print 44%)
  • Another study found that this generation is heavily reliant on crowd sourcing to make brand purchase decisions. 94% said they use at least one outside source to make a decision and an incredible 40% said they use four or more sources.
  • And it works both ways because 74% of millennials believe that they influence the purchasing decisions of others.

So, what does all this mean in terms of your marketing and recruitment efforts? Here are some approaches to consider.

  • It’s all about ambassadors. Your most prized educational leader or the praise of a recognized educational expert doesn’t stand a chance against what other parents are saying about your school. Inform, engage and inspire your current parents to use all of their networks to say wonderful things about your school. Many of them crave the opportunity to do just that.
  • There are no secrets. You can’t play the game of telling parents only what they want to hear because they are so connected that they are going to hear about everything else anyway. And you can assume that any shortcomings – whether staff, program or facilities related – are well known to your prospective parent community. The only solution is to be open and honest. Many times, parents are more interested in how you are addressing challenges than the fact that they exist.
  • Meet them on their turf. If your prospects do most of their research and make most decisions online, then be a facilitator. Yes, this means you need to have a robust social media strategy to capture the crowdsourcing potential. But it also necessitates a strong content marketing plan. Provide valuable resources to engage and empower parents. And make sure that parents can take immediate action through online applications and registration. 
  • Demonstrate results. There’s nothing like the success story of an alum to appeal to parents who are true achievers. Deliver that story in a way that makes it easy to share (like video) and you can magnify the impact. Take a data driven approach and post empirical results on your website. That doesn’t necessarily mean standardized test results. Transform assessment data that you are using into information that is of interest to prospective parents.
  • Involve grandparents. This is a generation that admires and respects their parents. You can bet they will consult them when making a decision about school. Grandparent and special friend days only happen once grandchildren once the sale has been made and students are in the school. But grandparents are important influencers for this cohort. It could be worth considering a recruitment campaign targeted specifically at grandparents.
  • Accept them for who they are. There’s no question that parents who always feel that they are deserving of special attention can be a pain in the butt. But trying to modify their behavior is an exercise in futility. They are paying significant amounts of money to send their kids to your school. Treat them like the customers they are.

As it relates to prospective parents, millennials are just coming of age and you are going to be dealing with them for many years. Now’s the time to develop your millennial strategy.

What do you think?
Are you seeing the millennial shift in your school? What are you doing about it? Let me know.

Contact us. We’d love to make marketing work for you.