Make Your Next Open House Exciting and Effective
Vol. 11 No. 1
Some campuses have better luck than others with open houses. On the ISM e-Lists, people have shared their successes as well as their frustrations concerning their open-house events. The one thing everyone agrees on is that if you can get families to tour your campus, and you have taken the time to plan and practice, an open house can be a profound event.
Let us begin by first answering the question, “Why host an open house?” Open houses are great platforms for answering parent questions such as, “Why should I send my child to a private school?”; “Are all private schools the same?”; “Is this school worth the investment—what will my child be gaining from this experience?”; and “Do we qualify for financial aid.” As you know, answering concerns face-to-face is far more powerful than corresponding via e-mail or over the telephone. These are all valid concerns. You want parents to be able to see first hand what separates your school from others in the area. Open houses are also great ways to give families the information you find most important to take home.
Now that we have answered why open houses are vital to your school’s awareness, let’s dig into what can make one more successful than another. The more exciting your open house is, and the more you can demonstrate what your school has to offer, the more likely you are to attract prospective families. The trick is getting more families to attend. So, first things first, here are some tips to attract more families to your events.
- Combine your open house with another activity such as a science fair or sporting event
- Expand the number of open houses offered
- Experiment with days and times to coordinate with families’ schedules
- Give your best marketers—your parents—an easy way to get the word out
- Strengthen your follow-up events
Some of the more exciting open houses are held during school plays or sporting events. Events like these give your school a chance to showcase student achievements, school pride, and, of course, your culture. Offering tours before and after the event allow families to chose a time that works best for them. However, you know your community’s culture better than anyone, and this idea might not work for everyone. We encourage you to experiment with different times and days to meet your community’s lifestyles.
Getting the word out about your events doesn’t have to be expensive. If you’re planning on hosting several open houses, you don’t have to worry about busting your marketing budget to spread the word about each.
There are free options such as setting up an event page on Facebook or LinkedIn, giving parents a hash tag to tweet for you (ex., #ABCopenhouse or #ABCtour), or running an e-mail campaign. These require minimal effort and can be very effective.
Cost-effective options that might cost a little more than refreshments but that are still within reason include lawn signs, combining your event with another as mentioned above and including the details in those marketing pieces, and sending out a press release to local papers. If your school is active in your community, local papers should be eager to publish news about public events you’re planning.
What happens after your open house is the most important detail in your open house process. It’s easy to breathe deeply afterwards and reward yourself for attracting 20 families. However, hosting a successful event is not enough. You can’t just sit back and wait for the applications to start rolling in.
You’ll need to contact each family who attended. Phoning them within a week of your event is a must. But, consider getting creative in your follow-ups as well. Ask Student Ambassadors to write notes to all the families who came, sharing what they feel makes your school special. Or, ask the Headmaster to send personal thank you cards.
The most important part of following up with parents is to gain information. This is the time to answer any additional questions, find out what they liked about the tour, what they didn’t like, and get a feel for their overall excitement.
Additional ISM resources of interest
Marketing Your School: Theory, Planning, and Strategy
Additional ISM resources of interest for Consortium Gold members
I&P Vol. 37 No. 4 Look Beyond Your Traditional Marketing Allies
To The Point Vol. 15 No. 3 Five Ideas Are Better Than One!
To The Point Vol. 7 No. 3 Four Definitions Point the Way to a Sharper Focus on Marketing