Get a First Impressions Strategy

She’s All That. Clueless. My Fair Lady. The Princess Diaries. Crazy, Stupid, Love. Miss Congeniality. Pretty Woman. The Devil Wears Prada. My Big Fat Greek Wedding. And even Captain America: The First Avenger.

What do all these movies have in common?

Easy: the iconic makeover.

Let’s be honest, we all love a classic makeover story. And sure, some are more dramatic than others — in Miss Congeniality, Sandra Bullock’s character is viciously plucked, waxed, and dyed, whereas in She’s All That, Rachael Leigh Cook quite literally just takes off her glasses and bam, she’s suddenly a whole new person. (Only partially joking.) As an audience, we already know that Chris Evans and Audrey Hepburn are beautiful people who will surely end up beautiful, but we still show up for the transformation.

And that’s the key: they’re already awesome. All they need to do is pay attention to the kind of first impression that they give others.

Oftentimes, Catholic and independent schools are in a similar boat. You may be the greatest school in the world, but if you don’t consider how new parents perceive you and develop a first impressions strategy, then that doesn’t matter.

What Is a First Impressions Strategy?

When I say that you need a first impressions strategy, I’m saying that you have seven seconds to prove your worth to a potential parent. Everything counts. We live in a world of web-savvy consumers and instant gratification, and families make an immediate decision about how your school makes them feel.

If someone drives by your school, what are they going to think? This is your chance to showcase your clean buildings, beautifully landscaped entrance, and easily-read sign. Grab their attention! Entice them to dig for more information. If your school looks run down, unsafe, or unloved — even if it’s none of those things — there’s a good chance that new parents will pass you by.

Consider visits and tours your chance to make a second first impression. Is it easy for potential parents to find a parking spot? Are there signs that easily direct them to the correct office building? Make sure your receptionist is friendly, your lobby is spotless, and there’s a plan in place to follow up with new families after registration.

Approach The Process as a New Parent

This strategy easily translates to your website. If a potential parent wanders onto your school’s homepage and sees clumps of small, cluttered text, this month’s lunch menu, and long lists of school supplies, they won’t stay long. As humans, we tend to judge a book by its cover, so if a parent doesn’t get excited about your school’s “cover,” they’re definitely not going to read the book! The homepage is your chance to brag about where your alumni are now, what colleges they’ve attended, and what fields they’re dominating in. The end game is crucial. Yes, parents care about your awesome teachers, but that can’t be your only selling point when three schools within a 25-mile radius are pushing the same thing.

The key is to approach your website, campus, and application process as a new parent. Be critical. Are you impressed by the beauty of your school and the ease of registration, or is your site’s layout confusing and scholarships are impossible to find? Hunt for broken links, slow-loading web pages, and poor image quality. Try to open your site in both desktop and mobile versions, then compare. What aspects need a little more of your love and attention?

If a parent has to work to find the information they want, they’re going to disappear. They’re not going to work for it when there are other schools that make it easy. Your job is to assess your school and website from the perspective of a new parent, understand what they want, and make it awesome — and we can help.

Through School Sprout, a division of On Target Digital Marketing, we’re bringing unique, strategic website development and content marketing to more Catholic and private schools. We believe in independent education, and we know that your school, staff, and students are one-of-a-kind. With affordable monthly payments and a highly-customized plan, your school or Diocese can easily reach your target audience. Drop us a line to learn more about School Sprout and the potential that we see for you.

Receive Our Newsletter SproutUp

Sign-up to receive monthly information on the latest school marketing tips