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How to Modernize Your School’s Word-of-Mouth Marketing Strategy

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Word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing has always been, and continues to be, a huge contributor to school enrollment. This is no surprise…if WOM marketing is applicable to something as simple as buying a new vacuum, imagine how important it is for families choosing a new school. The stakes are significantly higher than most consumer products, and parents want reassurance from others that your school is worth their investment. 

For years, WOM marketing has been pretty straightforward. Families who loved your school would hype it up to their peers in water cooler chats or at a soccer game, and those conversations would eventually get new families in your school’s door. While some of that still exists today, WOM marketing looks different than it did ten years ago. In order to maintain enrollment numbers, it’s important for schools to modernize their WOM marketing to accommodate a new generation of tech-driven constituents. 

Why has word-of-mouth marketing changed?

Millennials and younger generations look to online reviews for just about everything, and schools are no exception. This is largely due to the rise in consumer products and the sheer number of options people must sort through on a daily basis. Online reviews provide the social proof needed to narrow down a large pool of options into a smaller list of contenders. Similarly, influencer marketing provides social proof from voices your audience trusts. 

Artificial intelligence has also changed the way WOM marketing works (is there anything AI hasn’t changed?). Now, search engines can automatically produce an AI-generated response to a user’s query, drawing information and reviews from top SERP content. Instead of digging through multiple web pages to find reviews, users can see them front and center in their results page. What does this mean for you? Simply, your prospects are going to expect reviews on your school, so it’s important that you have them. 

In this snippet from SGE (Google’s AI generator), I can see that Great Oaks Academy is well-run, dedicated to student success and has good academic performance, but may have some achievement gaps, according to parent feedback.

Word-of-mouth marketing the right way

Modernizing your WOM marketing strategy doesn’t have to be complicated. Chances are, you’re already familiar with some of these digital WOM techniques. You may just need to take it up a notch by asking for reviews, promoting a new referral program, or tapping into influencer and social media marketing. Let’s unpack each one of these: 

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