The question is - what do you do with them next?
I've a lot of fondness for some of the great traditional marketing models. One of the best is AIDA - E St Elmo Lewis' famous model of how customers buy - often called the 'Marketing Funnel' today. While there are a host of later developments (and challenges to the idea itself!), I like the simplicity of the idea. Customers first become Aware of a product or service, then show Interest, then Desire and finally take Action. By getting parents to an Open Day, you've got their Interest, although they will also be showing interest in a number of other schools. How do you create the Desire that will lead to Action (the application to join?). Here are some ideas - please add your tips by commenting below.
1. Make your Open Day targeted and memorable using the steps set out in this How-To.
2. Make sure you know who attended. Get everyone to fill in a feedback form and check their details against people who you thought were going to attend. Make sure you contact anyone who didn’t make it and invite them to another event or for a personal tour. Ask teachers and students for specific feedback as well - make it easy for them with a simple shared spreadsheet or paper form..
3. Make a real effort to obtain full feedback from prospective parents, including any reservations. Parents often have a high level of deference to (head)teachers based on their school experience and may be unwilling to express negative opinions. If you find any problems, take action to resolve them as soon as possible by finding the best expert in the school (for example a Head of Year for pastoral or medical concerns, or the Bursar for funding issues).
4. Don't assume the Open Day will 'seal the deal'. Parents are aware you are putting on a show. The best way to avoid this is to sign up parents for a weekday guided tour at the Open Day - don't wait until they've had the chance to consider other schools.
5. Follow the Open Day up. A day or two after the event, email as many people as possible with outcomes from the event (pictures, your collective story, details of who attended) – and an invitation to other events (concerts, sporting fixtures, etc.) or a personal tour of the school. You can also share highlights via Twitter, Facebook, Instagram or other social media.
6. Keep in touch. Given the potential return, private schools should be making regular personal phone calls and letters - state schools might consider regular newsletters or emails for the whole prospective parent group. As well as practical advice on applications, these should include positive news stories and opportunities for parents to ask questions.
7. Keep spreading positive stories through social media and via the 'school gate'. Put up posters with good news in the carpark, create newsletters highlighting excellence in particular subject areas, make videos of great extra-curricular success - anything that parents and students will share in their community.
8. Don't ever assume you've 'landed' a customer until their child starts at school - and of course that's when the even more important task of delivering an excellent education starts!