How to Persuade Parents Using the Discovery Approach


We've just partnered with a wonderful PBL focused school in Southeast Seattle -in the wooded Seaview neighborhood just south of Alki Beach.

Like a sailship floating above Elliott Bay, reserved for about 240 kids, the school feels like the perfect place for its students to improve learning, seek challenge, grow from setbacks, build confidence and find personal relevance.

Its thoughtful curriculum and earthly colored wooden facilities combined with its nearness to the sea form a perfect setting to invigorate its students in mind, body and soul.
Talking to the leadership team last week, you get the feeling they are fiercely passionate about improving their students' problem-solving and collaboration skills, enhancing their attitudes towards learning and increasing their long-term retention of content.

And yet, we're gearing up to refund them and suggest we part ways. It is going to be the first time we "fire" one of our clients.

Following three weeks of in-depth research, we were getting ready to launch our "R&D" ads when we started getting tremendous pushback.

Let me explain further.

Our first step in every digital enrollment funnel rollout is a full month of ad experimentation.
We prepare a set of 60 ad designs and copy combinations to test what resonates best with our client school's parent demographic.

Unfortunately, there’s no magical shortcut to knowing what combination of headline, body text, image and landing page design will pull in the most and better-qualified inquiries.
In many cases, the resulting combination overlaps with what pleases the Head of School and their leadership team, but often it does not.

One team member says “we have to use this image in the ad; please remove the one with the child looking into the microscope, it doesn't feel right to me.”
The other team member blurts out "please replace the white logo with our red logo on all ads and changeup this headline."

And for them, this is the end of our discussion.

As much as we explain that school performance marketing is first and foremost about experimentation, they prefer to stick to the exact brand image they already have in their mind.

At this stage, our discussions are not leading anywhere, and we have moved past our planned launch date.

Just like educators try to constantly reframe their curriculum so that it becomes compelling for their students, we've also been trying different arguments to try to persuade our client.

As a final desperate attempt to save the relationship we're making the connection between our marketing and their own PBL program.

And we might be on to something...

"Parents trust you to teach their kids through trial and error...
You invite your student families to take the leap and trust that a PBL education will eventually deliver the best-suited learning experience for their child.
'We all learn best through experimentation' you tell them.

How are you not willing to also take some risk with your school's messaging?
Why won't you allow us to 'discover' what your prospective parents want to know most about your school?
Why do you start from the premise that you already know what will resonate with them most?

Don't you consider this to be somewhat of a double standard?
You don't believe a cookie cutter curriculum is best for your students' learning process. The same goes for our enrollment funnel...

We've got a tough challenge ahead of us: we must figure out what information parents need to trust you with their child while also recognizing that the same information doesn’t work for all parents.
So we need the intellectual humility to accept that we can only ‘know’ with hindsight what messages have worked following a few experiments."

Some advice for the school leaders out there considering a digital enrollment funnel: don't take the leap if you are not ready to take some risks.