The more closely we work with schools these days, the more we recognize the need for setting up a school tour assessment process.

Here is an example of how an ongoing tour review has turned around the enrollment numbers in a small, private school in Sacramento.

Patricia, the administrator of admissions, had been with the school for 12 years. She has been a very successful Admissions Director. Giving regular campus tours for the past decade, she achieved a consecutive 70%-80% conversion rate.

Then she had to move. But before leaving, she was determined to help the school find the ideal replacement. She did find a brilliant young girl with less experience but eager to learn and be part of a new team. Emma was working as part of the admissions team in another smaller school.

"School tours can be done well, or they can be done poorly" was one of the first things Patricia told her.

She recommended "layering interactive and engaging components" and "planting effective calls to action."

She learned everything there was to learn about the school and attended all the scheduled tours guided by Patricia. She learned a lot of tips, and she memorized all things important. But after Patricia’s leave, the school’s tour-to-application ratio dropped from 80% to 40%. Emma was implementing things precisely as before.

So, what went wrong?

Unable to figure out what caused the significant conversion drop, Emma was not about to drop the ball, so she reached out to us. Together we came up with the idea of recording her upcoming campus visits.

And so she did.

We were not sure what to expect. But after that first video recording, both she and we were convinced that we came up with the right strategy.

To be honest, we didn’t discover a huge mistake or oversight. But we realized that Emma was nervous during the visit, feeling self-conscious about deviating from the script and what she had learned.

That literally boomeranged on her.

Then, whenever a parent said something that was not on her notes or list, she was unsure how to handle the situation.

For example, she knew that she had to use scarcity to close a tour. But when she got at the end of the tour, and she asked for the enrollment, an answer like “I have to talk to my husband.” “I am looking at three other schools in the area.” threw her completely off.

So what did we do?

Every time we watched a new tour recording, we discussed in detail the unveiling issues. Then we offered a how-to for each one:

Emma was feeling self-conscious about taking a photo. She was not sure how to ask the visiting families to take a picture together without sounding pretentious. We suggested that she used this phrase,

Let’s grab a quick pic for posterity, so we’ll remember this little adventure finding Emily her first perfect preschool!”

And when she was faced with an undeciding mom, she now knew that the goal is to get her to decide to enroll quickly. So, she now tempted her with scarcity and F.O.M.O.

Emma didn’t hesitate anymore.

She was now pulling a last-minute promotion out of her pocket. She told the parent that she has an expiring special offer she would like to tell her about.

We explained to Emma that whatever she decides to give here is irrelevant, free registration, a fourth week free, etc. It does not matter.

What matters is the timing.

Whatever offers, she is enticing her with expires in a week. This makes the parent act much quicker. Now Emma knows that if she doesn’t hear back from the parents, they were not that serious, and she will not waste much time chasing them.

Three months later, the conversion rate is back to 70%. Yet, Emma is still sharing her recordings.

She says:

There is always room for improvement.

I think that more than anything, ongoing assessment, and regular feedback are the secrets to school tour success.

Exchanging thoughts and sharing ideas with other knowledgeable and experienced groups greatly impact the way you work. And the results prove it.

In an era where parents can learn about any school from the comfort of their home, the in-person tour offers a unique opportunity to influence enrollment decisions.

But too often, these tours follow the same staid formulas, potentially blending together in the minds of families who may visit more than a dozen schools during their search.

Don’t make the same mistake.

Make sure you take a step back and review what is being said and done during your school tour. Then make all the tweaks necessary and repeat. Fast forward six months, check your conversion rates. You’re about to be pleasantly surprised.