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Finally! Research on Word of Mouth’s Impact

For every school, word of mouth (WOM) referrals consistently yield the best prospective students, more than any other source such as purchased lists or search engine referrals.

All admissions officers know this.  It’s not rocket science.

Students and alumni talk to their friends and family, who, by no freak accident, have similar tastes, preferences, propensity toward education and most importantly eagerness to listen to a trusted opinion.

So when Joe, class of ‘2020, says to Cousin Nancy, the 5th grader, “You have to check out XYZ School. I loved it,” Nancy becomes a WOM referral worthy of attention — if only you could identify her as such!

Or when Isabelle posts on Facebook, “I just got into LMNOP Academy, my first choice!” her friends — and friends of friends — take notice.

But how do you justify investing in WOM when it is so difficult to track and its impact so difficult to measure?

Research Sheds Some Light

According to research by MarketShare, a marketing analytics firm, word of mouth (offline and online) plays a significant and measurable role in marketing and sales in the major industry categories — beverages, auto, investments, and brokerage — the firm analyzed.

MarketShare made two important discoveries:

  1. WOM amplifies the effectiveness of existing marketing efforts by up to 54%.
  2. WOM can drive nearly as much Internet search activity (a school’s largest source of inquiries) as traditional marketing activities when the marketing activities are also present. Interestingly, offline WOM drove more Internet search for a brand than did online WOM.

Now granted, MarketShare did not specifically test the education space. However, these results should not be dismissed! Education is not unique!

Implications for Private Schools

WOM is a critical force that ushers a prospective family through the enrollment journey by amplifying existing communications (assuming they’re effective) from awareness to interest, to consideration, to an application, deposit and finally yield.

And your institution can act on this insight right now!

One relatively easy way a school can influence WOM online is conducting Message Training sessions for all outside-facing staff, tour guides, and school leaders and trustees. EdwardsCo developed this service specifically to help schools manage WOM instead of it managing you!

NOTE: EdwardsCo has no affiliation with MarketShare.