On this week’s Relationship Marketing Weekly, I interview “Private School Admissions” director Darla Fanta…. Darla focuses on three key elements in her job. Building a strong admissions department, making connections with new families, and creating a strong personal bond with her current families. Darla will go into detail on her relationship development and retention program she has created by leveraging a cost-effective, relationship marketing strategy…
Kody Bateman: Hey everybody. This is Kody Bateman coming to you from Salt Lake City, Utah. Welcome to this week’s version of Relationship Marketing Weekly. I’ve got a very exciting show for you today like we always do and I really want to jump right into this very special guest coming to us today from the private school industry.
She works for the Montessori Schools System and she’s in admissions there. Her name is Darla Fanta, coming to us from Sugar Land, Texas. Welcome to our show today, Darla.
Darla Fanta: Thank you. It’s my pleasure.
Kody: Well, we’re so excited. You have some really cool stories and I’m really excited to jump right in. So what we like to do upfront is just have people understand kind of what your role is at Montessori School, exactly what your responsibilities are. Then that will give them a little bit of perspective on how you use our systems to better that business. So can you just tell us a little bit about what you do there?
Darla: Sure. My role at the school is I’m the admissions director. So when families come in into our school, they get to meet me first and give them a tour of our campus and then I get to start at that point building relationships with our families, our future families.
So that’s my role at the school. I get the first touch with the families to be able to welcome them to our family, our school family.
Kody: One of the things I notice, you call yourself the “app addict”. Can you tell us what that means? What does it mean to be the app addict?
Darla: Well, sometimes you’re just walking from place to place on campus and immediately when I leave a family and I capture their information, I put it in my phone, I have my contacts, I immediately send a card from my phone with the app.
So I love that because before – sometimes, before I even get back to my desk, I’ve already sent the card, thanking them for spending time with us and look forward to them being a part of our school family. So that’s why I love that.
Kody: And you’ve mentioned too that it’s pretty much a habit for you. So anytime you – pretty much anytime you meet a new person anywhere, it’s just such a habit that you automatically send them a nice-to-meet-you type of card. Is that right?
Darla: Yes, I do. I do.
Kody: So tell me, you’ve been doing that, just that alone. You do a lot of other things too and we will get to that. But just that alone, you have this app. The app allows you to send a real tangible greeting card in the mail. You can attach a gift if you want and you’ve gotten into the habit of pretty much everybody you meet, you immediately – you might take a picture of them and you send a nice-to-meet-you or whatever card to them. I want to ask you. Since doing that – you’ve been doing that for about two years.
Darla: Right, correct.
Kody: What difference has it made in your life personally just by doing that?
Darla: Well, personally – well, it has just helped me to continue the gift that I’ve been given and that’s connecting people and building relationships. That’s one of the things that I love to do. So in doing – in using SendOutCards, it has been phenomenal personally and in my business life.
It’s immediate. You will think of somebody and you can immediately do it at lunch, when you’re finished having lunch with someone. You can immediately tell them thank you. You can immediately make a difference in their life and that one little card, they will send me a text. Thank you. I love the card.
I mean just little things that mean so much to people, that our busy world today, we kind of forget to do things.
Kody: Well, and you are – you’re a master connector. Like you connect – you’re a great connector of people and now you have a system that really helps you to do that. What you send out in life comes back to you.
So I’m sure that in sending kindness out the way you do, that you receive a lot of that back in your life. You’re just that type of person and I appreciate your example on that.
Now there’s a story here. You talked about a single mother that came in and she had terminal cancer.
Kody: There’s a story there. Could you share that with us?
Darla: Yes. So there was a mother that came into our school and actually it was a previous school that I was at before I was at the Montessori School, still an independent private school and she wanted her child to be at the school.
So I immediately made that contact with her, sent her a card, let her know that our – you know, she’s in our thoughts and prayers and kept up with her as her son went through the whole admissions process and then in doing that, she also brought two other students into the school because she wanted other children to be part of an environment that we created there and she says it started because of the constant thoughtfulness that my department continued to make for her family and it made a huge difference to her.
Kody: You know what’s interesting? What I’m so impressed about you is we had a little discussion prior to the show starting and I was asking you, “What’s the return on investment of this? What kind of referrals come in?” and things like that.
What I noticed from you is that’s really not your focus. Now correct me if I’m wrong. But I just noticed that it’s really not your focus. Your focus is making connections with people. I mean just every way that you’ve answered all the questions today, even before the show, is that really your – I would say even more than your primary concern, really your only concern is to make genuine connection with people. Is that a fair assessment of you?
Darla: Yes, it is. My life motto is Maya Angelou’s saying that, “People forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget the way you made them feel,” and that could be a good thing or a bad thing.
When someone walks away from meeting me in whatever sector that is in life, I want them to know that they are a very special person and I feel like SendOutCards has helped me to continue to do that with people, little things that make them feel like they really meant something and made my day and they’re special.
Kody: Well, that’s incredible. You know, what’s interesting, we have a phrase around here at SendOutCards where we say we leverage what the marketplace wants from us, but inspire them on what they need from us.
What the marketplace wants from us – like as we get people to come visit the show today, what they want from us is to hear a story from you, how you implemented the program and you got an X amount of return on your business.
People are appealed to that. They want to know, “Well, if I do this, if I send these cards out, what’s it going to do for my business?” and that’s what they want from us is a system that generates referral business for you.
You generate an immense amount of referral business off of what you do but it’s not your concern at all. So we market the show that way to get people to be on the show. But then when they get – now our job, what you’re doing, is to inspire them on what they need from us.
Kody: What they need from us is what you just said. Now what you just said is people will forget what you said, did, never forget how they made – how you made them feel and you do that every day of your life and it just resonates from you, Darla. I mean it’s a wonderful thing and so that’s what we’re doing.
We’re just trying to teach the world how to be nicer to each other and as a result – again, what you send out is what comes back to you. So very, very powerful.
Now you do a lot of really cool things. You use these – we call it card triggers. You have school events, student achievements, birthdays. You send a lot of birthday cards. Give us an example of some of these different things you do with your students and their parents.
Darla: Well, with students, when a student has accomplished something, no matter what the age, it’s a big achievement for them and when they accomplish something, you go get a – I go get a picture of them and then I create a card to send to their parent, “Congratulations! Your child won the state golf tournament,” or I take a picture of the team and send it to the families just to congratulating them and letting them know how proud we are of their student and to just let them see that we as a school, took this time to go and congratulate them and to let them know how special they are and what they’ve done to our school. What they bring to our school and the talents that they have.
So I’ve used it with achievements such as that. One of the other things that I like to do is if I can capture the parents’ birthdays, I love to send the parents a birthday card and if I know what the parent likes, what their sport is, what their pastime is, I will send a little gift attached to it that was the theme of and just to say thank you for investing in your child’s future because going to a private sector, parents are usually sacrificing something to put them there and the more – I feel like the more that I make that – show my appreciation and using SendOutCards, then they will – that helps me to retain families in my school and they don’t want to leave because you’ve made them feel like they really matter and that they are contributing to your school.
Kody: So back to Maya Angelou’s quote. It’s not what you say or do. It’s how you make people feel, which obviously you’ve seen the results of that.
Kody: What you do there at the school and really, really powerful, powerful stuff. One thing too that – how old are the children? What’s the age of the children over there?
Darla: In my current school, we go from three months to six years. So I get to do lots of things when they first start walking or they’re kind of doing something, a little accomplishment. So the little guys, it’s really fun because they don’t even know why you’re taking the pictures. But it’s huge to the parents because you’ve captured something that they weren’t there for. They were at work.
Kody: Well, I will tell you too. It’s huge for the kids to receive – anytime a child receives something in the mail – and you can say to your daughter. Let’s say your daughter’s name is Sonia. Hey Sonia. You got a card in the mail. I mean how excited that little girl is and it’s a nice heartfelt card from you or somebody on your staff. It’s incredible and those kids – I’m telling you, those kids will remember – they will remember that impression for the rest of their lives.
I remember when I was a child receiving little handwritten notes from adults, not my parents but adults. Maybe they were a primary teacher or a teacher at school, whatever, saying, “Hey, Kody. Great job!”
At five, six years old, I still remember that. What an effect it had on me. So I will tell you. It’s great what you’re doing for the adults. But those cards are going to those kids. That’s a lifetime shift for those kids.
Darla: And may I share one more story that I – this is probably one of my favorite stories is I had a mom that was coming to our school and an unfortunate situation happened that the dad passed away before they moved and two little girls that were going to be in our school in two different grades. But they weren’t getting to come when school started right away.
They had to wait a few months before they were moved over with mom. So I went into their classrooms and I took pictures of their classmates because I knew which classes they were going to be in.
I took pictures of their classmates and I mailed each girl a card with the brownies, knowing every kid loves brownies and I just told them that you’re – inside, I just put, “We are excited to meet you,” and I put every classmate, little kid’s name on the card, their first name only on the card. So they would know, oh, here are my classmates.
So the mother told me that the girls love the cards. They carried it around. They were excited because it helped to break the tension of who’s going to be in my class. I don’t know anyone in my class and so it helped them to say, “Oh wait, I remember that face on my card,” and she said they would literally talk about their card every day because they were so excited to be coming and they got to see their classmates before they like ever got there.
So that’s probably – I love that because it made them kind of help break the ice for the kids and mom wasn’t so nervous about children – her children coming into a class and not knowing anyone.
Kody: Darla, you’re an absolute ray of sunshine for all of us and it’s just incredible to hear those stories and the difference that you’re making with the kids and with the parents. It’s just an incredible thing. We really, really appreciate all that you do.
One of the things that I like to do as we exit the show – by the way, do you by chance have any cards, like samples of cards you’ve sent that you can show us?
Darla: No, I don’t. I’m sorry. I’ve realized I should be sending myself a sample at least. So lesson learned through this for me.
Kody: No worries, no worries. Yeah. Sometimes it is fun to – especially cards that make such a huge impact is –
Kody: You will have opportunity to be in places like you are today and be able to share those stories and visuals are already good for that. So as we close the show today, any final words of wisdom? This is your opportunity to give us the final nuggets of wisdom from Darla. Can you share that with us as a quote?
Darla: Well, I really don’t know what to add to what I’ve already said other than like you said, what you send out, you get back in return and I feel like when you send out goodness, it comes back to you in your business no matter what your business is.
When you make someone feel like they’re a million bucks, they’re not going to forget that. They’re going to feel so special and they’re going to want to use your business and be with you because of the way you made them feel and when you genuinely can do that and take the time and opportunity to send a simple card, just a simple card, then it makes a huge difference. It really, really does.
So again, like you said, what you send out will come back and it does. SendOutCards helps do that and helps build your business no matter what that business is.
Kody: Well, there you go everybody. Darla Fanta from Sugar Land, Texas. Thank you so much for being on our show today. Those of you who brought people on the show, make sure you share it with your friends on Facebook and if anybody wants to know how Darla does all these cool things she talked about, just get back with the person that shared this show with you and they will help you out.
So I appreciate you Darla and look forward to having everybody back next week on another version of the Relationship Marketing Weekly. Take care now and we will see you.
Darla: Thank you so much.