How To Handle Departures Gracefully

goodbyeI feel kind of silly writing on this particular topic today, given that we are currently buried under 2+ feet of snow from the Blizzard of ’15 and won’t be departing anywhere anytime soon. But, eventually, we will leave the house – just as parents and staff will eventually leave your center.

The ideal departures, of course, are those relationships that run their natural course – kids leaving your center to start kindergarten and teachers leaving you for the serene, Crayola-free world of retirement.

Running a close second are those departures that are simply unavoidable, such as a family relocating because a military spouse has been reassigned to Guam.

The third kind of departures, the avoidable ones, are the ones we’ll be discussing today. And those are the icky ones.

Even when everyone is very nice and very civil, there is often an awful lot of unhappiness, anger, and resentment simmering beneath the pleasant façade of these departures. As a center owner or director, it’s your job to get to the bottom of it.

This is no fun, of course. But especially if you’re noticing an uptick in your turnover levels among staff and/or current families – not everyone is getting reassigned to Guam – you need to assume you’re part of the problem.

Here are 7 tips for handling departures gracefully and unearthing the problems that drive good people away.

1. Don’t get defensive. Nothing will shut people down faster and make them more eager to beat a hasty retreat.

2. Ask why. You may not get the full answer, or a fully honest one, but even a partial explanation can help you identify trends (see #5, below).

3. Ask if there’s anything you can do to change the person’s mind. The answer may surprise you – and even if not, if you are sincere, simply asking this question will generate a lot of goodwill. (Of course, if it’s a family or teacher you’re secretly delighted to say farewell to, then skip this one.)

4. Wish the person well. Again, if even a teeny-tiny dark part of your heart wants the worst for this teacher or parent who’s moving on, skip the well-wishes – they will come across as insincere (because they are). But if you can honestly say you want nothing for the best for this person, and are happy to help out in any way you can going forward, you help pave the path for a possible boomerang return back to your center someday.

5. Look for trends. If you notice a lot of families leaving your center for one particular competitor, or if the departures seem to all have one particular teacher or classroom in common, pay attention. Bear in mind that if your center has recently changed owners or directors, some knee-jerk “it’s not the way it used to be” turnover is to be expected – but if it continues, you’ve got a problem on your hands.

6. Stay in touch. Keep departing teachers and families on any mailing or distribution lists you may have. This way, they remain part of your community.

7. Say something. Even if you’re not quite sure what to say when someone leaves, saying something is always better than saying nothing. Only ostriches can pull off that head-in-the-sand thing…and few of them are successful business owners.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 6 Easy Ways To Boost Enrollments and Attract the Very Best Staff.

Why Tom Brady Doesn’t Need Marketing…But You Do

Tom BradyThis past Sunday, as a native New Englander, I was rooting for the Patriots to trounce the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Championship game.

And trounce they did, by a score of 45 to 7 (we’ll be staying out of the whole Deflategate debacle here at Daycare in Demand!).

Despite a heart-stoppingly narrow victory over the Baltimore Ravens the week prior, Tom Brady was his usual unflappable self, throwing three touchdown passes and setting a bunch of new records:

  • Most Super Bowl trips for a quarterback
  • Most Super Bowl trips for any player (tie)
  • Most Super Bowl trips for any team (tie)
  • Best-looking helmet hair

Only time will tell, but Tom Brady is, arguably, the best quarterback ever to play the position. And how do we know that?

It’s not because Tom sits down in post-game press conferences and declares, “I am, arguably, the best quarterback ever to play the position.”

It’s because of his performance on the field – we see him throw crucial passes, call effective plays, and win games on a consistent basis. If he didn’t do this, he’d be out of a job, regardless of what he says, or doesn’t say, about what he’s capable of doing.

Tom Brady’s on-the-job performance is literally the only thing that matters. We don’t care if he’s a nice person or even a law-abiding citizen, as evidenced by the NFL comebacks of convicted felons Plaxico Burress and Michael Vick (which is a rant for another time).

Since you are a child care professional, your job is a little different – despite the daily tackles and running around. There’s probably no official contest in which you’re judged, no “child-care-off” where you go head to head with the Sunny Kids center across town. There is, alas, no Iron Chef for child care professionals – though wouldn’t it be kind of great if there were?

Assuming you meet a certain level of competence, the parents whose kids attend your center – and the parents who are thinking about enrolling their kids there – don’t even know exactly how good you are at your job, whether you’re the ECE equivalent of Tom Brady or Tommy Smith, the local Pop Warner kid who keeps joyfully running into the wrong end zone.

But those same parents do care a great deal about whether or not you’re a nice person and a law-abiding citizen. If they don’t enjoy seeing you literally hundreds of times every year at pick-up and dropoff…if they start to wonder whether your center will appear on some kind of “Dirty Daycares” exposé…if they don’t have faith that you truly know what you’re doing…they will quickly look elsewhere for their child care needs.

In short, perception is everything when it comes to child care. And absent a national stage upon which you can display your considerable talents, that perception is shaped indirectly: By word of mouth, by the impressions you and your staff make, and by your marketing materials (including your website, brochures, flyers, and everything else you put out there).

This is why your marketing needs to be both consistent and professional – to get the word out there, and to make sure that word is a good one. Bonus points for supermodel spouses.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 6 Easy Ways To Boost Enrollments and Attract the Very Best Staff.

Child Care Websites: What Should Not Be Included

file000962069117Last week, I talked a little bit about what should be on your child care website. This week, what not to include:

1. Weird colors, graphics, or fonts: Many child care centers, in an effort to look fun and playful, include a lot of crazy colors and/or silly fonts on their websites.

Some even feature little animated things (e.g., bouncing party hats or graphics reminiscent of that frightening dancing baby from Ally McBeal). All of these are a bad idea – at best, they can be hard to read. At worst, they make you look unprofessional.

Remember: Everyone loves the crazy guy at the party with the lampshade on his head, but nobody wants to leave their kids with him! Stick to showing your fun side online through your writing and your photos.

2. Information of interest only to current families: Things like your parent handbook, sick policies, current menus, and so on. As school website specialist Tim McDonough put it so well in his recent interview with Rick Newberry, “Think about your website as a marketing tool rather than a content hub…If the content is not marketable, it should be in a private area on the website.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.

3. Abandoned blogs: Take a good look at your blog, your “news” page, and any other part of your website that’s clearly meant to be updated on a regular basis. If the info there is not current, with no immediate plans to make it so, take that page down. It is infinitely better to have no blog or news page than one that looks neglected. Related to this…

4. “Coming soon” pages or sections: Too often, people slap a “coming soon!” label on a part of their website they mean to get to, breathe a sigh of relief that the problem has been temporarily addressed, and never come back to it again. Again, this makes you look disorganized and unprofessional, no matter how good your intentions are. Make pages live when they’re truly ready for prime time – not before.

5. Your tuition rates: Yes, I know it’s very common in the child care industry to include these on your website, and I know you get calls and emails all the time asking for this info.

But here’s the thing: Unless you’re looking to become a low-cost commodity – a very bad idea for your child care center – you need to convince parents of your value before they hear about your cost. And while your website helps with this process, it’s hard to truly convey how great you are, and how much you offer, until a parent comes in for a tour.

Your goal should be to wow parents on the tour – so much so that when they finally find out your rates, they seem like a bargain (“Yes, yes, that’s fine – so where do I sign?”). That’s how you turn prospective parents into raving-fan current parents. But you can’t do this if your rates are posted up on your website. As with dating, a little mystery up front is a good thing.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 64 Terrific Child Care Marketing Ideas.

Child Care Websites: What Should Be On Yours

women looking at laptopIt’s the start of a brand-new year, and one of your resolutions may be creating – or updating – a child care website for your center. Congratulations! It’s really important to have a good website, and this doesn’t need to be a massive or scary undertaking.

While there are all kinds of things you can include on it, here are the must-haves:

1. Your story and Unique Selling Proposition (USP): In other words, what makes you stand out from every other center in your area. Your center probably offers all kinds of wonderful things, but stick to highlighting just two or three on your website.

2. Photographs: Lots and lots of them, preferably of the cute kids at your center learning a lot and having fun (use these only with proper parental releases, of course). If you don’t yet have any good real-life photos you can use, fill in with stock photos as needed – generic kids are better than no kids.

3. Testimonials: The more, the better. Ideally, you want a dedicated page of these, as well as additional testimonials scattered throughout the site. Video testimonials with full participant names and towns are excellent, but text-only works too, in a pinch.

4. Full contact info: Note that this info should be prominently displayed on every page on your site, or at least easily findable. You’d be amazed at how many child care websites I see that don’t have this. You should also be very clear about your physical location, as that’s a key factor for parents when they’re choosing child care. If your mailing address is different than your street address, include both.

If your center is located in your home, for safety reasons you may wish to keep your precise address off the website. In that case, say something like “We’re located in Anytown, USA, right near I-475 and Bartlett Rd.”

5. Links to your social media accounts: Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, and any others you have. Note: you should link to these only if they’re robust and regularly updated! If tumbleweeds are currently drifting across your Facebook page, downplay it on your website until you get more activity happening there.

6. A clear call-to-action (CTA): What do you want people to do after they come to your website? Call for a tour, sign up for your email list, claim a special camp spot before a certain deadline, or something else? Whatever it is, your CTA should be clear and unequivocal. Remember: You don’t ask, you don’t get.

Next week, I’ll have a rundown of the things you should not include on your child care website…some of which will probably surprise you.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 64 Terrific Child Care Marketing Ideas.

5 Ways To Set Your Center Up for Success In 2015

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It’s hard to believe we’re already heading into that last tiny bit of the year, isn’t it?

Whether you had a fantastic year (woo-hoo!) at your child care center or a lackluster one (more boo-hoo than woo-hoo, in other words), here are 5 easy yet effective ways to set yourself up for a stupendous 2015:

1. Determine your Unique Selling Proposition (USP): If you haven’t already figured out what makes your center stand out from all the others in your area, do it now – none of your other marketing efforts will amount to much without this key step. Once you know what you want to focus on, carry the message consistently through all your marketing communications.

2. Create an irresistible New Year’s offer: The start of a new year is a perfect hook for a special, limited-time offer at your child care center.

3. Plan an event: It could be an open house, a pajama party, an ice cream social, or whatever else floats your boat. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just fun and something worth talking about. Get creative, pick a date, and start promoting! And if you can find a community partner to jointly host it with you, so much the better.

4. Review your reviews: Too many child care centers are blithely unaware that there are blisteringly bad online reviews floating around out there – until the phone stops ringing. Google your center’s name, in quotes, and carefully look through what pops up.

You can’t delete bad reviews, unfortunately, but you can and should respond to them (in a professional, non-defensive way) to help set the record straight. You should also encourage happy families to leave positive reviews on those same sites – a good idea even if nobody’s been slandering your good name.

5. Polish up your Facebook page: It’s not enough to simply have a Facebook page – you need to be active on the site, with regular postings and updates.

Ideally, you should be posting at least once each business day. If that seems too daunting, shoot for 2 or 3 times per week and work up from there. (You can schedule posts in advance with services like Buffer; check out my resources page for more details).

Cute quotes and photos of kids are always popular, and special Facebook-only promotions and offers encourage current and prospective parents to follow your page and check back in regularly.

That’s it for now, folks – we’ll be taking the next two weeks off from posting but will see you back here on January 8th. Until then, best wishes for a joyous Christmas (for those who observe it) and a very happy New Year!

Thanks, as always, for reading along with us – I can’t wait to show you what we’ve got planned for 2015 here at Daycare In Demand.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 64 Terrific Child Care Marketing Ideas.