7 Secrets To Child Care Marketing Success

redheadIn order for your child care advertising to be successful, you need to keep some basic marketing principles in mind.

The problem is that many child care center owners and directors – and maybe you’re one of them – have no formal marketing training, other than watching Mad Men.

But fear not – if you remember and implement the 7 simple guidelines below, your efforts at getting the word out will become much more compelling and effective (especially since your competitors probably haven’t been looped in on these secrets):

1. Focus on specifics. Detail is always better than generalities:

  • “We have three teachers who have been with us for over 15 years” is better than “caring staff.”
  • “Fully organic, locally sourced lunches and snacks” is better than “healthy food.”
  • “Our property borders a forest preserve and we take the children there daily” is better than “outside play.”

2. Don’t be boring. The worst sin an ad can commit is being forgettable. Don’t be afraid to push the envelope and be memorable, silly, or even provocative.

3. Include social proof. This means testimonials from happy parents – the more, the better. Include full names and a photo or video whenever possible.

4. Reinforce your USP. “USP” stands for “unique selling proposition,” and all that means is figuring out (and conveying) why you’re different than all the other programs in your area. Just look for 3-4 ways to fill in the following blanks:

  • “We’re the only center in the area that _______________, and that’s a great thing for your kids because ____________.”

5. Think like a parent. “Now enrolling!” doesn’t mean a lot to parents. “New, extended hours to accommodate second shift workers!” does.

6. Offer a reason to act right away. People hate to miss out – on anything, really – so offer parents a reason to act now. “Enroll for the fall by the end of the week and receive $50 off your first week’s tuition!”

7. Provide a full satisfaction guarantee. “If, after your child’s first month at ABC Learning Center, you’re not completely delighted, let us know and we’ll refund every penny of tuition you’ve paid.”

The odds are good that you will never have even a single request for a refund, but your willingness to put yourself on the line with this offer is extremely reassuring to prospective parents.

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

“For-Profit” Is Not A Dirty Word

piggy bankYou hear a lot of interesting things in the YMCA locker room. Recently, one woman was complaining about her “untrainable” husband’s issues with clutter. When a sympathetic listener commented that she solved a similar problem at her house by dropping off batches of stuff at Goodwill on a regular basis, the original talker was aghast.

“Oh, no! Take it to the Salvation Army instead. Goodwill is—” and here her voice dropped as if she were sharing something almost too horrifying to be spoken aloud “—a for-profit.”

There were audible gasps around the locker room, followed by unhappy murmurings.

“Really! I never knew that.”

“How awful!”

“I’m never going back there.”

I decided to keep my mouth shut and continue with my shampooing, but the exchange stuck with me, for two reasons.

The first lesson is probably something you learned back in high school: Don’t believe everything you hear in a locker room. Goodwill is, in fact, a nonprofit social enterprise that has apparently been battling online rumors of exorbitant executive pay for years.

The second lesson is even more important: “For-profit” is not a dirty word.

In child care, as well as other fields that focus on human growth and development, there is often a sense that money doesn’t matter; it’s the work that’s important.

Being too successful financially, in fact, is actually perceived as a negative that cheapens the worth of the good work being done. For-profit child care centers are often derided as kid-and-baby mills that care only about the almighty dollar.

This is, not to put too fine a point on it, bananas.

The legal set-up of any enterprise, whether for-profit or non-profit, has everything to do with taxes and almost nothing to do with the inherent value of the work performed there. There are plenty of shady, badly run non-profits out there, just as there are plenty of inspiring for-profits.

Making money through doing good work is not a bad thing. It’s actually a great thing, as business success enables you to expand your reach even further and help even more people—especially children!—in your community.

I see too many child care professionals sabotaging themselves and their businesses because of misconceptions like this, and it’s time for it to stop.

There is nothing virtuous about barely being able to keep your doors open because you’re afraid (on either a conscious or subconscious level) to make too much money. It is, on the other hand, both possible and wonderful to do well by doing good.

OK, folks, I’m getting off my soapbox now. End of rant. As you may have guessed, I feel strongly about this issue and don’t want you to get tripped up by it.

I also think I need to start bringing a notepad and pencil with me to the YMCA.

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

Watch Your Expectations

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As I was driving to pick up the kids yesterday, I saw something surprising outside the local Toyota dealership: A big sign that said “Now Hiring Salesmen.” (I would have taken a picture of it for you, but I was so stunned it was all I could do not to crash into the Toyota dealership.)

Salesmen only? Really? I am guessing – hoping – that Toyota is actually looking for good salespeople, male or female. (If they’re truly looking for guys only, that’s not only shortsighted but illegal.) It’s high time to invest in a new sign, Toyota.

While most of us aren’t this blatant about our hiring preconceptions, we all have them.

If I asked you to close your eyes and quickly picture your ideal next teaching hire for your child care center, I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that you’re picturing a woman. Not because you’re a sexist man-hater, but simply because, in today’s world, most early childhood professionals are women – just as most of the people who sell cars for a living are men.

You never want these preconceived notions to stand in the way of a great addition to your center. Maybe your next fantastic ECE hire is actually a man. Or someone of a different race than the rest of your current staff. Or two great teachers who divvy up their hours in a job-sharing arrangement.

When you keep an open mind and stay flexible, your pool of potential teaching talent expands exponentially. And a diverse staff is a wonderful asset for any employer. So when you’re drafting that next job ad, be careful about your language – and, even more important, your internal preconceptions about who you’re looking for.

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

Be A Resource for Your Families

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s a hilarious 7-minute video clip that’s been floating around the Internet for a few years now: British comedian Michael McIntyre talking about how “People With No Kids Don’t Know.”

As a parent of two children who are very close to the ages of his 3- and 6-year-old sons he talks about in the sketch, I found it particularly apt. If you have a few minutes and want a good laugh, I highly recommend you check it out.

There’s just so much people with no kids truly don’t know yet. I remember when one of my closest friends was heavily pregnant with twins, her biggest dilemma was whether to invest in one or two iPads for them. Once she had the twins, of course, that particular concern quickly fell by the wayside amidst the mountains of diapers and brutal sleep deprivation that quickly became her daily existence.

I wasn’t immune, either. Back in the day, I had these idyllic thoughts of feeding my future children nothing but wholesome, organic foodstuffs. Just yesterday I extracted a shard of Cheez-It from beneath one of my son’s fingernails, so you can see how well that whole plan played out.

You, of course, being an expert in all things small-child-related, may forget just how clueless brand-new and soon-to-be parents are when they first encounter your center. But they are. Many of them are also extremely nervous, too. For this reason, it’s important for you to serve as a knowledgeable resource for these folks. Why?

1. They will love you forever if you help them navigate the uncharted waters of parenthood.

2. They will trust your expertise and subsequently trust you with their children in the form of an enrollment.

3. They will refer you to other new and soon-to-be parents who are looking for care for their children.

In my experience, child care professionals are rarely unwilling to help. Rather, they forget just how uncommon their “common knowledge” about kids is – and some are concerned about looking pushy or braggy.

Fear not. If you offer suggestions and opinions in a friendly, informed way, they will pay off many times over. If you can parlay some of this expertise into your marketing materials – a brochure about good nap practices, for example, or a potty training series on your blog – you leverage it even further. Don’t be afraid to come across as the child care expert you already are.

P.S. The photo above is my daughter, Lorelei, at about two weeks old. As clueless as my husband and I were (and still are!), we hit the jackpot with her and her Cheez-It loving brother.

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

A Few Pointers on Performance Appraisals

paperworkYesterday, I was thrilled to speak at one of Fran Simon’s Early Childhood Investigations webinars about ECE teacher hiring and retention.

(If you’re not familiar with her ongoing webinar series, check it out here – so many great topics and they are 100% free to attend!)

A lot of excellent questions came up around the issue of performance appraisals for early childhood teachers, so I wanted to hit just a few highlights on the topic in today’s post:

1. Appraisals are important not just because they give you a chance to give performance feedback (which they do), but also because the very fact that you do them signals to your teachers that you care about their professional development.

2. The exact schedule for your performance appraisals doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that you do them. Once a year, twice a year, an informal quarterly get-together, or even mini monthly reviews are all fine. Just pick a schedule and stick to it.

3. Always include the opportunity for an employee self-appraisal component. Employees like to feel their opinions and concerns are being heard, and the self-appraisal can give you good insights on how to effectively manage (and motivate) the employee going forward.

4. Your performance review process should be separate from your process for promotions and raises. Doing them hand-in-hand sets a bad precedent and can train your employees to expect raises every single year.

5. Watch out for the recency effect – stuff that happened two days before the review (whether good or bad) is fresher in everyone’s minds than stuff that happened months ago, so it can unfairly be given too much weight. Keep notes throughout the year and review them before an employee’s review so that you have a balanced picture of his or her performance as a whole during this period.

6. Regardless of how often you conduct performance appraisals, employees should be given regular feedback all the time – never “save up” anything specifically for the performance review. As Fran wisely noted during yesterday’s webinar, nothing in the performance review should ever come as a surprise to the employee. (If it does, you’re doing it wrong!)

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