So, we’re sunk in a pandemic, the economy’s a mess, and we go to bed most nights feeling like someone microwaved our brain.
How could marketing your child care center seem like a priority right now?
Well, it’s really easy to get caught up in the gloomy headlines. But within the smaller world of child care, there are a few important truths: First, your work remains as valuable and essential as ever to help raise healthy, curious children. And marketing your child care center is still an important part of that mission, even in this chaotic year. When it feels like we’re swimming in big problems, this is one of the challenges where you can make a real, positive change today.
But how should you market your child care setting right now? It just doesn’t seem right to take a “business as usual” approach, when business is anything but usual.
To learn more, I called up marketing expert Sindye Alexander. Sindye is the Director of Marketing and Sales for the Child Care Success Company, and has over 24 years of experience in the child care sector. We talked about how child care marketing works in the middle of all this mess: What tone resonates best with parents, what strategies work, and the big do’s and don’ts.
Here’s what you need to know.
What’s the right tone to take in your marketing material?
Writing even a parent newsletter might feel like a tightrope act. On one hand, it’s not helpful to despair in the stress we’re all facing. But on the other hand, it feels weird to pretend this is a normal year, and everything’s fine.
So when you’re working on your child care marketing materials — whether that’s a Facebook post, a flyer, or an email — how much should you acknowledge, well… everything that’s going on?
Sindye says that you should acknowledge these tough times — so long as you find a way to be part of the solution.
“Don’t just ignore what’s going on in the world. Think about how you fit into some of the bigger issues we’re facing right now, and show that you’re working to help them, and help your community,” Sindye says. “When you show that you’re giving back to others, people resonate with that. People want to be part of a movement.”
How to market your child care through community partnerships
We’re all paying attention to how the pandemic is impacting our own communities — and what local organizations are doing to help out. Why not put your name in the conversation?
Exploring local partnerships is not only a meaningful way to help out, but it’s also an opportunity to introduce your child care center to new families in your area, and to help connect your name with some worthy causes.
Here are some of Sindye’s suggestions for how to take action, while also spreading the word about your child care setting:
Get your team (or children) together to make homemade masks, to donate to a local school, hospital or shelter.
Put on a socially-distanced bake sale or other fundraiser, to collect money for a local charity, mutual aid fund or community members facing especially hard times.
Invite a guest speaker for a Zoom talk about an important current issue, like diversity or supporting healthy child development at home.
Explore partnership options in providing child care for staff at your local hospital, school or advocacy group.
Is now the right time for “getting political” in your child care marketing?
The pandemic isn’t the only big issue that makes child care marketing seem a bit tricky.
What if you want to voice support for a movement like Black Lives Matter, or you’re concerned that taking a stand for another social cause or community issue might put off a prospective parent?
Sindye says not to worry. For every prospective parent you might put off, you’ll draw in another.
“Don’t be afraid to promote the stance you’re taking, and what you’re doing about it. You’re going to attract the families that are looking for that — when you show what you stand for, you’ll attract parents that share those values.”
Of course, you don’t need to get political if it doesn’t feel right.
You can still get involved in community or national issues just by keeping children at the center of it all. Raising funds for your local children’s hospital, advocating for more support for child care workers, or hosting a guest Zoom speaker on children’s issues are all great ways to get involved in something positive, while not scaring anybody away.
The number one issue for prospective parents
When prospective parents come across your marketing messages, what should be front and center? According to Sindye, emphasizing your coronavirus safety measures is still the most important thing.
“Yes, there’s some COVID fatigue now, so it might not seem so scary any more to some of us. But even though we’re used to hearing about it all the time now, coronavirus safety measures are still a big concern for families,” Sindye says.
What’s new, Sindye says, is the angle you take on it. It’s no longer about announcing how you’ll change, but emphasizing what you’ve already done as a core part of your child care setting’s marketing.
“Now, it’s important to show how you’ve reimagined things during the past year. Show your teachers in masks, show your children socially distanced on their carpet squares, or show your team checking temperatures at the door. All these are proof that you’re taking this seriously,” Sindye says.
From the photos on your website to the posts on your child care setting’s social media, you should make it clear how you’ve made coronavirus safety a regular part of your practice. When your message spells “safety” from the start, parents feel reassured, and are more likely to enroll.
Parent testimonials are bigger than ever
When our health and safety is on the line, hearing other parents vouch for your child care setting goes even further with prospective families.
“Testimonials are a great way to answer those anxieties that new families might have. It goes a long way to hear other parents say, ‘I was nervous too — but I saw this team doing the extra cleaning, I saw them social distancing, and the way they communicate with parents, and I trust it,’” Sindye says. “If one member of your community is willing to do this in a video, or a written testimonial, it’s so, so powerful as marketing material.”
To market your child care setting in these times, parent testimonials are a great way to reinforce the message that your setting is safe, caring, and open for business. But the most important part about testimonials? Not being shy about asking for them.
Top tips for getting that golden testimonial
Here’s Sindye’s advice for getting a great testimonial for your child care marketing campaign:
Identify your biggest supporters. Who are your biggest fans at your setting? Keep them on your shortlist for testimonials. Then? Just start asking. “If you have any inkling at all that a parent is happy with your service, just ask them! It’s the easiest thing. Send them an email, or ask them on their way out,” Sindye says.
Ask when parents are in the right mood. If a parent is feeling complimentary about your child care setting, that’s a great time to ask for a testimonial. “Just say something like, ‘Hey, can you say that again, and can I get it on camera?’ They’re happy, they’re in the mood! Most of the time, they’re going to say yes,” Sindye says.
Prepare a few questions to get parents talking. Prepared questions are a great way to get parents thinking about why they like your child care setting so much. Think up some open-ended questions about why parents are happy with your service during the pandemic, and keep these handy for written or video testimonials.
Making referral campaigns a part of your marketing message
The pandemic means we might think about referrals a little differently. When finances are even more pressed than we’re used to, incentivizing parents with a few hundred dollars’ tuition discount isn’t an easy option for a lot of us.
The good news is, you can run referrals at a low cost, too. As Sindye says, just offering a simple thank-you note, or a gift certificate for dinner can be enough to get parents engaged. But what’s especially important here is the message you create from your referrals: In all this uncertainty, parents still trust your care and want to bring others into the community.
“When someone does refer a new family, get a photo of them, and share that on your parent newsletter, or social media. That’s really big. It helps create a welcoming culture, of making everyone feel like they’re involved. That gets people feeling motivated to be a part of your child care center,” she says.
But behind the scenes, there are a few clever marketing tricks going on here.
“When you’re showing you have a new family, and that one parent was confident enough in you to refer another, you’re reinforcing parents’ idea that they made a good choice with you,” Sindye says. “Each post you make helps reinforce that idea for parents, and helps them feel more and more comfortable with referring their own friends and colleagues. It might come along six months later, but it helps to keep that idea fresh in peoples’ minds.”
Celebrating your community is an organic way to thank the parents at your child care settings, and it’s better than just sending out nagging reminders that you’re doing referrals. What’s important to keep in mind is consistency; of cultivating this marketing message that makes parents want to get their own network involved.
The importance of overmarketing — and why it works
As you’re thinking about how your child care marketing will look in these times, there’s one more big question: How much should you be spreading your message?
Well, there’s any number of reasons why someone might miss your marketing message — we’re all a bit maxed out right now.
To counter that, Sindye recommends ‘overmarketing’ — pushing your message out as much as you can, on every platform you can. To the marketer, she says, it might feel like a lot. But to the marketee, it’s far from overwhelming.
“On your end it might feel like you’re doing too much marketing, because you’re seeing it in every place you’re putting it out. But the people receiving your message aren’t necessarily receiving your message on every platform. Even if you’re putting out marketing messages 10 different ways, a prospective parent might only be seeing one,” Sindye says.
There’s any number of trivial, understandable reasons why a prospective parent missed the marketing message your child care setting is putting out. So don’t be afraid to send out those emails, post a Facebook update, share on Instagram, and put a sign out front. Especially now, you want to stay at the top of people’s minds.
Sindye’s Do’s and Don’ts of child care marketing in the pandemic
To wrap up, let’s boil all this down to the essentials. Here are Sindye’s biggest do’s and don’ts for child care marketing in 2020:
Don’t make your marketing message all about yourself. Especially now, it’s important to find a way to get involved in a community issue.
Don’t seem desperate for new enrollment — even if you are. This probably isn’t the right point to have front and center in your marketing messages.
Don’t be afraid of what other people are going to say. If you want to be vocal about social issues, your message will resonate with parents who share your values.
Don’t stop marketing. “Keep your message out there, and stay in front of people,” Sindye says. “When they’re ready, if they’re not right now, you want to be the first to come to mind.”
Do talk about how you’ve adapted. Promote your new unique selling points, like touchless sign-ins, or how your childcare management software helps keep everyone safe right now.
Do show parents how you’ll answer their anxieties. At the moment, a big part of that is how you’ll keep children and your team safe and healthy.
Do keep building relationships. Collect parent testimonials, encourage referrals, and make time for one-on-one conversations with current and prospective parents.
Do make sure your website is easy to find. When we’re using the Internet more than ever, making sure your website is clean, helpful, and optimized for search engines is a big way to connect with prospective parents.
Do keep your message out there. Do what you can to stay on prospective parents’ minds, and be there when they’re ready to get involved.
Do show that you’re still a loving, caring, quality environment. Corona precautions and community issues aside, children’s wellness is still at the very core of what you do.
Official Danish Government Reopening Advice
Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.
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