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What's your USP? The key to making your nursery stand out

January 7, 2023

How to find your nursery's unique selling point, and why it's so helpful for early years marketing

How to find your nursery's unique selling point, and why it's so helpful for early years marketing
Finding your unique selling point is a big advantage in early years marketingEY Playbook Blog Badge LogoEY Playbook Mobile logo




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In a rush? Here's the quick run-down.

  • This piece explains the idea of a USP, a marketing term that stands for 'unique selling point.' If you don't have one yet, it can be a big help in boosting your promotional efforts.
  • Put simply, a USP is a characteristic of your nursery that makes you stand out from the crowd, or makes your setting extra appealing to some specific niche.
  • In this story, we'll run through a few ideas you might want to use as your own USP.

The reality of running a nursery hasn’t got any easier. We saw thousands of providers drop off in the wake of the pandemic — which means that for every provider remaining, competition is a little bit steeper these days.

This extra competition might seem daunting at first, but I'm here to say it doesn't have to be as big as it feels. The trick is simple: find something that makes you stand out, and talk about that loudly. You should look at it as an opportunity to stand up, be counted and shout from the rooftops. You just need to approach it from a new angle.

Finding that angle means deciding your USP: it's a marketing term that stands for 'unique selling point.' In layperson's terms, it's some factor or characteristic that you do better than your competitors, and that makes you stand out in the best way. This piece is all about helping you find out what your own USP could be.

But before we get into some ideas for differentiating your nursery from the rest in the area, you need to start with a little bit of snooping around.

Do your neighbouring nurseries already have USPs?

You ought to begin by drawing up a list of the other nurseries in the area, and head to their websites and social media to work out the kind of features they have, and specialities they offer.

In other words, you need to find their USPs. After all, if you both have the same unique selling point, it doesn't really seem all that unique.

What have they got that no one else does? Maybe they’re doing something better than anyone else? What do they like to point to, or show off, most often on their website and social media?

Think about what would attract you, and look at what their parents are saying about them on Facebook and Google reviews. Until you know what else is being offered in the local area, it’s difficult to see what you can do to set yourself apart. Once you’ve seen for yourself what the options are for other parents out there, you’ll know two things:

  1. First, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the most successful nurseries are doing right. Look for the nurseries that have online waiting lists and rave reviews as easy indications for the best performers.
  2. Second, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll know what’s missing. And knowing what’s missing is the first step in plugging that gap.

What are parents looking for in a nursery?

You might have a few unique traits about your nursery, so picking the right USP comes down to deciding which single trait is going to resonate the most with parents.

There’s no point filling a gap in the market if there was a good reason why no one else had chosen to fill it already. There might be a reason why no else is planning that martial arts-focused nursery, for example.

One nice trick here to steal from the marketing world is what’s called 'social listening.' You can best understand the problems parents have and start thinking about potential solutions by checking in on discussions they’re having with each other on public forums. What problems are they dealing with? How could you be part of the solution?

You might try Mumsnet or local parenting groups on Facebook as a starter. Look for anecdotal evidence from your existing parents too, to work out what you’re doing well and what you could improve on. You might ask parents what it was about you that made them enrol their child. Are they all saying the same thing?

Once you've done some field research, it's time to decide on your own USP.

USP idea 1: top-quality food

It might seem like a strange place to start, but surveys show that more than 60% of parents value food quality as a very important factor in choosing their childcare. In fact, encouraging healthy behaviours was found to be more important to parents than Ofsted rating.

Differentiating yourself by offering a focus on healthy food and behaviours can be a great way to go. Consider independent accreditation, as many parents are much more trustworthy when your claims are associated with an external source.

If you have a good outdoor space at your nursery, starting a small vegetable patch can be a great addition to your program. Not only do you encourage healthy behaviours in the children, but it can be a fun resource to help them understand where the stuff on their plate actually comes from. Read more about gardening in the early years right here.

USP idea 2: flexible hours and pricing

Not all parents are lucky enough to have the kind of flexible work that allows them to manage their childcare more easily. A great way to appeal to this wide group of parents is to offer them the flexibility they’re missing. Maybe you could be the nursery in your area that's the best pick for parents who work night shifts, or irregular hours.

Now, this flexibility can make staff-to-child ratios and planning availability more difficult, but if you get your child attendance and plans organised, offering a variety of more adaptable sessions times can be relatively simple.

If there is a lack of care outside hours in your area, even starting a breakfast or after-school club is a great start. Not only do they make your offering more valuable to prospective parents, but you can maximise revenue much more easily.

Some nurseries are even taking this idea to extremes and offering drop and shop schemes over busy periods. Not easy, but a huge selling point to potential prospective parents if you can pull it off.

You can get some more ideas for flexible hours and pricing plans here.

USP idea 3: unparalleled parent communications

While we’re talking about the importance of parent expectations, we should mention the importance of how you communicate with the ones who are already signed onto your nursery.

Parents increasingly expect an interactive, immersive understanding of how their child is progressing through the day and if you can set yourself apart in terms of the experience you offer, it can really help you stand out from the crowd.

Sharing photos, keeping them up to date on child development and opening up channels for cooperation and collaboration can all be hugely important to demonstrating your focus on keeping the parents engaged and involved. If you're looking for more on boosting parent partnerships, we've got a whole guide on that right here.

If you feel like parent collaboration is already a strong point, why not establish a scheme whereby new parents can get in touch with existing parents to ask them questions about the way your nursery is run. If you know you’ve got happy parents already, make them your ambassadors. Here are a few ideas on harnessing the power of parent promotions.

USP idea 4: outdoor learning and day trips

With ever increasing health and safety concerns and endless permission forms needed, many nurseries are choosing to organise fewer trips.

This is a great opportunity to stick your head above the parapet and be known as the nursery in the local area that is always thinking of fun ways to get the kids out of the classroom and into the local community, to see and do new things.

Not only are day trips great for exploring, but they often give children strong memories, that can be later developed in exercises back in the classroom. To get you started on that, you might want to check out our guide with 71 different day trip ideas to try.

We love this story about how one nursery turned what was potentially the most mundane part of the trip, the journey on the tube, into the part that the children liked the most, including it in their day to day play.

USP idea 5: having the best team in town

It’s a no-brainer that every nursery manager will try and get the best staff they can. Whether it’s impressive qualifications or a natural flair with children of all ages, you’re always on the look out for the best early years practitioners for your childcare setting.

However, one important thing when it comes to thinking about parents is the extent to which they rely on their instincts when choosing a nursery setting for their children.

More than 90% see good staff/child relationships as important when choosing a childcare setting, and quality caregivers will always shine, but don’t look past the value of choosing staff who are approachable and naturally friendly to new parents too. They tend to fall back on the gut feeling when it comes to making that final call meaning their experience with the staff could make all the difference.

The same study suggests that 92% of parents value good access to outdoor space. If you have the opportunity to open up a better outdoor space it’s a real must, especially if you’re in an area where this kind of space in nurseries is at a premium.

So... what's your unique selling point?

This is where your research really counts. What is there an appetite for in the local community? It won’t be a deal breaker for everyone, but it might be the one thing that counts in your specific situation.

It's worth keeping in mind that unique selling point isn't what makes you most appealing to everybody. Sometimes, it's more powerful to be extra appealing to a specific share of the market, rather than trying to be the best pick for every single family.

Some other ideas you might try on for size:

  • Specialised pedagogy like Montessori or Reggio Emilia
  • Extra emphasis on outdoor learning
  • Staff with special qualifications, such as a SENCo
  • Support for children and families learning English as a second language

Whatever your USP is, it won’t be for everyone, but if your research shows that there is a gap and an appetite, a subtle change in the focus of your nursery can really change how you attract new parents.

It might be just the thing you need to stand out from the crowd.

The big ideas

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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

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UK Nursery Covid-19 Response Group Recommendations

The full recommendations from a working group of over 70 nursery chains in the UK.

Please note: here at Famly we love sharing creative activities for you to try with the children at your setting, but you know them best. Take the time to consider adaptions you might need to make so these activities are accessible and developmentally appropriate for the children you work with. Just as you ordinarily would, conduct risk assessments for your children and your setting before undertaking new activities, and ensure you and your staff are following your own health and safety guidelines.

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Find out below how Famly improved parent communication at N Family Club, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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