Business development

Increase your occupancy: 4 ways to boost referrals to your Early Years setting

Harness the power of parent promotion to get those occupancy rates up
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Business development

Increase your occupancy: 4 ways to boost referrals to your Early Years setting

January 24, 2023

Harness the power of parent promotion to get those occupancy rates up

Harness the power of parent promotion to get those occupancy rates up
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Matt Arnerich
January 24, 2023
January 24, 2023
Reading time:
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In a rush? Here's the quick run-down:

  • Show off your setting with a community event
    Encouraging prospective parents and their children into your setting can be as simple as just inviting them. Holding a party or event is a low-pressure way for families to get to know your setting before they commit to a show-around. Plus, current families can invite their friends
  • Make information about your setting hard to miss
    Prospective parents need to know a few basic things before they step foot through your door - who you are, where you are, what you offer, and how much you charge. Make this information easy for current parents to share and potential new parents to find.
  • Ask your current parents nicely
    It may seem obvious, but as the old saying goes, 'If you don't ask, you don't get." Let current parents know you have spaces available at your setting and to spread the word. You could even offer a small incentive for doing so.
  • Work with your local community and local businesses
    Swap flyers with close-by child-friendly businesses, like libraries, play centres, and clubs to get a bit of local exposure and offer to do the same for them too.
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There's nothing like a referral from a trusted source.

Asking a friend if they know someone for a job or service is often our first port of call before we even think of Googling it. And, many parents start their search for childcare providers or Early Years settings exactly the same way, through referrals from friends. So how can we make the most of it in the Early Years?

It starts with running a great setting, where children are happy and thriving. The better the early education you provide, the more parents and carers will want to recommend you. But there are plenty of other steps you can take as well.

Here are four of the best ways to increase your referrals and get that occupancy rate rocketing.

Increase occupancy with an Early Years event

The idea: Hold an open day or event

Traditional marketing methods have their place in getting your name out there but, for prospective families, there's nothing like seeing your setting live to really get a feel for it. Why not hold a special event, where your current children and parents can invite their friends and families with younger children?

Your target audience is families with nursery or pre-school aged children, so consider what kind of event would attract those parents. The aim is to show off the best of your setting but without the pressure or perceived commitment of a show-around. Consider relaxed and fun events like:

  • A craft event
  • A messy play session
  • A dance party
  • A picnic in your setting's garden

Consider what makes you special. For example, if you have a forest school, why not hold a forest-school open day event for families in your local area?

You’re giving new parents an opportunity to see your nursery at its best, with people they’re comfortable around. Just make sure you have some leaflets and contact details to hand for curious prospective parents.

Make information about your setting clear and easily accessible

The idea: Have plenty of information on your notice board that parents can pass to potential customers.

You may already have plenty of happy parents, who're willing to recommend you to their friends, but perhaps you're just not making it easy enough for them.

Have a supply of leaflets in a high-traffic place, such as near your main entrance, so parents can pick easily one up to give to a friend. You could also create a one-page PDF with some basic information about your setting. This should include:

  • Your setting's basic information, like name, address, opening hours, and contact information
  • Some strong selling points, like what makes your setting unique, special services, or facilities.
  • What the next steps are and how to complete them, such as how to book a show-around or register online.

The easier it is to find this information, the easier it is for parents to sell you to their friends.

The idea: Make your website simple and easy to navigate

A website is almost essential for any business and can be incredibly valuable to Early Years settings. But you've got to do it well.

You certainly don't need a degree in digital marketing but you should make sure that your website has easy access to information about your setting, including how prospective parents take the next step. That might be a sign-up form for a show-around or an open day, or simply making sure that all your contact details are easy to find.

You can also attract parents through social media, such as via Facebook advertising, or simply posting on local groups.

Meet your occupancy goals with word-of-mouth

The idea: Just ask parents to spread the word

Word-of-mouth marketing is as old as business itself and is a great way to increase your occupancy, so don't be afraid of asking parents directly for referrals.

Simply tell parents that more sessions have recently become available, and if they know anyone on the hunt for an Early Years setting, let them know. This approach might even lead to your existing parents signing up for more sessions throughout the week.

However, do consider the timing of your request. For example, if you've just let your existing customers know you're going to be increasing fees, they might not be as willing to sing your praises. On the other hand, sending a message out after some good news, such as a great Ofsted inspection or after your annual summer party, can mean that the parents are more likely to answer favourably.

What’s more, if you’re asking people directly, see if you can make it worth their time. A small, one-off discount on fees could be a good incentive for parents.

The idea: Encourage regular feedback from your existing customers

If you’re asking for referrals you need to be open to feedback too. After all, if your parents aren’t recommending you to their friends, it's better to know the reason why. You might not be able to resolve the problem immediately, but it can be just as powerful to explain why your setting does things in a certain way.

Giving parents a clearer view of day-to-day life at the nursery, keeping them updated on events, and opening up better channels of communication could make all the difference when that friend asks “What nursery does Emily go to again?”.

‍‍Leverage local businesses to help you increase your occupancy

The idea: Work together with your community to help other local businesses as they help you

Referrals don’t have to come from parents. Chances are, there are loads of other opportunities in your area to set up complimentary referral schemes.

Libraries, museums, or children's activity centres may allow you to leave some flyers with them if you pop some of theirs on the notice board at your setting too. And, when the children from your setting visit these places on an outing, don't forget to let them know who you are.

It might be worth getting friendly with a local estate agency too. Estate agents regularly advise new families to the area, who may be looking for a home near good schools and Eary Years settings (yours being one of them). Not only that, but estate agents could give you the inside scoop on any new housing developments, bringing an influx of families with them.

All in all, putting your name further out there into the community is unlikely to ever be a bad thing.

For more occupancy advice, why not check out our complete guide to marketing your nursery.

The big ideas

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Official Danish Government Reopening Advice

Guidance from the Danish Health Ministry, translated in full to English.

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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 ensured the Tenderlinks team felt well-supported in managing their nursery, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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Learn more about Famly

Find out below how Famly ensured the Tenderlinks team felt well-supported in managing their nursery, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.

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Learn more about Famly

Find out below how Famly ensured the Tenderlinks team felt well-supported in managing their nursery, and see what we can do for you in a personal demo.