Business development

How nurseries can make the most of every parent enquiry

A new parent is interested in your early years setting. Now what?
Parent enquiries are a key opportunity to boost your nursery's occupancy.
January 27, 2023
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In a rush? Here's the quick run-down.

  • In the early years, keeping your occupancy up is key to your nursery's success. And that starts with making good first impressions on those initial enquiries.
  • To do make the most of each enquiry, you should have printed and digital resources ready that offer parents a quick summary of the unique qualities of your setting.
  • Read on for details on what most parents are looking for from their child care providers, and how you can turn those inquiries into higher occupancy.

Having sufficient occupancy in your nursery is a never-ending challenge. And especially now, when money's tight, keeping your occupancy rate high is even more critical. 

So when one lands on your doorstep, you've got to do everything you can to turn that enquiry into an enrolment.

Every interested parent is a huge opportunity for your nursery setting. A new child joining means more money coming in to support your program, and a broader community to share the good work you do. After all, occupancy isn't just about revenue — it's also about the invaluable word-of-mouth promotion for your nursery that grows with every new family.

When you get those curious enquiries, you don't want to be caught off-guard. Having a confident, organized response makes a strong impression with parents, and moves them closer to enrolling at your nursery.

But what does that response look like? It's time to talk about our game plan.

Let's look at a couple ways you can better connect with those parent enquiries, and ultimately increase your occupancy.

Parent enquiries start with a good first impression

Enquiries don't just come out of thin air. First, you've got to make sure parents know about you.

But when you're competing with other nurseries in your area, who are all trying to increase their own occupancy rates, there’s going to be a bit of competition. The good news is, you're the one reading this article to learn how to do it best.

One reliable way you can stand out is by preparing a package of up-to-date information to present to enquiring parents. You should have this available in both print and digital forms. It should be an easy handout to those prospects, to quickly show them the very best parts of your child care program. You'll want to have this available in case someone swings by your setting, and also easily accessible on your website.

Think of it as a one-stop-shop sort of handout, that makes your nursery stand out as exceptionally well-organised.

Some great elements to include in this package could be:

  • Sample lesson plans you're proud of
  • Recent popular events your setting has hosted
  • Details on your provisions for a certain age group, like infants or toddlers
  • Short bios on some of your stellar staff, and any special qualifications they may have
  • A calendar highlighting future workshops or events you’re excited about
  • A custom form to register interest and gather all the information you need

Basically, you should include any examples of resources and materials that show just how great your nursery is, and how much preparation and planning goes into everything you do. And be sure to add as many pictures, and videos if you have any, of the children actively engaged. All of this will help the parents imagine their own children at your setting and how much fun they could be having.

The big ideas

The power of parent testimonials

When we're talking first impressions, another thing that can go a long way are parent testimonials from those families currently enrolled.

Ask a particularly dedicated parent or send an email to your current enrolment list, requesting testimony submissions to use. You could make this request in your email newsletters, ask parents in person, or send out a message in a digital communication app like Famly.

The trick here is to make it easy for parents: just ask for a few sentences on why they chose your nursery, or their child's favourite part about your setting.

Once you compile a decent list, you can show new prospects who are considering enrollment. Just pop these quotes in that "first impression" package, or make them visible on your website and social media pages.

You can talk yourself up and provide data until you're out of breath, but seeing positive feedback from existing parents can make all the difference when it comes to convincing those enquiring families.

What's your unique selling point?

If you haven’t heard it before, the acronym USP stands for “unique selling point.” It's a common term in all sorts of sales work, and you can use it with your nursery too.

Within an early years context, a USP just refers to some special part of your setting that makes you stand out from the rest.

This doesn't mean you have to come up with something completely revolutionary to increase your occupancy. Odds are you already have some unique trait — it's just a matter of emphasising it. When parents see your setting has a special feature, unique curriculum or another distinct resource, it can help you stay at the forefront of their mind, and bring them that much closer to signing up.

Here are a couple examples of unique selling points in early education:

  • A specialised curriculum, like Montessori or an outdoor learning emphasis
  • Unique staff training, like SEND qualifications
  • A food program with a local co-op or organic farm, or a vegetarian menu
  • Membership or engagement with a national association like the Early Years Alliance
  • An impressive Ofsted rating
  • Special programs or events specifically for parents
  • Bilingual educators, or a multilingual focus
  • Flexible or extended operational hours

The list of potential selling points goes on, but anything that goes beyond the basics is worth noting. After a parent has expressed interest, these are the small things they will be looking for before making a final decision for their child.

Invested in child development? Shine a spotlight on it

If you’re in an area where interested parents have multiple options for nurseries to choose from, one way to stand out in the crowd is to make sure you and your team are up to date on new studies and trends within early education. 

This is a great chance to highlight all the skill, knowledge and experience that goes into each day in the early years. Too many parents just don't notice all the skilled work that happens behind the scenes. But if you make an effort to highlight it, this not only elevates the profile of early years workers, but makes you stand out as the most professional choice in your area.

There’s constantly new research regarding early learning that comes out every year and, making sure your teachers have access to it is a great way to impress parents. This can mean paying to send your teachers to seminars and workshops to educate themselves, or providing your staff with copies of a new book from a publisher or author you trust. If little things like this become a habit, you know you’ll always be on the cutting edge. And if you do the work, it's worth talking about it with families.

If you can show parents that investing in your staff and creating a stimulating environment is a priority for you, they will know their children’s education will be top notch. It's an important factor that many settings might overlook, but underlining your pedagogical credentials can really make you stand out.

Digital tools help you connect with parents

Since most modern nurseries are adapting digital early childhood platforms, it's worth making sure parents know how this technology makes their lives easier.

In other words, you can use it as another selling point to parents.

While there are a lot of administrative aspects to early years software, here are some ways you can pitch it to parents:

If you do use an early childhood platform, you can have a section of your website that further explains details of the software. Or if you are speaking with them in person, you can pull out your tablet and walk them through the app. Being prepared for a quick little demonstration, whether that's in person or displayed on your website, can be another way to make that lasting impression on parents.

You should always follow up on every enquiry

Whether you’re able to speak with a family in person or if you’re only exchanging emails, don’t be afraid to follow up after the initial engagement.

It may seem a little aggressive to reach out via email or phone call after an encounter, but showing you care about the family and child on a personal level could be what they need to make a final decision. Most parents will appreciate your interest. Sometimes, they might have just forgotten to follow up with you, and your little nudge could make the difference.

Invite them to visit for a walk-through, or maybe offer a free (or discounted) session on a slow day — whatever you can do to make a connection, and make them feel like more than just another source of revenue.

Parents are going to have a lot of questions and concerns regarding their child’s education, daily activities and wellbeing. If they have already made the step to reach out and show interest in your nursery, you should be able to meet their questions with answers.

When you're following up, you should be prepared to offer:

  • Materials, testimonials from other parents and trusted referrals for your program
  • Specific background and qualifications for teachers, especially if you any have unique perspectives or specialize in a specific area
  • A physical handbook that explains policies and procedures
  • A clear and concise mission statement about what you and your center believes in and what your priorities are
  • If your center has been given any accolades or honours for your work

You already know the parents want the service you provide, so if you come to the table with a confident game plan, you can impress those prospects before they lose interest and enquire somewhere else. 

Finally, if a parent ultimately decides to pick a different nursery, don’t hesitate to ask why in a respectful manner. Perhaps it was something your center lacked, or something someone else had. In either case, this can be a valuable learning experience that helps you sharpen your enquiry response process. With that information, you can direct energy and resources to bettering your setting so the next one won’t get away.

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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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