Effective marketing is one of the essential tools that will help you to become a highly sustainable childcare business, fill current childcare places and continue to attract a wide range of new customers in the future.
Before deciding on a marketing strategy, you need to identify some points:
- Who your current and potential customers are (target audience)
- What your USP is (unique selling point)
- What time of image are you trying to project?
Who are your current and potential customers?
Central to any successful marketing strategy is an understanding of your customers’ needs. It is important to build up an image of who they are. (Where do they live? Are they working?)
In order to build this picture, you will need to pull together information from as many different sources as possible. This is a process called market research.
It will be your ability to satisfy customers’ needs better than your competitors that will ultimately bring new customers.
In terms of how you market your services, you will need to know where they shop, which local paper they read and which toddler groups they visit. That way you will know where to target your marketing promotions.
What is your USP?
What makes you different from your competitors? Do you have a USP that makes you stand out? Your USP might be that you collect from local schools, serve organic food or have mature staff who are parents themselves, for example. Identifying your strengths will not only make you keep existing customers, but gain new ones.
Once you have identified a USP, you need to make sure your prospective customers know about it. You need to emphasise the points that your current customers value most and identify which aspects of your business will appeal to new customers.
Ways to market
When writing adverts, keep the text simple and to a minimum of words. Keep emphasising your USP.
Special events can provide an opportunity to show off your business to potential customers and the local community, as well as existing customers to show them why they should keep supporting your business. This might include giving the children opportunities to come to taster sessions, or having an open morning and advertise what might be on offer.
Invite local press or radio along, as this is a good way to get media coverage. If they cannot attend, ensure you get a picture and send it along with text to the news desk. Getting involved in community events is another way to create links with other local businesses and groups to raise your profile locally.
A growing number of people begin their searches for products and services on the internet. By having a website, you can reach a broader range of customers and it gives the customers information they require right in front of them.
Social media is a great way to get your business noticed. Websites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a great way to spread the word of your business events.
Make contact with other professionals who work with children. Health visitors have excellent local knowledge and contact with young families and your local children’s centre. Send them a prospectus and invite them along to see what your business has to offer. Also, contact local schools, churches, toddler groups, single parent networks, adult education centres and Job Centres who might have an interest in promoting your business.
Promoting your business
You will need to use a combination of promotional tools, most of which have costs attached. It is therefore important to think carefully about which combination best meets your needs and more importantly, your budget.
Word of mouth
Current customers are the best form of advertising and are free. Keep a book of references and thank you letters and have it on display. Word of mouth is perhaps the most powerful form of marketing, and if you monitor your customers’ feelings, you can help to ensure that your good reputation grows with your business.
Good quality signage will bring your service to the attention of the local community. It should include a logo (if you have one) and tell the public what your services offer. Contact details should also be clearly displayed.
If possible, the outside of your premises should be well maintained, clean and tidy at all times. It is often that the first thing the public will encounter and must reflect a professional image. This may be difficult if you do not own the premises, but it’s worth pursuing.
When designing the promotions, you need to consider what your customer will want to know about your business, and also what image you want to project.
- Have you made the most relevant or important information clear?
- Are the benefits clear?
- Does the promotion stand out?
- Are you reaching your target audience?
Monitor the effectiveness of the types of marketing you are using to confirm that you are getting value for money.
Information packs or a good quality prospectus can be a very valuable tool. A well presented, appealing document should be sent out to anyone who makes an enquiry about your business. It should include all the relevant information about your service and also contact details. Information that will change, such as costs, can be provided as an insert so that you don’t need to reprint too frequently, which can be costly.
Newsletters are a good way of maintaining close relationships with existing customers and allows you to keep them up to date with any current events and activities.
Direct mail shots can be used to target specific areas quickly. This can include employers, health centres or libraries.
Advertising in the local press or a parish magazine can sometimes be expensive, but the message reaches a wider audience. Make sure that your details are listed correctly on one big database.
Evaluation of marketing promotion
It is essential, especially when you have invested money in marketing, to evaluate whether money was well spent. Therefore, when potential customers make contact, always ask how they heard about you so that you can build a picture of which leaflet, advert or event was the most effective. Keep records of all contact details so that you can easily follow up any queries. If they choose to go elsewhere, ask if they are willing to say why so that you can note their reasons and see if a common factor arises.
In addition, it is good practice to ask joining parents to complete a questionnaire maybe one month after beginning to use your services. This will give feedback on anything that is being done well or not. Also, it lets them be able to tell you why they chose you and how their children are settling in. You may be able to send questionnaires or use telephone interviews for parents who made enquires, but then chose to go elsewhere. This will help inform you as to why.
For any further advice regarding marketing a childcare business, please don’t hesitate to contact The Early Years Business Team on 01454 863355 or email email@example.com