3 Child Care Marketing Mindset Myths

If you’re like many child care professionals, the idea of marketing your program – or yourself, for that matter – is not at all appealing. Maybe you’ve found yourself thinking something along the lines of the following:

If people are right for our program, they’ll find us.

I’m just too busy to worry about marketing right now.

I don’t want to bother people.

I am here today to officially bust you on every one of these (but it will be kind of fun, I promise). Let’s get started, shall we?

Unhelpful mindset #1: If people are right for our program, they’ll find us.

This is just plain not true. Parents of young children, in addition to being bombarded with all kinds of stimuli (not to mention airborne Cheerios), are so tired and distracted that you really have to get in their face – which can be done in a good way – to get them to notice much of anything.

I say this as a person with a Wiggles-addled brain who just received a call from the local library because I returned to them a Curious George DVD that actually belongs to our personal collection and not the library’s. Mind of Mush, I tell you.

Look at it this way: If you don’t take pains to get the word out about your great program, that mush-minded mom down the street may well be swayed by a flyer from a far inferior child care program across town – and that’s a shame, both for her family and for your child care business.

Unhelpful mindset #2: I’m just too busy to worry about marketing right now.

No, you’re not. If, in fact, your program is humming along and you are full to capacity, that’s wonderful! And it’s also precisely why you need to be working on your marketing right now so that you stay full and humming when the next lull happens, as it invariably does.

And if your program is not currently full to capacity? Well, then, marketing your program is pretty much the most important work you could be doing.

If you’re overextended doing other stuff that’s not directly related to generating new leads, conducting tours, and securing new enrollments, you need to clear the decks to make some time for these crucial business-builders.

Unhelpful mindset #3: I don’t want to bother people.

As my wonderful business coach, Michael Katz, put it so well in one of his blog posts:

If you found a cure for a deadly disease, you wouldn’t hide it in your basement. You’d be out there telling the world, day and night, until everyone who could benefit knew about it. Not only would people be happy to pay for it, they’d be angry if you didn’t give them the chance.

The same is true of your child care program. People will always want, and need, great child care. If you offer that – and I’m sure you do – then you owe it to your community to tell them about all you offer and give them the chance to enroll.

So get out there and get marketing.

Click here to get your copy of our exclusive free report, 6 Easy Ways To Boost Enrollments and Attract the Very Best Staff.

It’s All Relative

Portsmouth-20140117-00127

Until our recent move, my family and I lived in a little old house that was built sometime in the mid-1800s.

It’s kind of a crazy place. While it’s full of character and charm, it’s also full of low, forehead-cracking ceiling beams and odd construction, as well as wonky wiring that regularly challenged and enraged our talented local electrician (who was there so often, we should have kept a bed made up for him).

By any objective standard, that house is old. It’s amazing to me that I spent eight years living someplace older than anyone still alive on this earth – it was here long before many U.S. states were established, and it pre-dates Abraham Lincoln’s presidential administration.

But here in Portsmouth, it’s no big deal. Many folks live in even older places that date back to the 1700s.

And just down the street from my former residence, in fact, is a house that was built in 1664. According to the local historical society, the Jackson House is the oldest wooden structure still standing in either New Hampshire or Maine (Massachusetts, of course, has the Pilgrims and the Mayflower and all that, so there’s some seriously old stuff there).

Nobody lives in the Jackson House now, though it is the site of an annual apple cider festival (where Lorelei, notably, had an epic meltdown during her toddler days).

As old as my “old” house is, in other words, it was the newcomer on the block in 1850 – not by a few years, mind you, but by nearly two full centuries.

I tell you this story as a reminder that no matter how new you are to the child care business, to most of the parents you serve, you are an experienced expert. And that fact is gold when it comes to marketing your program.

People like to learn from experts and get their opinion on things. It makes them feel that they’re investing their money wisely. Additionally, when you’re talking about something as personal as child care, it makes parents feel safe and reassured that they’ve chosen the right place to send their children.

Speaking as a parent, I loved knowing that the lead infant room teacher at my children’s center had been there for over 20 years – she has cared for hundreds if not thousands of babies in her time there, and I always viewed her as my resident guru on all questions baby-related. I feel the same way about my son’s current preschool teacher, a 15-year industry veteran.

But even the brand-new teachers know a whole lot more than I do – and I remain so grateful for (and impressed by) their wisdom.

Too often in the child care profession, administrators and teachers downplay their expertise. Part of it is an unfortunate societal tendency to discount the important work you do, and part of it is the fact that people in the child care profession tend to be giving, selfless folks.

But it’s important to fight this tendency and be proud of – and vocal about – everything you know. When parents ask your opinion on something, give it. Host a class on child development at your center. Write an ebook about your center’s teaching philosophy, and send it out to current and prospective parents.

It may feel unnatural at first, but the more you start owning your expert status, the better you’ll become at it. You’ll start to become the local authority on child care in your area. And that’s a great place to be, because prospective parents will start coming to you rather than you trying to chase them down.

Dr. Benjamin Spock’s famous words to new parents are equally applicable to child care professionals: “Trust yourself – you know more than you think you do.”

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 64 Terrific Child Care Marketing Ideas.

From the Mailbag: Where Are All the Teachers?

mailboxToday we’ve got a great question from a reader that will resonate with many of you:

I was wondering if you could advise on WHERE to find qualified childcare teachers!!!!!  We’ve really struggled with this over the years and can’t seem to find a good resource to use that generates qualified leads.  We’ve tried local colleges, Facebook posts on local community pages, Craigslist, Indeed, bulletin boards in local shops, word of mouth/friends/family (including our existing teachers doing this)… It just doesn’t seem to provide good, qualified leads!  HELP!  I need a head hunter!   -C.S.

Make no mistake, this is a huge problem in early ed – and it sounds like our reader has done a great job covering all her bases (including both online and offline sources, as well as good old-fashioned word of mouth).

While there’s unfortunately no easy solution that will work for every center – especially if you’re in a small geographic area – there are a few things you can do to up your odds:

1. Always be hiring. Don’t wait until you have an opening to start looking. Always, always be on the lookout for great talent.

2. Be open about the fact that you’re always looking for great talent. Now, this is a little like dating – you definitely don’t want to come across as desperate – but you do want to let qualified folks know you’d love to hear from them anytime. This could be as simple as a short note on your website: “Here at Fun Kids USA, we are always looking for fantastic new members to join our teaching team! If you’d like to learn more, call or send an email to…”

You could also repeat that message in your staff and parent handbooks – you might even include a few staff testimonials about why they love working there, just as you do with parents. The more clearly you can get across why you’re a great employer, the more interest you’ll generate.

3. Figure out what’s in it for them. I always tell schools that have trouble finding good teachers to clean their own house first. In other words, look around and honestly assess whether you run the type of center a great teacher would love to teach at. If not, you need to get that sorted out first. You may be hoping one or two good teachers will help you raise the bar, but unfortunately it doesn’t work that way – you need to raise the bar first.

4. Present your benefits effectively. If you can honestly say you run a great center, the next question is whether you are conveying this well to applicants and would-be applicants. Do you know what makes you special and different? Do you run interesting ads that do a good job of demonstrating this, including all the special perks of working at your center? (Some possible examples: Paid time off, continuing ed opportunities, tight-knit staff with low turnover rate, early ed library for teachers’ use, pizza lunches once a month, etc.)

It’s particularly effective if you can show prospective teachers that you are offering them a richly rewarding career opportunity – rather than simply a way to fill a few years while they figure out what they really want to do.

5. Don’t be boring! This is a biggie – I’ve seen some wonderful centers run ads that are about as exciting as an invitation to the National Watching-Paint-Dry Convention. If you don’t come across well on paper, you won’t attract the folks you’re looking for. An offbeat, irreverent ad may well turn off some people – which is just fine, as it will attract like magic the folks you do want.

6. Consider online ads. You know those little ads that turn up as part of your results when you run a search online? They are a fantastic way to narrowly target people in a certain geographic area who are searching for a few specific terms you specify (e.g., “childcare jobs in Iowa City” or “ECE teaching positions Seacoast NH”). When people click on your ad, they go to a specific page on your website – maybe your “Careers” page or a specific job posting. Best of all, you pay only when someone clicks on your ad, which keeps costs down.

Google AdWords is pretty user-friendly, and they offer free phone support. If you want more detailed training, I always recommend Perry Marshall’s resources (no affiliation; he just really knows his stuff).

7. Leverage the power of referrals. When you consider how much a great teacher is worth to your center, even a hefty referral bonus is a bargain. Click here for more details.

8. Remember: It’s not about the money. A lot of child care centers worry about the fact that they can’t offer even fantastic teachers a whole lot of money. While you certainly want to be competitive with what other centers in your area are offering – and if you can even go a little higher, that’s great – the good news is that nobody goes into early childhood education for the money! As such, money is not going to be the determining factor in the talent you’re able to attract. Focus on what you can and do offer your valued staff, and the money will largely take care of itself.

Thanks again for your question, C.S. – good luck and happy hiring!

Click here for your copy of our exclusive free report, 17 Secrets to Finding – and Keeping – Great Teachers.

What’s In Your Bucket?

summer bucket listWhen my daughter, Lorelei, finished kindergarten last spring, her wonderful teacher gave every child in the class a sand pail filled with some summer-themed toys. The kids also each had a “Summer Bucket List.”

Here’s what was on Lorelei’s, with her original spellings intact:

1. go to the Bech

2. reed reed reed

3. storeland

4. campgund low

5. swiming

How’d she do? We did get to the beach a few times as a family, with hopefully a few more visits in store before the warm weather ends. She did “read read read” a fair amount. She did lots and lots of swimming at Camp Gundalow (the local YMCA camp) – and if all goes well, she and I will get to Storyland, a local nursery-rhyme-themed amusement park, tomorrow.

Not too shabby for my sweet 6-year-old.

Now, when you’re 6, you have limited control over your own time and goals, but I do think it helped all of us to see Lorelei’s list on a regular basis (it’s been posted on the bulletin board over her desk since she brought it home).

As grown-ups, it’s even more important for us to have firm goals for our lives – and write them down. It’s very hard to work towards something if we’re not quite sure what we’re aiming for.

And don’t be afraid to aim big. As the great Chicago ad man Leo Burnett once said, “When you reach for the stars, you may not quite get one – but you won’t come up with a handful of mud, either.”

With fall and the start of the new school year just around the corner, take a few minutes to write down some key goals for your business. Come next spring, you may be pleasantly surprised, as Lorelei was, to find you’ve done pretty darn well on your list.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 64 Terrific Child Care Marketing Ideas.

 

3 Writing Mistakes To Avoid in Your Child Care Marketing

writing mistakes to avoid in child care marketing

Here are 3 guidelines that will serve you well in any kind of marketing writing you do for your center, whether you’re sending out a press release, writing a blog post, or creating a new brochure:

1. It ain’t all about you. This is a classic mistake people tend to make over and over, in all types of writing.

  • “We’re looking for new families who live in the downtown area…”
  • “Our center focuses on…”
  • “We offer care for children ages six weeks through five years…”

Your readers – your current families and potential new families – don’t care all that much about your center; they’re looking at you instead from a WIIFM (“what’s in it for me?”) perspective.

Focus not on what you do, but on what you can offer them: a magnificent new play area, peace of mind in the form of a highly credentialed, long-tenured staff, and so on.

2. Don’t get all fancypants. Most of us, in an effort to look “legitimate,” have an unfortunate tendency to write in circles, to use big words when little ones would do, and to try to come across as educated and important.

The most effective marketing messages are written in clear, unpretentious, conversational language. Sometimes it’s not even grammatically correct, which goes against everything we’re taught in school. But it works.

3. Remember to hit the benefits. Copywriters often talk about features (what a product/service has, is, or does) and benefits (why the features are a good thing). The rest of us tend to focus on the features to the exclusion of the benefits, which is a mistake because the benefits are what really get people excited and involved.

To take a simple example, some of the features of your center could include weekend hours, a new facility, and a location right off the highway. Some of the accompanying benefits would be:

  • Weekend hours – drop off your kids for a few hours to take care of your errands, or just get a little much-needed “me time.”
  • Brand-new facility offers large, sunny classrooms and lots of space to play, explore, and learn.
  • Easy-t0-get-to location means no wasted time on the road; it’s child care that works with your commute instead of against it.

The benefits are harder to write about because they require an additional level of thinking, which is why they can get overlooked. But if you don’t do this work for your readers (and explain it clearly – refer back to #2 above), it’s going to be harder to get them on board with what you’re offering.

Click here for your free copy of our exclusive report, 64 Terrific Child Care Marketing Ideas.