The Lesson of the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake


I must confess that I personally have never had one, but I know many people who look forward all year to the return of the McDonald’s Shamrock Shake – that frothy green minty concoction that is available only for a limited time each year (along with green beer and grown men who eagerly wear ridiculous, Dr.-Seuss-like hats as they drink it).

My guess is that the Shamrock Shake wouldn’t be nearly the phenomenon it is were it on the McDonald’s menu year-round. (I also suspect this is why the McRib moves in and out of rotation on a periodic basis, but that’s a discussion for another post.)

The shake’s specialness lies in the fact that it comes around just once a year, for a limited time, and then is gone – completely unavailable – until the following March.

From a marketing standpoint, few things drive people wild like scarcity does – the idea that if you don’t snap it up now (whatever “it” may be), that you’ll lose your chance forever, or at least until next year. The fear of missing out encourages people to hop to it and take immediate action to secure their shake.

Now, you probably don’t offer milkshakes (green or otherwise) at your center – if you do, please let me know immediately so that I can plan a visit. But you can incorporate the principle of scarcity into your child care marketing, with highly effective results:

  • Back-to-school special! Get one week free if you register your child by September 2.
  • New Saturday morning program – only 15 slots available! Call us now to secure your child’s spot.
  • Free baby-and-me yoga session for the first 5 parents who enroll in our infant room for the new term.

See how it works? The “get it while it lasts” component of your offer may be the thing that encourages parents to sign up, but in the vast majority of cases, they’ll remain with your program long after it’s over. So you don’t really need to worry about a slew of moms enrolling their babies, having their yoga session, and jumping ship immediately after the final downward dog.

Take some time today to figure out how you can incorporate the scarcity principle in your marketing efforts – it really works.

And if you’re in Chicago, do watch out for that green river this month.


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

3 Child Care Social Media Mistakes You’re Probably Making

One Laptop Per ChildYou may be pleased with how high your center is coming up in the Google rankings when you do a search – but are you getting a false sense of security?

Here are 3 common mistakes that many child care centers make in this area:

1. Searching by center name. Prospective parents aren’t searching for “Smith’s Child Care Center.” They don’t know you exist yet – that’s why they’re online! Their searches probably look more like this:

– Child care in Springfield, MA
– Daycares near Monterey California
– Portsmouth NH preschool

Do you see the difference? Get inside the heads of your prospective parents and run the same type of searches they would – that’s the only way to get a real sense of how you’re doing in the search engine rankings.

2. Searching like a child care professional. What do I mean by this? Well, you probably think of yourself as a child care professional, and/or someone in the ECE field.

Parents don’t think like this. They are going to be searching for “daycare” or “day care” or “preschool.” They have probably never heard of “ECE” and have no idea what it means. Again, think like a parent. You can even ask parents at your center tours, if they found you online, if they remember what they searched for – their answers will probably surprise you.

3. Searching while logged in. If you’re logged into your Gmail account while you do your test searches, your center may come up artificially high in your search rankings. That’s because Google knows the pages you’ve looked at in the past and tries to serve up what it thinks you’re looking for. So log out before you play prospective parent to get a truer picture of how your center is doing in the search engine rankings.

Also, be aware that the search engines know where your computer is located, whether you’re logged in or not – so “daycares Portland” is going to give very different results if you and your computer are in the Pacific Northwest (Portland, OR) vs. New England (Portland, ME).

For the most accurate results, make sure you’re physically located near where your prospective parents are when you’re doing your test searches.

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

The Power of Testimonials


You can talk about how great your child care center is all day long – on your website, in your brochure, and in your other marketing. And that’s certainly something you can and should do.

But you know what’s really effective? What makes people clamor to get their kids into your center rather than any other?

When other people talk about how great your child care center is.

People get all hung up on the logistics of obtaining testimonials, but assuming you’ve got a great program (and I know you do), they’re really not that hard to get. Here are a few ideas:

1. When a parent comes in with a compliment about your center, your teachers, or something else you’re doing a great job with, simply ask if you can write up his or her comment and use it as a testimonial. Or, even better, if the parent is not a shy type, whip out your smartphone and get a video testimonial for your website.

2. When a longtime family is leaving your center because their children have graduated, ask if they wouldn’t mind getting a cup of coffee – your treat, of course – and telling you a bit about why they stayed with you so long, and what they loved best about their children being in your program.

3. Ask for them using a testimonial contest. Tell all your families that you’re looking for testimonials about your center, and that everyone who submits one by a certain date will a) win a prize just for participating and b) be entered into a random drawing for something really cool – at least a $250 value or so. Make it easy for them to participate by creating a simple form they can fill out.

Once you’ve got these great testimonials, where should you use them? Everywhere – on your website, in your brochures, in your newsletter, and maybe even on a “Testimonial Wall” at your center. Don’t be shy.

And remember: Testimonials are most effective when they’re specific, heartfelt, and believable. So don’t do too much editing – let your happy families speak for themselves.

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

What Do Your Parents Truly Want?

Morning Baby Toothpaste

Back when my now-almost-8-year-old was a toddler with new teeth, we were purchasing a whole lot of “training toothpaste.” (Lorelei was fond of cracking it open and sucking it down like a sports gel when we weren’t looking – fortunately, part of the “training” aspect of this product is fluoride-free and safe if swallowed, though I don’t know if her toothpaste shooters were quite what the manufacturers envisioned.)

One time, the store didn’t have the brand we normally bought, so I picked up a tube of Orajel, Berry Blast flavor. It wasn’t until I got home that I really looked at it.

It was a little strange. The tube featured a cartoon of a bear sitting next to a tray of cupcakes on a picnic blanket. He was wielding a paste-laden toothbrush in front of a small black-and-white cat. It was unclear whether the bear was about to brush his own teeth, or the cat’s, or if he was just extolling the virtues of Orajel Berry Blast generally. It was also unclear why the brush and paste were broken out before the cupcakes were consumed rather than after.

I was willing to overlook all that; cartoons are weird. What really got me was the small notation on the front of the tube: Training Toothpaste PLUS Breath Freshener.

Are there really a lot of parents out there lamenting their toddler’s morning mouth? Do these kids subsist on a diet of onion rings and Lucky Strikes? One of the best things about little kids is that, dirty diapers aside, they generally smell pretty good. They’re still so brand-new to the world; most of us have stuff that’s been kicking around the back of the fridge for longer.

My guess is that the good people at Orajel were trying to find some way to set themselves apart in the (hyper-competitive?) world of kids’ oral hygiene products. But, alas, a breath freshener was not really what I – the intended consumer – was looking for in a toddler training toothpaste.

What was I looking for? Well, in addition to the above-mentioned non-toxicity, a flip-top cap would have been great. The Orajel had a screw top that was both difficult to use when wrangling a squirmy toddler and prone to rolling under the sink.

Also, clear gel would have been preferable to green, as anything meant to be used on, by, or near a child of that age tends to get on everything in that child’s immediate vicinity – their clothes, your clothes, the family cat, you name it.

I never bought that particular toothpaste again. Instead, I took the time to hunt down the brand I originally bought – the clear gel that came in the tube with the flip-top cap.

While it’s important to set your child care center apart from the pack, you can never forget about the things that parents universally want in their child care: Reliability and trustworthiness. A positive, friendly, caring environment. Staff who genuinely enjoy working with young children and are skilled at it. Good communication at all levels. A center that’s clean and in good repair.

Without these fundamentals, regardless of what else you’re trying to convey about your center, you’re offering bear cupcakes and breath freshener to a crowd that just doesn’t care about those things.

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

Don’t Be Like Starbucks

StarbucksI was recently traveling for work and woke up far earlier than usual – I think it was the novelty of not having small children intermittently chirping on the baby monitor and waking me up all night.

So I packed up my work, headed to the nearest Starbucks, and settled down with my latte in an unobtrusive corner to hang out until daylight arrived.

I was right near the counter, and I saw a lot of regulars coming in over the course of the next few hours. Apparently some change had been made to the store layout the previous night, after closing (which was completely lost on me, of course, as I’d never been to that particular Starbucks before).

One by one, the regulars came in and gave their orders to the barista. Many of them also mentioned something to the effect of, “So you guys made some changes here, I see!” or “Hey, Gene – new layout looks good.”

And every single time, the barista visibly winced and said, “It was news to me – I didn’t know we were doing this until I came in this morning and it was a done deal. I’m the store manager…you think they would have told me.”

It was clearly a sore spot – and why shouldn’t it be? This man was, as far as I could tell, a longtime employee (and store manager) who had both pride and a sense of ownership in his work – exactly what you want from your employees. He comes in one morning to find everything in his store rearranged, with no notice, and it feels like a slap in the face.

I don’t think the slight was deliberate – it was probably more a case of someone thinking, “Well, this won’t directly affect anything Gene does, so we don’t need to worry about looping him in” (if in fact Gene was considered at all). But it stung nonetheless.

Whenever you make changes at your center, be they large or small, be sure to consider the feelings of your staff. Overcommunication is far better than no communication – especially if you want your team members to feel highly invested in what they do. And, trust me, you do.

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