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.

The Tale of the Overzealous Carpenter

My Little Handy Manny

A little while back, we needed a built-in bookshelf constructed in our living room. Our usual fix-it/build-it guy was tied up, and we had people scheduled to come over soon; our plans for the evening didn’t include all of us gazing at the big hole in our wall.

So I posted an ad on Craigslist for a carpenter. One guy stood out in his response – answered all the questions I asked, gave me a firm estimate, and even included some photos of his work (which was very nice). Hired.

He and his brother came over as scheduled, built the bookshelf in short order for the originally quoted price, and that was that. We were pretty happy with the work. We live in an old house with a nearly infinite number of carpentry projects on our lengthy “to-do” list, and I figured we’d hire him again at some point.

But then the emails started. And the texts.

“Ms. Carsen, is there anything else you need me to do? I can come over whenever.”

“Just wanted to see if I could start in on that other project you mentioned sometime this weekend.”

“Give me a call and we can talk about that new project.”

I started to feel assaulted, particularly when one email took a somewhat sinister tone:

“I hope you haven’t forgotten about that new project you said I could do…” 

It started to feel like the carpentry version of Fatal Attraction. I began to get worried that I’d come home someday and find a big pot of hammers boiling over on the stove.

Eventually, the texts and emails slowed down – they haven’t stopped completely; I still get one every now and again – but we’re back to our usual fix-it/build-it guy.

It’s interesting to view the situation from a marketing perspective: This guy effectively won my business, performed the job well, and would have gotten probably more repeat business than he could handle had he simply not started to badger me in an annoying, desperate-seeming way.

In the context of your center, it’s hard to stay in touch too much, especially since your work directly affects the most important thing in most parents’ lives: their kids. But it is possible – especially if you only communicate with your families when there’s something you need, like donations of volunteer time or money or used toys.

There’s nothing wrong with occasional requests like these, but make sure they’re greatly outweighed by communications that provide your parents with something of value:

  • Fun photos of their kids at play (with permission, of course, if the photos are on your website or otherwise distributed)
  • Interesting news about the center, including upcoming events like family picnics and pajama days
  • Practical information on current issues of concern, such as how to help protect kids from flu, and the efforts your center is taking
  • Spotlights on a “family of the month” or the winner of your latest testimonial contest

You get the idea. It’s almost impossible to overcommunicate when you’re providing interesting, valuable info. But it’s pretty easy to wear out your welcome with repeated requests – for carpentry work or anything else.

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