Do you have a marketing plan to fill places?
Unless you are full with a waiting list well into next year, it’s highly likely you need to be marketing in some way, particularly now as we move away from the grip of the pandemic!
Marketing as a business function is wide mix of activities and strategies which are carefully combined to guide people towards your childcare services, so taking a little time to plan will improve your chances of securing higher occupancy levels more consistently throughout each year.
We have been speaking with many childcare providers recently and asking them directly what marketing activity they have in place. The majority are doing very little marketing, even though they are struggling to fill places and encourage parents to return to childcare! Those who are doing some marketing are mainly using various advertising methods, which is good, as it is an essential part of a marketing strategy, but such a small piece of the overall marketing jigsaw that often its not enough on its own to fill all your childcare places.
Random marketing activity is fine if it consistently brings new parents as and when you need them. However, it’s more likely that you will get random success, whereas, having a considered marketing plan that integrates all your marketing options will improve your understanding of customer preferences and their journey searching for a childcare place and ultimately lead to more places filled.
So the questions to reflect upon are…
1. Are you doing enough marketing throughout the year? and
2. Are you getting the most out of the methods you are using?
The first thing is to not let the word “strategy”, conjure up wild images of complicated plans and masses of paperwork!
Strategies can be simple and direct, all you have to do is work through the process and develop the areas of your marketing activities that need attention, then review them periodically to ensure you are keeping up to date with customer needs and preferences.
Also its worth knowing that marketing is often a ‘process based’ set of activities, and we mentioned above the customer journey into a childcare place which is a good example of a process that you can build your marketing activity around.
- What steps do parents take along the way?
- When do they start to look for a place?
- Where do they look first for information about childcare providers?
- When might they want to visit?
- When will they decide where to take their child?
- What if they don’t choose your childcare setting?
At each stage, (even the last one), you can see there are marketing opportunities and consequently many options for different marketing activities.
The aim is simple, “To deliver services that parents want and let them know you’re around to do that”. ……How close can you get in practical terms to matching what you offer to what people want?
Don’t hold back
Don’t be put off just because things are difficult and unsure right now. Everyone seems to have a view of what might happen and those views are irrelevant to your aims of filling your empty places!
The point is simple, if you want to increase occupancy, why wait to encourage new parents, do some marketing now perhaps you can secure their business even if they want to start a little later than planned, just don’t assume no one is interested until September, there are plenty of examples to show that is not the case.
Remember too that it always takes time for people to respond to marketing and make decisions, so if you want to fill places for September, you should be marketing now to allow time for parents to respond and get organized.
Having a marketing plan will really help you be more sustainable and get the most return from your marketing efforts. It should be ongoing throughout the life of your business to ensure that when a place becomes free it is immediately filled, so developing a simple marketing plan will help you achieve that aim and is well worth the effort, so why not give it a try?
The attached flow chart offers a basic template for developing a marketing plan and we have several tools and techniques to help your marketing efforts here are just a few:
- Ideas for market research and better understanding parent needs
- How to get customer feedback to improve take up and services
- The use of websites as a marketing tool
- The use of social media for marketing
- Mapping the parental journey in the search for a childcare place
- The use of newsletters, blogs and email campaigns
- Networking and referral systems for gaining more customers
- Measuring the success of your marketing efforts
If you would like support with any aspect of marketing, to access any of the marketing tools for free, or would like to book a marketing review then please contact us