Marketing - Why wait until September?
Whether you are marketing your childcare services now, or are thinking about it, one thing remains a fact, "Ignore marketing and at some point your setting will suffer!"
The sector has had a tough 4 months and hopefully all will remain in business but the chances are that some won’t!
For some the circumstances will just be too onerous to remain sustainable, but for most getting back to profitable operational levels will be a direct result of your desire to overcome the current challenges and hard work on a scale much greater than before!
So perhaps now is a good time to ask yourselves this question, “Are we really doing enough marketing to ensure we return to profitability as soon as possible?”
Why wait until September?
Now is a perfect time to jack up your marketing efforts because it’s not often in business you are afforded time to solve problems and to waste this time would just lessen your chances of long term survival. Parents need to know what you are doing and when, their circumstances and attitudes have understandably changed so you need to be alive to this and align your marketing efforts to maximise positive outcomes for parents, children and yourselves.
“Uncertainty only increases the need for marketing”
Because the childcare landscape has changed so much due to the pandemic, existing marketing strategies and efforts may not now be appropriate or good enough as you fight to get back to some kind of financial normality. So the first thing to do is take a critical view of your marketing efforts and be honest about whether they are right for the current situation.
Whatever your preferences for marketing are, it's wise to evidence your assumptions about parental needs with facts and use that knowledge to set the appropriate marketing activities in place. So here's "5 Key Steps" you can take to get your marketing on track and enhance your sustainability chances.
STEP 1 - Understand your markets and customers
If you make assumptions about why people buy your childcare services or assume parental needs are the same as before the COVID outbreak, you are likely to reach the wrong conclusions about what messages they want and need to hear to ensure they bring their child to your setting. Equally if you don't know basic data like; local competitor activity, vacancy rates, birth rates, where your customers live or travel from and their preferences, you cannot adapt your services to give them what they want.
So to be able to offer your customers what they want, you need to understand their preferences and what they can get elsewhere, so do some market research and find out about; your customers, competitors, and how the local childcare market has changed and continue to adapt your services to meet their needs.
STEP 2 - Set a target for growth
Growing your business can mean many different things, but essentially you need to get back to making enough money to be sustainable, develop quality practice and enhance child outcomes. Alongside that each year you need to financially develop to meet rising costs and continue to make surpluses to enable development of key areas of your business that you deem important. If you don't set a target for this it is likely you will not focus on it, take it seriously, or plan to achieve it.
Targets are not set without some thought. You will need to consider the business circumstances, make some assumptions about what might happen during the year, test those assumptions and challenge your estimates and thoughts, and try to set achievable but challenging targets.
We are great believers that "what gets measured, gets done", so set your targets, review them regularly, and take positive steps to "make them happen"
STEP 3 - Develop a Marketing Plan
Break down your growth targets into a series of actions and marketing activities that are geared to taking you towards your goals, this will form your marketing plan. It doesn't have to be highly sophisticated, just fit for your purpose, but if you don't have a plan no one will be accountable and so people will be working in an ad hoc manner that will probably not take you towards your goals.
Set up a marketing plan, set timescales make people responsible for achieving them and review it regularly to ensure you stay on track!
STEP 4 - Develop "Unique Selling Points" (USP's)
There are many childcare providers all around you, so why should parents choose you? It is surprising how many positive and different attributes one childcare provider can demonstrate when compared with others, so think hard about what makes your setting the most desirable to parents in the current climate and get that embedded into your marketing plan and materials.
If your staff were asked to the list the top 2 or 3 USP's for your setting, could they do it and be consistent with their answers? .....This is what you are aiming for so go SELL your wonderful childcare provision.
STEP 5 - Use social media to promote your setting
The reason social media is so important is the multiplying effect of the messages you put out there and the community you develop, so it’s very important to seriously consider this marketing opportunity. If you choose to ignore this powerful business communication channel, it will definitely hamper your efforts to reach your target audience.