One issue I hear more and more in recent times, is that centre owners are worrying that their centre is too old to compete with the new centres opening around them. Yes, new centres are opening up with speciality rooms, modern equipment and nice and fresh. What you need to remember is that you have many things that they don’t.
A long term reputation, an established family friendly atmosphere, long term quality educators, long term history with families in the area and within your own centre, more than likely many other qualities that the new centre does not have.
Over the years I have seen centres who have had children leave their centre to go to the new centre that has just opened up nearby, only to see those children moved back to the original centre, because although the new centre was lovely, bright and clean, the people and services were not a match for those at the child’s original centre. In quite a few cases, I have seen where that family has brought other families from the new centre back to the older centre with them.
These are some of the items centres that we have worked with have focused on to ensure they can compete.
1. Ensure that irrespective who is at the front door, any person that walks into their centre receives a very warm, family friendly reception.
2. Train their team on attitude. Helping them to understand that the attitude of every staff member towards, children, families and all team members is extremely important.
3. Refresh your centre on a regular basis. Put in place a maintenance schedule and budget to ensure the centre is freshly painted generally every 5 years and all indoor and outdoor equipment has a schedule of replacement.
4. Clearly understand what parents in your area are looking for when searching for a childcare centre for their child. I have had owners and directors tell me they have been in the childcare industry for decades and that they know what the parents want. They argue with me when I say I want them to actually go and ask parents who have children at the centre and parents and potential parents that have never been to the centre, what they are looking for in a centre. Only to have them very surprised at what they actually hear, when they listen to the parents answers.
You need to hear it in the parents words, this enables you to use the same words when you market to them.
5. Improve your sales skills. In a competitive world, you need to be able to sell your services better than your competitors. As more and more centres pop up around you, you need to be able to sell better. I don’t mean becoming a slick sales person everyone dislikes. Sales today is about understanding needs and wants and showing how you provide what is wanted better than any other centre.
A tour is selling, and the whole team needs to know their part in the tour process, to ensure it runs smoothly and gains the desired result, an enrolment.
6. Develop a strategic marketing program. The first part of your marketing is understanding what parents want and developing the messages that show how you understand what they want and provide services to suit. If this process is not done first, it doesn’t matter whether you have a website, use social media, advertising, letter box drop etc, etc, your message will just be more of the expensive money wasting noise out there, with out any specific purpose that will catch parents attention.
7. Be up to date with technology. This is an area that has changed significantly and can be the hardest to keep up with. Working with centre owners and directors over the past 6 years, we have seen that a high percentage of owners and directors have not kept up with technology.
Parents of today’s children use technology to help them make decisions in their life. The information is literally at their finger tips and they use it constantly. If you are not there, you miss out.
These are some of the key areas, we have worked with centre owner and directors to help them increase enrolments in their centres, when new centres are opening up around them. Putting these into place takes time, however, if you start today and stick with the plan you set around implementing these items, you will start to see results.
Peter Johnson – The Time Retriever is a business productivity coach, who specialises in childcare centres. Peter has worked with childcare centres for over 6 years, coaching centre owners, directors and staff on business and productivity skills. He realised that for a childcare centre to be competitive in today’s marketing environment, it was no longer a good use of centre owners and directors time to be trying to do the marketing for their centre. His business, The Time Retriever, now offers childcare centres, a complete “Done For You” marketing program for centres.
Have a great week.