1 Know what local parents are looking for:
It’s important that you understand the local need and tailor your services to meet it. Perhaps you’re in an area where lots of people commute so parents need early opening hours or wraparound care. Or maybe there are lots of young families so the demand is for baby and 2-year-old places.
Keep on top of local demand by informally surveying your existing parents and asking prospective parents their need when they contact your setting. It’s also good to get out into the community to speak to new and expectant parents – building a relationship with health visitors or antenatal groups is a great place to start. Neighbouring schools and large companies may also have an insight into local childcare needs and may even be interested in going into partnership with you.
Speak to the early years department at your local authority to find out about other childcare provision in your area to identify any gaps that you may be able to fill and, of course, monitor your competition.
2 Identify your unique selling points:
Thinking about what you do well that sets you apart from others in the locality will give you the perfect platform for promotion. Families who already buy into your service are best placed to give you the most honest answers. Ask them why they chose you and what they think makes your setting special. Also, have a brainstorming session with your staff and ask them to be as objective as possible – talking about what you do well will give everyone an added boost!
Keep a simple tally of what people say and work out which themes crop up the most, it could be your welcoming staff, delicious home-cooked food or large outdoor area. These are your strengths and should be your unique selling points (USPs) that you highlight when you are promoting your setting.
3 Sell your setting to the outside world:
While word-of-mouth is a fantastic way to get your setting known, you should also ensure that you use other avenues. Many local authorities have free listings of early years settings, as do some community groups or early years organisations so find out what is available to you.
One of the most important tools to market your setting is a website or personalised online listing - the majority of parents search online to find out about local childcare. Your online presence is your ‘shop front’ and needs to give parents a positive feel about your setting and make your business feel caring, professional and approachable.
PACEY has recently updated its SearchChildcare online directory which all early years providers and parents can use for free. Childcare settings can compile a short profile – perfect for including those USPs – upload photos and link to their inspection report in order to attract parents who are searching locally for high quality childcare.
4 Present your setting in the best light:
Use your website or online listing to communicate your USPs and include good quality photographs. Using photos which include staff and children (with permission) is engaging and personable. Also consider including short testimonials from parents, your inspection rating, any accreditations, professional membership logos or awards and, of course, clear information on how to get in touch – both a direct phone number and an email address to a monitored account is ideal.
Make sure that your website or listing is kept updated. Old information can give a poor impression to prospective parents while regularly updated sites are preferred by search engines. Promote the link on all your marketing materials and communications.
5 Maintain a high profile:
Consider embracing social media such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter to cost effectively share your setting’s news with existing parents and engage potential customers. As long as you are careful to always get parental consent to use children’s images and to never identify them, then this can bring many promotional benefits as people engage with and share your posts.
Also promote your setting through local newspapers and radio stations. Local media are always looking for stories and are keen to feature special events and occasions such as welcoming fun visitors, winning awards or holding open days.
Don’t forget that your setting is an advertisement in itself. Happy and engaged children and staff being seen out and about in your local community speaks volumes to potential parents, as does clean, up-to-date signage and friendly staff who answer the telephone with enthusiasm.
SearchChildcare is free for everyone – providers can advertise their setting, and parents can search for childcare for free. PACEY members also have access to an enhanced profile on searchchildcare.org.uk. Create your profile now.