Starting from scratch is hard – I know, I’ve been there. I’ve opened 8 daycare centers, and wrote the book on daycare business plans. And while it’s been an exciting ride, it wasn’t always easy. That’s why I picked up a few life-savers along the way.
Without further ado, these are my 7 proven tips that are sure to attract more parents to your daycare.
1. Lawn Signs
Lawn signs are one of those things that you would never think of but are surprisingly effective. And they’re also free to place strategically in your neighborhood, if you do it right.
Notice how it’s easy to read and process when driving by
One of the reasons lawn signs can be somewhat challenging is because you have to get permission from other people to put your sign out. However, It’s worth introducing yourself to the other business owners in the neighborhood and asking them for their permission to stick it on their property. Most people understand that attracting customers isn’t a piece of cake, so it’s good to create a network of business owners that way (while obtaining permission for your sign at the same time).
The only cost involved is printing the signs but even that’s not a problem with places like buildasign.com where you can buy a lot for a reasonable price.
2. Google AdWords
This is by far one of the most effective ways to attract customers. Google AdWords is the most powerful form of advertising today because it gives people exactly what they need.
For example, parents type “daycare” into Google and your ad shows up! If you have a great website to redirect them to, that’s even better.
You may want to hire a consultant because there’s a dizzying array of options that AdWords offers, such as targeting people down to the mile of the customer’s location. ou only pay if someone visits your site and you can set the budget you want to spend per day. It can be as low as $5 a day, making it an affordable option even if you just want to experiment.
Make your adwords ads stand out. Talk to people’s desires – don’t be generic!
3. Sandwich Board Sign
When people are driving, they don’t normally turn their head to view your storefront sign, they just zoom right by without notice. That’s why a sandwich board sign is an excellent way to attract people driving by and focus their attention on your daycare.
Pro Tip: You can also do the same tactic we discussed with the lawn signs and ask other local businesses to put these on their sidewalks so you can spread your message all around the neighborhood for free! Buildasign.com sells these for a reasonable price and has easy design tools to create your sign.
4. Online Reviews
There’s no better marketing than the good old word of mouth.
Positive reviews / ratings of your childcare center online come from experience and new parents will carefully consider them when making their decision.
It’s best to get reviews slowly and over time. You can individually ask a couple of parents per month to write a review on one of the sites like Yelp!, Google reviews and Facebook. This helps the algorithms of the sites process it easier and parents can take their time carefully weighing what they like the most about your daycare.
After they submit the review, you can enter them into a drawing for a nice prize or consider offering a one time discount as a thank you (ideas of Kris Murray).
If you get negative reviews, consider reaching out to those people who left them. It could just be a misunderstanding.
In any case, respond to the reviews after you’ve gained understanding of what really happened. Ignoring bad reviews is not a good idea. Keep your cool at all times, even if it was your mistake. It happens and everyone understands, which is why you should be proactive, acknowledge them and say what you are doing to stop that from happening again.
Either way, the goal is to build up long term, healthy and consistent relationship. You are doing it in your daycare every day so do it online, as well.
5. A Waitlist Page
And this isn’t limited to the fully-booked daycare centers. Even if your calendar has a lot of vacant spots, you can make a waitlist page. It shows that you are in demand which is a great indicator of how successful your daycare is.
Just make sure that you create the waitlist page so it shows the option for parents to contact your daycare with their questions and their interest.
At the same time, it’s good to look into options that will result in really having to make a waitlist, such as Hopping In which lets you sell unused spots and offer daycare on demand without having to change anything about the way you work.
6. Friends and Family
Nothing matters as much as family and friends. They are your biggest cheerleaders but it doesn’t have to stop at moral support – they can also tell more people about your daycare and recommend it since they know what you’re like as a person.
You can also build social momentum on your Facebook page with a little help from your friends (and family). Show your potential customers that people are excited about you and wishing you well.
It will go a long way to establishing trust and excitement about your daycare. After all, social excitement is contagious and it can spread in unexpected ways.
7. Passive Income Streams
Getting new kids through the regular website to tour to paperwork process isn’t the only way you can make income.
In fact, it’s good to always know your options. No daycare is perfect and it takes time to get to an actual waitlist and a fully-booked calendar, even without the kids’ unexpected absences. When you factor those into the equation, it can seem like you’re spending more time juggling who’s coming and who’s staying at home than improving other things.
That’s why using software like Hopping In can help you get there much faster. With it, you can sell half days, open empty spots and allow other parents to drop their spots if they know they’re not coming. In return, you can choose a partial refund that parents get, and allow drop-in parents to book the newly vacant spots.
This is quite easy so you don’t have to spend a lot of time navigating the software – just let it work for you. Communicate with parents clearly and tell them about the benefits of hopping into, well, Hopping In, with you.
Hopping In’s easy to use cloud based app makes it easy to earn more from existing clients.
You don’t need to be a techie for this. All you have to do is:
1. Install Hopping In
2. Open the empty spots or allow parents to do it through their panel
3. Let other parents browse your availability and book the right dates
4. Get paid
I personally started this software company because this was the best way to get immediate and long-term extra revenue for my daycare.
When it comes to numbers, I earned over thousands of extra dollars and it’s much easier working on improvements when I don’t have to check the balance every time I want to get a better playpen.
Here’s what Katie’s Kids daycare center has to say about using Hopping In:
“…saying the words, “I don’t know our availability off the top of my head, just go to Hopping In and you can find out and sign up” are such a relief to say. My teachers are even reminding parents to sign up through Hopping In if they would like their child to attend our upcoming Classroom Parties, if it isn’t their regularly scheduled day.”
If you’re not open yet, add a “Coming Soon” sign on your business
It can take a long time to open a new daycare from scratch. In some states DCFS won’t let you announce that you’re officially a “daycare” until you obtain your license. But in most cases you can put a coming soon sign in your window and start getting inquiries.
Even if your opening date isn’t soon, keep in touch with the prospective parents and keep them updated on the progress.
Thank you for reading my tips and please feel free to contact me if you need any specific help with these ideas.
Author: Hopping In Blog
Sholom Strick is an expert on the business of running daycare centers and founder of Hopping In, a tool that helps childcare centers and family daycare providers fill unused spots.
To contact him or for media inquiries email firstname.lastname@example.org