To combat the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, many child care centers either closed their doors or were directed by state health officials to provide services only to the families of essential workers. At the same time, millions of Americans were either temporarily furloughed from employment or forced to work from home with kids.
However, as unemployment numbers have dropped between April and May 2020, Americans are rejoining the workforce, and that means they will need child care services.
As child care centers move to resume operations, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released extensive guidance for child care programs dealing with the threat of coronavirus. State health departments are also publishing guidance and helping child care centers establish new policies and procedures to limit the spread of coronavirus infection in their facilities.
As child care centers reorganize their operations to comply with CDC guidelines and ease the concerns of parents who are rightfully worried about coronavirus transmission, new opportunities are emerging for daycare centers to market themselves in different ways, refine their messaging, enhance their appeal for parents in the community, and win new customers.
To help you take advantage of these opportunities, we’ve created this guide with some of our best advice for marketing your daycare reopening in this new environment. We’ll explain the changes we’re seeing in the marketplace and offer specific advice and an action plan to help you market your child care business reopening.
Marketing Your Daycare Reopening in this New Environment: What Has Changed?
Before we get into any marketing advice, let’s take a quick look at what has changed for daycare centers due to the coronavirus pandemic.
New Risks to Children & Families
The coronavirus pandemic has created new risks for children and their families. With more than two million confirmed cases across the United States and over 100,000 reported deaths despite widespread social distancing measures, families are concerned about child care centers as a potential hot spot for viral transmission in the community.
The worst outcomes for COVID-19 typically occur among elderly populations. Multi-generational households may be concerned about kids picking up the virus at a child care center, then bringing it home and infecting vulnerable grandparents.
New Operating Guidelines from CDC
To help make child care centers as safe as possible so parents can access child care services and return to work, the CDC has released extensive guidance on infection prevention for child care centers:
- Interim Guidance for Administrators of U.S. Child Care Programs – This guidance directs child care centers to implement procedures and develop response plans for varying levels of coronavirus transmission in the community.
- Supplemental Guidance for Child Care Programs that Remain Open – This guidance details how child care centers can restructure their operations to decrease the risk of coronavirus transmission within the facility.
- Child Care Decision Tool – The child care decision tool helps child care center directors and administrators decide whether it is the right time to re-open their center.
- Checklists for Teachers and Parents in Schools and Child Care Programs – These checklists are resources for parents and either teachers or child care providers. They contain directives for maximizing child safety as kids return to school or child care programs.
New Requirements for Staff
Under the new CDC guidelines, child care providers will have increased responsibility for teaching and modeling healthy hygienic habits and effective social distancing, as well as complying with infection prevention policies in the child care center.
Child care providers may be asked to:
- Perform basic temperature screening to check kids for signs of illness before allowing them into the child care facility.
- Take extra steps to reduce the risk of infection during activities like diapering, feeding, holding or washing a child.
- Improve their hand hygiene and work with kids to develop healthy hygiene habits.
With these procedures in place, child care providers will deliver a new level of service that protects kids from infection while continuing to foster their growth in a positive environment that minimizes stress and maximizes learning. They will go beyond routine child care and play an even greater role in helping kids form healthy habits for life.
New Concerns from Parents
When it comes to choosing the right child care center, parents will have new concerns that child care directors and administrators may not be used to dealing with.
Parents may be challenged by financial difficulties after being off work due to the pandemic; however, their need to start working again may be accompanied by concerns about child safety and the infection risks that could exist at your child care center.
Parents are also concerned about how the new CDC guidelines and overall response to coronavirus could impact their child’s development. We’ve heard questions like:
- How will our kids socialize properly if they aren’t allowed to play together or be close to other kids at your facility?
- How will our children’s speech development be impacted if educators wear face coverings while communicating with them?
- We have elderly parents living at home with us – how can we be sure that our child will not bring home coronavirus and make them sick?
In addition to effectively implementing CDC guidelines to make child care centers as safe as possible, child care directors and administrators need to focus on parent engagement, listen to the genuine concerns that parents have, and find solutions to help those parents feel more comfortable with leaving kids at daycare.
Marketing Your Daycare Reopening: Advice & Action Plan
The reality of marketing for child care centers has shifted because of the coronavirus pandemic. The risk of illness has created new fears for children and families who choose to socialize outside the home. As a result, government agencies have released guidelines to help child care centers manage those risks.
Child care centers need to be proactive in communicating with parents about steps they are taking to mitigate COVID-19 risks and make the center safe for children, staff and their families at home. Below, we offer six action items that child care centers can take to improve their marketing as they resume operations.
Rewrite Your Story
Marketing is all about communicating a story about your brand that helps your customers or prospective customers feel a genuine connection with your business.
For most child care centers, a well-crafted brand story already focuses on the things that are most important to parents: high-quality child care, in a convenient location, and for the right price.
However, the situation has changed, and parents have a new concern that child care centers should be integrating into their brand story moving forward: health and safety.
More than ever before, parents want to support child care centers that focus on providing an environment that protects children against coronavirus infection and following best practices for outbreak prevention.
As you think about implementing best practices and measures to protect the community, think about how these steps align with your core mission. Communicate the importance of health and safety to prospective customers, families new to your center, and returning families.
Craft Promotional Messages that Address Parent Concerns
Child care centers should adjust their communications and promotional messages to make them as relevant as possible to the new concerns that parents have about child care.
The most important thing for child care centers is to be proactive in communicating the policies and procedures that are being implemented to reduce the spread of coronavirus. Parents and caregivers want to be assured that you are taking action to meet the new challenges around the spread of a dangerous illness. As a licensed facility, no business is probably more prepared to meet these concerns, but communicating clearly on how you are keeping the children in your care safe is key.
If you release a brochure or flyer (physical or digital) for your program, include information about the steps that your center is taking to protect the community. Include a section on “New Coronavirus Prevention Measures.” Let parents know about your enhanced cleaning schedule, changes to staff hygiene policies and other measures to help build their confidence in your center.
Go Paperless, Contactless to Meet New Parent Expectations
A trend we’ve observed during the coronavirus pandemic is that many businesses have moved away from taking cash payments and are encouraging patrons to pay with either debit or credit to avoid spreading germs.
Child care centers that offer paperless invoices and billing can incorporate that into their marketing as a feature that helps limit the spread of germs and makes child care payments more convenient for parents. Tuition Express is a great example of a software solution that supports contactless payment for child care centers.
Both parents and child care providers can benefit from contactless check-in systems that limit in-person interactions, and Procare is leading the way with two new contactless solutions. With Procare’s QR code technology, parents complete the sign-in process on their own mobile phones, so there’s no sharing of devices. Our new Curbside Contactless Sign-in/Out feature uses GPS technology, enabling parents to complete the sign-in process on Procare’s app without entering the facility.
Connect with the Community
Child care centers may have to abandon or revise marketing techniques that were traditionally effective but may no longer be advisable during coronavirus.
Child care open house events where families in the community are encouraged to visit the center in large groups should likely be cancelled. Facilities adhering to the CDC guidelines should probably also put a stop to in-person tours, with the aim of reducing the total number of people who enter the facility.
Rather than marketing the center in person, child care directors and administrators must find new ways to connect with parents in the community and promote the center. Here are a couple of ways to get started:
- Create a digital tour of your child care center using a video camera and a microphone. Use the camera to capture footage from the most important areas of your facility and be sure to mention how spaces have been reorganized to enforce social distancing. Post the video on social media and on your website.
- If you can’t make a video, you’ll still need to take lots of pictures of your child care center to help with promotion. Describe each image in detail so parents can get a sense of the educational, health and safety services that your center provides.
- Reach out to local parents on social media and have them share your video and images with other parents in the community.
Encourage Referrals and Word-of-Mouth
Word-of-mouth advertising and referrals are going to play an even bigger role for child care centers operating in this new environment.
Because of the pandemic, some parents have chosen to limit their child’s social group to just a handful of families to help limit the spread of infection. Some families may have gotten together and formed a “bubble” – a group of 8-10 people who practice social distancing with everyone else, but not with each other.
As these families return their kids to child care centers, they may wish to keep that child’s social group intact by having other children in the bubble enrolled at the same center. Child care directors, administrators and providers can encourage referrals simply by asking:
- Who else do you know who has been social distancing effectively during coronavirus and is looking for child care?
- Who has your child been socializing with? Does that family need child care as well?
- Have you been in contact with other parents during coronavirus? Are they also looking for a child care center that follows best practices to avoid spreading germs?
Emphasize Transparency and Communication
The best way to help alleviate the concerns that parents have about kids returning to child care is with transparency and communication.
Parents need to know what’s going on at your child care center, and they expect regular, timely updates that help address their concerns and anxiety about the risks that kids could face while in your care.
Procare Solutions is the industry-leading child care management software for centers that understand the value of transparent communication in marketing the reopening of child care facilities in this new environment.
With Procare, child care centers can:
- Reach parents with timely updates in the form of newsletters, mass communications and personalized messages.
- Share images and video updates throughout the day to help ease parent concerns about child safety at daycare after coronavirus.
- Offer parents paperless billing with diverse payment options to maximize convenience and avoid spreading germs
Market Your Daycare Reopening with Procare
Procare is your competitive advantage when it comes to marketing your child care center. You will be able to meet the changing needs and expectations of parents, help families feel more comfortable with returning their kids to child care, and enhance your efforts to reduce the spread of infection in your community.
You will also benefit from additional features that have helped thousands of child care centers like yours eliminate paperwork and streamline key administrative processes for more than 30 years.
Ready to learn more?