Boosting Enrollment When Your ECE Program Needs it Most: Webinar Recap

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Growing enrollment is the top priority for most child care centers, as numbers have dipped with the onset of COVID-19. In a recent webinar from Early Childhood Investigations, Molly and Kathe Petchel of Hinge Brokers provided easy-to-implement ideas on how to get your center back to full enrollment.

Before they jumped in to tactics and strategies, they gave an overview of the state of the industry using data from Procare’s report: “Tracking the Impact of COVID-19 on the Child Care Industry.”

“We’re really good at customer care, but we don’t really dive into the data – we’re scared of numbers,” said Kathe. “But by using this data, we can get a sense of what recovery is looking like and better understand how we stack up against the rest of the industry – both on a national and local basis.”

Procare’s data show a slow, but steady increase in enrollments across the country – data that’s consistent with information shared by licensing agencies, departments of social services and Child Care Aware of America. You can find the full report here.

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Recovery Definition

Before we talk recovery, it’s important to understand how to define it. For Kathe and Molly, it’s about comparing a variety of metrics (listed below) year-over-year to determine where you are in your recovery.

“One of the easiest ways to understand your recovery is to look at your P&L, or profit and loss statement,” said Kathe. “If you have Procare, you can easily pull those numbers or run a variety of other reports to help you get a clearer financial picture.”

Lifetime Value of a Customer

Have you ever calculated a customer’s lifetime value (or CLV)? It’s a helpful way to get perspective on just how valuable each and every family is. Below is an example equation for how to calculate CLV – it’s important to note that the amounts will change depending on your specific situation.

In this example, the CLV is $86,760. That’s a big number, and one that you should keep in mind every time you pick up the phone or answer a parent’s email – that could be another $86K coming in the door.

Plus, think about what you could do with that money. As Kathe and Molly say, without money, you can’t carry out your mission.

Marketing vs. Sales

Marketing and sales go hand-in-hand, but they’re not the same thing. Marketing refers to the activities you do to get your leads to initiate contact. Sales happens after initial contact is made, where the lead becomes a business prospect and ultimately purchases your service.

Some important marketing tips:

  • You should never have to go back to basics. What this implies is that if you have to go back to basics, you took your foot off the gas pedal for a bit when enrollments were stable. As COVID has shown us, it’s important we don’t take anything for granted.
  • Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance (measurable goals). Plan for everything, and set SMART goals.
  • Done is better than perfect. Many of us are perfectionists, which creates issues, particularly when time is of the essence. If you’re an owner and find yourself going through the 10th round of revisions on a marketing flyer, that’s time you’re not spending getting the word out about your center to the community.  
  • Don’t forget to shout it from your rooftops. Talk about how awesome you are and all the great things you’re doing at your school.

5 Strategies to Implement by Monday

Know your true current openings

  • Know every opening by age group.
  • Create waitlists and regularly call, follow up with email, implement two-way text; consider getting a customer relationship management (CRM) platform.
  • Get parents’ commitments on return date and regularly communicate.
  • Don’t hold spots – first come, first served (even former families).
  • Use urgency as a tool after reassuring safety and quality program and staff.
  • If you are offering virtual learning, have a plan to replace these students after public schools reopen.
  • Consider a strong before and after school program using these leads.

Mine Your Lists

  • Host a pizza party with staff and directors where you reach out to leads.
  • Have key teachers call parents to assure safety practices are in place and to instill confidence.
  • Give staff specific talking points – COVID, unique selling proposition (USP), teacher intros, new curriculum.
  • Coach staff on asking for a return/start date.
  • Paint a picture of the fun the children are having.

Gather Lists to Mine

  • Families enrolled pre-COVID; start with March 2020 and go backwards at least one full year.
  • Former families; many schools are closed or struggling with reopening.
  • Families enrolled elsewhere; many schools are permanently closed or struggling as they have reopened. Make sure to filter your leads by age group.

Implement Hygiene Practices into Marketing

  • Market your adapted sanitary protocols in tour packets, on your website, within your CRM templates, and on social media (YouTube and Facebook).
  • Show off your supplies on tours to demonstrate how prepared your center is.
  • Create an elevator speech for tours on post COVID-19 policies and procedures.
  • Add hygiene signs to your tour stops.

Paper Your Town

  • Don’t be afraid of print!
  • Create flyers that clearly communicate you’re open (or will be opening soon).
  • Display banners on your building.
  • Use yard signs around the building, particularly in high-traffic areas.
  • Mail postcards, ideally with a personal note.
  • Partner with local restaurants to advertise your services.

Bonus – Use Urgency with Promotions

  • Consider a “two weeks free if you enroll by X date” promotion.
  • Offer a discount for the first three months (always have an expiration date).
  • Reward referrals with double or triple your referral fee.

To watch the webinar, click here.

Francie Dudrey

About The Author

Francie Dudrey

Francie Dudrey is Director of Content, Events and Brand at Procare Solutions, where she leverages Procare’s brand leadership to support our customers through meaningful content and compelling events. She also has two small children and deeply appreciates the value of high-quality child care.

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