As states are beginning to relax their stay-at-home orders, child care centers should be thinking about their plans for reopening or expanding enrollment. In their latest webinar, Hinge Brokers provided child care businesses with some helpful framework not only on how to manage in the present moment, but also how to create a marketing plan to build your enrollment and prepare for your grand reopening.
Kathy Ligon, founder and CEO of Hinge Brokers, began the webinar with some advice, saying, “We have a beautiful opportunity to do things completely different now, and it’s important to not enter this time with fear, but rather be bold and confident.” With that in mind, Kathy asked Molly Petchel, childcare marketing and enrollment expert, to share her insights in ways child care centers can reimagine the approach to their businesses.
Molly began by highlighting five things centers can control now:
- Your narrative: This is what you want prospective and current parents to understand given today’s circumstances. She suggested developing a 30-second elevator speech on where you’ve been, where you are and where you’re going.
- Responding vs. reacting: While it’s a stressful time, it’s important to focus on responding in an even-tempered way versus letting your emotions take over. How you respond now can affect your business well into the future.
- Adapting your policies: Evaluate all of your operational policies and determine what needs to be changed (i.e. instituting temperature checks, limiting hours of operation, only allowing drop-off at the front door, etc.). Molly said to look at your policies around facilities management, such as how you’ll clean your facilities and ensure you have the supplies you need. She also recommended new procedures such as single-use lunch packaging as well as wearing booties and “inside” shoes.
- Time spent, value received: Focus your efforts on where you’ll get the most value. Molly said now’s the time to lean on your trusted relationships like those with vendors, banks, childcare networks, licensing agencies and others. Or perhaps get involved with your state associations. By building coalitions, that will help make sure you’re prepared and have the support you need.
- Hiring high quality staff: Now’s the time to start thinking about how you’ll build your staff to accommodate reopening. Some suggestions from Molly include offering hiring bonuses, reaching out to former staff with whom you have a good relationship and/or reaching out to schools that have permanently shut down. As far as keeping current staff engaged, she suggested leveraging Facebook Live and virtual meetings if your school is closed, as well as treating on-site staff to local lunch delivery or improving the types of snacks/drinks offered.
When it comes to engaging with families, Molly provided several ideas:
- Send a letter to parents once per week with detailed updates.
- Call each family that is enrolled to determine their return plans, as well as check in with families that have registered.
- Leverage social media and get creative with story time, virtual learning, cleaning and documenting of your facility (to show how you’re putting measures in place for safety and cleanliness).
- Think about “porch pick-ups.” These are ways to use any materials you have leftover in your supply closet and create activity kits that parents can pick up to take home and use with their children.
- Consider suggesting that teachers send letters to kids. Snail mail is so rare these days – the gesture will mean a lot to both the kids and their parents.
From a marketing perspective, Molly highlighted key channels and tactics you can employ to increase enrollment:
Use your customer relationship management (CRM) software
- Update your drip campaigns (add video, make changes, add new pictures, highlight sanitation protocols).
- Pick local business you’d like to support and work with them to see if you can do co-marketing (i.e. in your email newsletter, highlight a local restaurant that has great takeout for families; in return, the restaurant could offer to do the same in their customer communications.).
- Do porch pick-ups for all of your CRM contacts – not just current customers. These could be families who have toured your school.
Leverage social media
- On Facebook, you can schedule virtual tours or do a Facebook Live with parents where they can ask questions of a child care expert.
- On YouTube, you can do virtual learning, virtual tours, parent orientation, FAQs, etc.
- Use Instagram to post highlights, videos and photos of you getting ready to open.
Maximize the impact of your website
- Make sure you have the capability for parents to self-schedule school tours. You can make these virtual for now.
- Have links to virtual learning opportunities.
- Make sure to create a section on your COVID-19 response and how you’ll continue to address moving forward.
- Include any information on summer camps.
- Update any information about your before and after school programs for Fall 2020 (including new policies).
Engage with the community
- As stated earlier, porch pick-ups are a great way to connect. Use holidays like Mother’s Day to create bouquets that dads can order, as well as a Mother’s Day card activity for the kids.
- Hold a brainstorming with your team to come up with 25 new ideas to connect with your local community.
Retarget your previous leads
- Call every lost lead in your CRM, but make sure you know your openings first.
Paper Your Town
- Don’t be afraid of print.
- Use flyers, yard signs and banners on your building to let the community know you’re open or are planning to open. You could also make yard signs that say “[Name of School] misses you!” and post in your families’ yards.
Consider discounts or ambassador rates
- Offer two weeks free for new enrollments and/or discount for the first three months. Note to be clear on an expiration date. You shouldn’t be discounting families the entire time they use your services.
- You can also double or even triple your referral fee.
Highlight hygiene practices in your marketing:
- Do a sanitary protocols marketing roll-out in tour packets, website, CRM, YouTube, Facebook and other channels you use. Highlight the fact that you’ve adapted your policies to ensure the safety of children and staff.
- Do online tours (and in-person when it’s safe to do so) to show off your cleaning supplies – it indicates to parents that you’re prepared.
- Make sure your staff knows the elevator speech, and make sure to emphasize any post-COVID-19 policies and procedures.
In preparing for your grand reopening, Molly laid out a week-by-week plan for centers to use.
Three weeks out – send surveys to families and ask questions such as:
- Do you intend to enroll a younger child in next six months?
- Is your child interested in summer camp?
- What is the desired week your child can start attending full-time?
- What do you anticipate would be your daily drop-off and pick-up times?
- How long do you intend to use our services?
Also three weeks out:
- Plan for an outbreak.
- Write a sample letter to your parents on your procedures if an outbreak occurs.
- Decide what rooms need to be closed in “what if” scenarios and how many days you think you will need to be closed.
- Have quotes from a few cleaning crews lined up in case of an outbreak.
Two weeks out:
- Call every parent who was enrolled previously in your program to confirm their situation and start date.
- For those who have lost jobs, offer to not raise rates until 2021 or to hold their spot if they can give you a 30-day notice when they can return.
- Anticipate a staggered opening.
One week out:
- Post hygiene signs – these are ways to tell your staff, students and families that you’re committed to keeping the facility safe and clean.
- Hold training for staff to teach them your elevator speech, go over new policies, etc.
- Set expectations with your parents on any new policies you’re implementing (like drop-off outside the front door, taking temperatures of the children as they enter the building, etc.).
When your facility is open:
- Clean continuously.
- Clean things you may normally not clean, such as playground equipment and window seals.
- Provide plenty of hand soap for classrooms and restrooms.
- Hold a fun reopening ceremony, for example, welcoming children in the building by having teachers clapping in the doorways of their classrooms.
- Raffle prizes for families during the first four-six weeks you are open, and post on Facebook.
- Offer giveaways for testimonials.
- Provide in-person tours of your hygiene protocols.
Molly closed by saying it’s important to be creative and adapt to the new circumstances – being flexible will be critical in determining a child care business’s success.
Click here to see the webinar in full.
You can find additional coronavirus-related resources here: