Child care enrollment and weekly or monthly tuition payments are the primary source of income for child care centers. Without enough kids enrolled in their programs, child care centers may struggle to meet ongoing financial obligations and keep their doors open to continue serving the community.
This is especially true in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the past six months, we’ve seen child care enrollment in some states drop to almost zero. Child care enrollment figures have begun to rebound as states reopen schools and parents return to work, but most centers still aren’t seeing their child care enrollment or attendance numbers return to pre-coronavirus levels.
This article provides 10 winning strategies that can help child care centers rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, increase child care enrollment, and build a stronger child care community in this new environment.
10 Strategies for Increasing Child Care Enrollment
Know What Parents are Looking for in a Child Care Center
The first step to marketing your child care center is understanding the highest-priority concerns of your target customers – the parents of kids in your local area.
A study conducted by Mott Poll on child care choice identified a number of important factors that influence how parents choose child care. These factors can be categorized as:
- Child Safety – Is the center located in a safe area? Are the doors locked? Are background checks performed on staff members?
- Child Health – Will my child receive healthy meals? Will my child get enough physical activity? What is the vaccination policy?
- Child Developmental Opportunities – Are there sufficient toys, books, learning materials and scheduled activities to support my child’s development?
- Overall Quality of Care – Are staff members trained and qualified? Will my child receive the attention and support they need to thrive? Will my child be happy?
- Practical Considerations – Is the center affordable? Is it proximal? Does it fit my schedule?
Knowing what parents are looking for in your center before they ever make contact with your business puts you one step ahead when it comes to positioning your center as their best option.
Find Your Niche in Child Care
Creating a child care business that appeals to every possible customer may not be the best strategy for increasing enrollment at your center.
Instead of trying to make everyone happy, figure out what makes your center unique or special and develop your own niche, brand and company culture around those specific things.
Here are just a few ideas for how to develop a child care niche that can attract more customers:
- Specialize in providing child care services for a specific age group. Direct your resources on developing age-appropriate lessons and activities, then showcase them in your marketing to maximize appeal for parents with kids in that age group.
- Specialize in providing physical activity opportunities and outdoor education. Focus on parents who want their kids to enjoy more than the typical 60-90 minutes per day of physical activity.
- Specialize in providing cognitive developmental opportunities. Hire staff with post-secondary education in early childhood education, invest in age-appropriate toys and games that support learning goals, and emphasize school preparation in your marketing efforts.
Invest in Hiring and Training Quality Staff
When parents visit your child care center for a pre-enrollment tour or orientation, they pay extra special attention to how your child care providers interact with children in their care. If they observe staff members that are patient, caring and responsive when working with kids, they’re more likely to enroll.
As a child care center, your staff members are a powerful marketing tool and it makes sense to invest in hiring and training people whose actions, attitudes and behaviors in the workplace will consistently portray your center in a positive light.
Offer Flexible and Convenient Hours
Here’s something that most child care centers still haven’t figured out: how to provide more convenient and flexible child care hours for families.
Child care centers in the United States usually open at 7 a.m., close by 6 p.m., and charge by the minute for late pick-ups – they cater to families who operate on a conventional 9-5 working schedule. This makes accessing child care services more challenging and often more costly for parents whose daily work schedule doesn’t match up with standard child care operating hours.
As a child care administrator, you can make your center more convenient and accessible for parents in your community by offering extended hours or affordable options for late pick-up and early drop-off. Some have even created 24-hour centers – learn more about how this center in Monett, Mo. does it.
Add Value with Specialized Activities
Child care centers can enhance the perceived value of their programming by planning and scheduling specialized activities that support children’s developmental goals and overall well being.
Choosing the right activities comes down to understanding the specific needs and values of parents and kids in your community. Some parents would love a child care center that organizes nature exploration activities, while others would prefer basketball, yoga, computer programming or something completely different.
Whichever direction you take, adding specialized activities into your child care curriculum can help you differentiate yourself from other child care providers.
Advertise Child Care Services in the Local Community
Advertising child care services in your local community is a critical component of your child care enrollment growth strategy. If your center is invisible, you’re missing out on a huge potential source of new customers and enrollment.
Consider the following low-cost options for advertising your child care services locally:
- Post flyers on community message boards in stores, restaurants or on the street. Include tear-off tabs with your contact information so parents can get in touch.
- Connect with local schools and after school programs that may be able to recommend your center to parents in the community who need child care.
- Create business cards and share them with local real estate agents who can advertise your business to parents that are new in your area.
- Post yard signs all around your building letting passersby know you’re open and enrolling now.
- Mention your child care services everywhere you go – restaurants, retailers, recreation clubs, etc.
Claim Your Google My Business Profile to Appear in Local Search
In 2020, the customer journey almost always begins with a Google search.
To ensure that your potential customers can locate your business on Google, visit Google My Business and claim your free business profile. Listing your business on Google will increase your visibility in local search results, making it easier for parents to discover your business name, address, phone number, operating hours and website.
Build a Website for Your Center
Speaking of a website – take the time to create a professional website that helps you gather information from interested families.
Your website acts as a digital storefront where parents can visit to learn more about your child care center and the products and services that you provide. You can use text, images and video to demonstrate the amazing child care you provide and show parents exactly why they’ll love enrolling their child at your center. We recommend you work with a professional to build your website, as it’s often the first impression you make on prospective families.
Offer Incentives for Word of Mouth Promotion
When it’s time to decide on a preschool or center-based care facility for their child, parents are likely to follow up on recommendations they receive from a trusted friend or advisor, such as their child’s teacher, school administrator or another parent.
As a child care administrator, offering incentives or creating a referral program can encourage your existing families to share their experiences and recommend your services to other parents and families in the community.
For example, ask happy parents to write five-star Google reviews of your center. Send them the link directly to the review page so it’s easy for them to find. As an incentive, you could offer them a small discount off their next bill.
Boost Retention with Parent Engagement
To maintain high enrollment in their centers, child care administrators need to think about customer retention – not just customer acquisition. In the child care business, customer retention is the result of effective parent engagement – an intentional effort to build connections and form trusting relationships with families through regular updates and communication.
Child care administrators can boost parent engagement with Procare’s child care app. With Procare, child care providers can share developmental milestones with parents as they happen, provide electronic daily reports, and keep parents informed with updates about upcoming events or other changes that impact your center.
Power Your Enrollment Growth Strategy with Procare Solutions
With over 30 years in the child care business, Procare Solutions understands the challenges associated with increasing child care enrollment.
To make the process easier, we’ve integrated a customer relationship management (CRM) platform into our software so our customers can seamlessly engage with parents from their first inquiry through to enrollment and beyond. We’ve also made it easier than ever for centers to adopt online child care registration and provide a streamlined, digital enrollment option for parents.
Are you ready to grow your child care enrollment with Procare in 2020?