Child care businesses are receiving information on a daily basis related to COVID-19, which can be overwhelming to sift through and determine the actions to take. That’s why IntelliKid Systems and Procare Solutions teamed up to deliver a comprehensive webinar providing practical steps child care centers can take to help rebuild their businesses. The session offered easy-to-implement marketing strategies and communication tactics, as well as resources like a sample six-week plan and drop-off process roadmap – all with a side of compassion and hope. The webinar hosts included:
- Jared Hall, CEO of IntelliKid Systems
- Carol Levins, founder of Creative Kids Learning Center and child care industry expert for more than 40 years
- Michelle Burrows, Chief Marketing Officer at Procare Solutions
The webinar began with a look into the current state of the child care industry. Jared highlighted that 43 percent of parents working from home still require child care, while 49 percent of parents working on-site need formal child care.
“These are positive stats because they show that even during this pandemic, demand for child care still exists,” said Jared. “Couple that with the fact that 82 percent of parents support federal and state relief for child care, and it’s easy to see how much parents and families value child care.”
While these stats provide hope, Jared also acknowledged that centers are struggling, and it’s important they tackle three big issues head-on: fear, finances and communication.
According to a nationwide survey from the Bipartisan Policy Center, 75 percent of parents say their biggest fear is exposing their child to coronavirus by attending a child care program. With that in mind, Jared said it’s critical that centers leverage their marketing to drive home their increased health and safety measures.
Carol added it’s important to address the misconception that a friend or neighbor’s house is safer than a child care center. “Licensed child care centers, by their nature, are required to implement rigorous cleaning and safety protocols,” said Carol. “Child care businesses have to make it a point to highlight this fact.”
Jared added, “Sanitizing isn’t a new practice for child care providers – we do it every day, so we’re already a step ahead of everyone else.”
“One thing I will say is that while we’ve been sanitizing our centers for years, I have seen folks use the spray and wipe method,” said Carol. “It’s actually better to spray your disinfectant, then let it air dry.”
Jared said that cleaning expenses would increase for centers, but that it was important to consider those costs as a marketing expense, since that’s one of the top things parents will look for when deciding on a child care provider. Other suggestions Jared and Carol provided around cleaning include exploring a nightly janitorial service (which can be used to market your center), as well as introducing and promoting a personal hygiene curriculum.
Jared outlined several ideas to help centers build their enrollment – and in turn increase revenue. He advised to stay away from extending credit. “It’s better to have an open slot than a filled slot with a family that can’t pay,” Jared said. “Yes, you may be desperate for enrollment, but if you focus on a safe and healthy program, families will seek you out.”
He then talked about offering a free day to parents who are interviewing for a job. “It’s a great way to generate goodwill in your community – in fact, we were able to get a lot of news coverage when we implemented the idea at our centers.”
When it comes to specials and discounts, Jared advised that if a center offers deals, it needs to make sure they a clear expiration date.
Finally, Jared and Carol gave a quick overview of what’s called “dynamic scheduling.” Dynamic scheduling expands enrollment from full days to offering half days. It’s about counting slots, not children.
“A lot of parents will continue to work from home, so they may not want to send their kids back full-time,” said Carol. “But these same parents would probably be more willing to send their children a few days a week for a morning or afternoon slot.”
While dynamic scheduling can be a more complex to coordinate, if a child care business has the right child care software, it can easily manage it and in turn, significantly increase its revenue.
Communication with parents and staff is crucial to any center’s ability to successfully reopen or expand enrollment.
“Now is not the time to shy away from tough conversations,” said Jared. “Be clear, concise and above all, be honest.”
Jared pointed to child care centers’ websites as one of the key places to post information:
- Place a banner on the homepage of your website that leads to an area detailing your response to COVID-19.
- Include information about updated licensing guidelines, as well as community and local government updates.
He added that by directing people to your site, you get the extra benefit of information-seekers reading all about your program.
Jared advised centers to begin dedicated information campaigns to their current and inquiring families once they know the date of their opening. And once open, centers should take a lot of photos that show parents and the community they’re committed to keeping the children in their care safe. Child care providers can also record videos of their rigorous cleaning process and share them in blogs, emails and via their social media channels.
Additional ways to connect with prospective families is to do virtual tours. Jared and Carol said it’s not enough for a center to post a video to its website or YouTube channel. They recommended getting the parent’s information and having an initial conversation with them before sending them a link to the virtual tour.
With regard to enrollment, they talked about the benefits of lead management software to handle inquiries. “Eighty percent of today’s babies are born to millennial parents,” said Jared. “Make sure you are matching their expectations with the methods you use to attract and keep their attention.”
Finally, Jared outlined an example of a six-week plan to help centers organize their communication and outreach efforts.
To close the webinar, Jared ended by saying, “Child care is beyond essential. It sits at the crossroads of our economy and education. It helps shape society and enables families to pursue success. This isn’t the first time we’ve faced hardship and likely won’t be the last. Just as before, we will continue to persevere and what’s more, we will continue to thrive.”
To watch the webinar, click here.
To request the handouts shared during the webinar, click here.