When it comes to enrolling new families, many child care centers focus on finding parents who are interested in their programs — but then don’t follow up to get them to register.
“Good marketing does not always equal great enrollment,” said Lisa Henkel, vice president of education and training at ChildcareCRM, a global software company specializing in customer relationship and lead management.
Lisa presented the “Engaging with Families from Interest to Enrollment” session at The Business of Child Care virtual conference hosted by Procare Solutions on July 21, 2021.
Lisa outlined the three key milestones in the enrollment process: your initial response after a parent inquires for care, completing a tour with a prospective family and registering children or adding them to your center’s waitlist.
Let’s take a look at the tips Lisa offered to help you turn prospective clients into enrolled families!
Initial Response to Interested Parents
Lisa explained that parents may inquire for care at six or more centers, reach out to four or more different providers about payment rates, and tour three different facilities to find the perfect fit for them and their family.
If you aren’t following up with them throughout the enrollment process, you probably won’t stay top of mind and may lose the opportunity to provide care.
“We’re trying to be first in line,” Lisa said.
Following up immediately is one way to secure that position. Lisa said that once you’ve received an inquiry from a new parent, arrange for an immediate thank you email and text to be sent, and schedule a phone call, within one to four hours.
Complete a Tour
The faster you can complete a tour with prospective families, the better your chances of registering them, Lisa said. She cited a statistic that scheduling a tour or meeting with a prospective family within the first 24 hours of initial interest increases the chance of enrollment by a whopping 83 percent.
ChildcareCRM has a parent-scheduled tours feature, which enables families to book tours, choosing from available time slots, on your website. When parents can schedule a tour on their own time and at their convenience, it helps increase the likelihood of enrollment and decrease the chances the parents will no-show.
Lisa said this allows parents to schedule a tour at the moment when they’re online and become excited to meet you and see your center. She gave the example of a mom who saw your website during a 2 a.m. breastfeeding session and decided she wanted to tour it. Being able to schedule a tour online at that moment is a huge value.
Once the tour is done, it’s time to go back to your office and tell the family how much you enjoyed meeting them and ask them to register. If the family doesn’t enroll at the end of the tour, contact them no later than 48 hours after they’ve completed the tour. Thank them again for coming and reiterate that you’d love to have them in your program. Mention something the parent brought up during the tour, such as potty training or that a child is a picky eater. Encourage them to contact you with questions, and make sure you provide your phone number and email address.
Keep sending communication after that message at regular intervals, Lisa said. Schedule emails or texts with helpful information such as articles about potty training or preparing your child for kindergarten to go out once a week.
When they are ready to enroll, you will be first in their minds, she said.
Having a strong focus on parent engagement helps build meaningful connections with the families you serve.
How is your child care center doing when it comes to keeping parents informed, connected and engaged?
The Rule of Seven and Other Tips
This rule suggests that families need to hear an advertising message seven times before they will consider enrolling for care, Lisa said. Contacting a prospective family at least five to seven times increases the likelihood of enrollment by 67 percent.
“Parents are super busy. They have a lot going on in addition to looking for care,” Lisa said.
So don’t give up until they say they’ve found a different child care center or are no longer interested.
Lisa gave the following suggestions to help in sharing your message:
Make text messages a priority. The vast majority of today’s parents are millennials, and 60 percent of millennials prefer texting over email and phone to communicate with businesses.
Personalize your communications. Include the recipient’s name in each email. Texts are important, but phone calls are good too. Parents crave personability from their child care providers and phone calls and face-to-face interactions give them that. When you personalize your messaging and cater to your families’ specific needs, you are better positioned as a reliable and knowledgeable person they can trust.
Create a sense of urgency. Many families are feeling financially insecure due to the coronavirus pandemic and aren’t ready to make commitments with their money. So be their ally. Be honest and let them know when spots are filling up.
Automate your follow-ups. You can use ChildCareCRM’s two-way communication feature to interact with parents through email and texts with its templates, or you can make your own.
Digitize your registration forms. Parents like knowing they can fill out the paperwork online at a time and place that’s convenient for them.
How Procare Can Help
Procare and ChildcareCRM are integrated. That means customers get ChildcareCRM’s software to help manage and track enrollment inquiries, while building relationships with parents and caregivers, as well as Procare’s comprehensive child care management software that helps child care professionals and administrators operate every aspect of their center, including parent engagement.
Did you miss a software circle or breakout session from The Business of Child Care Conference? Don’t worry! If you registered for the conference, you can log into the conference platform until Aug. 21 to catch up. Procare also is working on posting the sessions so they’ll be available after that date as well.
And remember, we’re always here to help or answer questions. If you’re a center not yet using Procare to manage your business and help with billing, request a free demo today!