Marketing and Advertising your Family Child Care Business

Beyond Flyers

Today's topic on advertising is going to be a little different.  Although I will give some examples of advertising materials, I'm not going to go too deep into them.  The focus of this article is going to be about what you can do as a business owner to improve your business so that you can market your business better and be more appealing to potential clients. 

What is Family Child Care Marketing?

Marketing is defining your services.  How is your program meeting the needs of children and parents?  Are your services in demand?  Do you provide something special that sets you apart from other family child care businesses in your area?  Setting yourself apart from other family daycare businesses is important because you want to stand out but you also want to make sure that you provide services that you are comfortable and agree with.  If you are not a morning person you wouldn't want to provide early morning care and open at 4am for example and if spending time with your own family is important to you wouldn't want to offer evening/weekend services.  Doing so may attract more business but it may create feelings of resentment or burn-out.  Provide a balance of both services that parents are looking for and that you are willing to provide.
  • Early morning care
  • Evening care
  • Weekend care
  • Overnight care
  • Drop-in care
  • Before/after school care
  • Homework help
  • Organic/healthy meals
  • Outdoor program
  • Play-based curriculum
  • Preschool program
  • Infant only care
  • High quality care
  • Transportation to/from school
  • Special classes/instruction (dance, art, Spanish, Sign Language etc.)
  • Focus on specific age ranges (infants only, 0-5 years only, preschool only)
Marketing is also how you are pricing your services.  How much is your time worth to you?  Find out what other providers in your area are charging and what services they are offering and compare that with your rates.  The last thing you want to do is undercharge for your time if other family child care businesses that are run similarly to yours are charging more.  If you provide services that are in demand that are difficult to find in your area you charge a little more.  Lowering your rates to attract clients is never a good idea because business wise it's not savvy.  Remember, this is a business and the point is to make money ... not give money away.  Your rates should cover the cost of expenses such as utilities, materials, food and other bills and you should have some extra.  Price your rates competitively but never underpay yourself. 
Promoting your business can be about how you tell others about your program but in this business it's largely about word of mouth.  The opinion that other people have about your business can hugely hinder or help you because referrals are a large part of how we get clients.  Providing a quality program will appeal more to parents and attract more clients.


Quality of Child Care

A high quality family child care programs means that the children are regularly offered child-centered activities, healthy meals, individual care, and a safe comfortable and clean environment run by a trained child care provider.  When you hold interviews it's not only a time for parents to ask questions but also a time for you to educate them about what quality child care means and how your program meets those standards.  Let them know the benefits of your program.
Your work environment also has a lot to do with the quality of child care and I'm not just talking about the play materials and toys.  Work environment has a lot to do with your income, paid vacations, sick days, holidays, your contract etc.  Having a contract that covers all of these topics creates a better work environment for you.  Decide what you want to offer and what perks you believe you are entitled to and create clear policies for you and your clients to follow.  This way the expectations are clear for both sides, just remember to enforce your policies after you create them.

Promoting the Benefits of your Program

A feature describes what the provider offers and focuses on the provider (example: I am licensed, I am on the food program, I am open from 7am-6pm etc.).  A benefit tells parents how the children and parents will have their needs met and focuses on the client. 
Feature - I am licensed
Benefit - My program meets a variety of health and safety standards that will ensure the safety of your child.
Feature - I'm on the food program
Benefit - I serve home-made nutritious meals made with fresh fruits and vegetables and made from ingredients versus commercially made food.  My meals meet quality standards that will help your child grow. 
See the difference?  Many times parents know to look for a licensed facility or a facility that participates in the food program but they don't know why it's important.  When you tell parents about the good things about your daycare make sure to focus on how your daycare benefits them and their child.

Marketing to prospective clients

The three most important contact times you have with a potential client are:
  • When they first call you on the phone
  • When they first see your home
  • When they first enter your home for an interview
Sometimes ... okay many times ... when you get a phone call you are busy doing something with the children, it's a fact of child care.  Most times we're so busy during the day that we can't answer the phone but we don't want to miss out on that potential client.  Have a recorded message ready to greet potential clients so that they know they have called the right place.  Make sure that your greeting leaves a positive, professional impression on the caller.  Make sure that you sound clear, positive and energetic.  Smile when you are recording your message and this will help make you sound more friendly and cheerful.  When you are done ask a friend or family member to listen to your greeting and give you feedback.  Here's an example:
"Hello and thank you for calling [daycare name].  I am unable to answer your call at the moment but if you leave your name, your phone number and your child care needs I'll be more than happy to return your call as soon as possible.  Thank you and have a wonderful day!"

How to Handle Phone Calls from Prospective Clients

When you first get that initial call make sure to answer your phone in a business like manner "Hello, [daycare name].  This is [your name]." or "This is [your name], [daycare name].  How can I help you?"  Answering in a professional manner will help set the tone for how you conduct your business.  Smile during the conversation and you will sound more cheerful and upbeat.  It works! Try it!
The first thing you will want to do is to determine the needs of the caller to see if you can meet their child care needs.  Find out the specifics of both the parent and child.  Ask for the child's age and schedule of care that is needed and also the number of children.  Ask about the parent's work/school schedule and make a mental note of whether their schedule matches exactly to that of the child's schedule.  Many times parents don't think about it and will give you their work schedule hours when you ask for the child's child care hours needed so make sure that you are clear about what their needs are.  For example if the parent works Monday through Friday from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm those will not be the hours of care that they will need, they will probably need care from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm and your quote can then reflect those hours.
Once you have determined the caller's child care needs you should describe the benefits of your program briefly and invite the caller to visit your program.  The trick to this is to assume that they are already coming.  "So that's a little bit about my program.  I'd really like to have you come by for a tour and for more information.  I'm free all this week after 5:30 pm.  What day works best for you?"  I found that this approach gets me more scheduled interviews than when I don't use it. 
Phone Tips:
  • Answer the phone with a business, not a personal, greeting.
  • If other people in your home answer the phone discuss with them how you would like for them to answer the phone.
  • Smile!  You will sound friendlier.
  • If you tell the caller that you will call them back give them a realistic time and stick to it.  Not calling back when you say you will makes you seem unreliable.

Marketing Ideas

Here are some other things you can do/make to help market your daycare:
  • Child care flyers
  • Photo album/scrapbook to show to potential clients
  • Enrollment packet
  • Improve your education in early childhood and display your credentials (get a degree in child development, take workshops/training and display your certificates of completion on a wall or in a binder etc.)
  • Get a business name.
  • Create newsletters.  Include projects and craft ideas with photos of completed projects and mail/email them to friends, family and potential clients that have children.
  • Birthday and holiday cards
  • Write notes to the parents about their child's progress regularly
  • Review and update your contract and policies
  • Take video of activities or events at your program and send it to clients or post on website/Facebook (with permission of course).
  • Give yearly evaluations forms to your clients to complete
  • Make door hangers and distribute them in your neighborhood
  • Have keepsakes made and pass them out (fridge magnets, key chains, pens, calendars)
  • Have large car magnets made with your business information
  • Have a welcome mat made with your business logo or name
  • Create t-shirts for yourself and the children with your daycare name, tag line, logo and telephone number on them.  Use them when you go to the park and other field trips.
Low-cost promotions:
  • Business Cards
  • Create a letterhead using a word processing program and use the letterhead any time that you send out notices or letters.
  • Choose a tag line for your business and use it when you advertise (Little Tree Daycare - Growing Healthy Children).
  • Create a business logo
  • Add a signature with your business information to your emails.
  • Create a website.
  • Offer inventive coupons for new sign-ups and referrals.