Before I explain how an ad funnel works and how to optimize yours, let’s review the basics.

An ad funnel (also known as a sales or marketing funnel) is a four-stage journey every customer (parent) makes on their path to purchase (enroll).

The four stages are:

  1. Awareness — when parents become aware of your brand
  2. Consideration — when parents learn who and where you are
  3. Conversion — when parents decide to enroll
  4. Retention — when parents renew, leave reviews, and refer other parents to your school

Each stage is essential to the growth of your brand and the success of your business. Let’s explore each stage to see how you can optimize your ad funnel to get the best results for your business.

4 Stages of an Ad Funnel

Depending on your vertical (industry) or which marketer you ask, you may hear different names for the different stages of ad funnels. Sometimes you’ll even get different numbers of stages — anywhere from three to five.

For our purposes, we’ll stick with the four stages we listed above.

1. Awareness

The awareness stage of your funnel (also called top-of-the-funnel or ToFu) involves putting your brand in front of as many people as possible.

This can include physical signage, newspaper ads, open houses, digital awareness campaigns, and more. Any printed signage and materials must be branded with your logo and business name, and must be readable from a distance. It doesn’t matter how pretty your sign is if no one can read it!

At this stage, casting a wide net with your branding efforts makes sense, within reason. For example, as a local business, you’ll want to concentrate on advertising in your local community rather than putting money into large-scale ads like national commercials.

2. Consideration

Also known as middle-of-the-funnel or MoFu, this is the stage at which digital ads come into play.

At this stage, parents already have a need they’re actively searching to fill — childcare for their kid(s) — and you need them to discover you have the solution. Use paid digital ads, paid print ads, tours, and open houses to promote your childcare center to interested parents in your area.

Word of mouth, spread by friends, family members, and online reviews, can also have a major impact during this stage.

3. Conversion

Now we’ve reached BoFu — bottom-of-the-funnel.

In the context of childcare, conversion means securing enrollments, so this is where you create promotional offers for parents who’ve already toured your facility, nudging them toward a decision. You can also use online reviews and testimonials to encourage conversion.

Of course, promotions are nothing without great employees. Your staff must be extremely well trained so they can convert a touring parent to an enrolled parent. (More on this in a little bit.)

4. Retention

Not all ad funnels have this fourth stage, but we believe it’s one of the most critical. Retention means getting existing families to renew, which hinges on the daily operations of your school.

Like we always say, the best way to market your school is by running a great school. Doing so leads to five-star reviews, frequent referrals, and consistent enrollment, and practically guarantees great retention.

There are some key components to managing healthy retention for your school. Reputation management is crucial (such as reaching out to parents for reviews and testimonials). It’s also important to address every review promptly and professionally, regardless of the topic. Parents are monitoring your responses and will judge you based on your reactions.

Hiring and training a highly qualified staff is critical as well, as is engaging parents daily. An open line of communication sows trust.

Infographic: How to Know if Your Advertising Funnel Is Working

Signs of Trouble for Each Stage of Your Ad Funnel

Think your processes need some adjustment? To be sure, look for the following clues:

  • Awareness — You don’t have a waitlist, or your waitlist is weak.
  • Consideration — You aren’t consistently booking or scheduling tours. Ever heard the saying “always be closing”? Your center should always be touring.
  • Conversion — You’re giving plenty of tours but not seeing a good enrollment ratio.
  • Retention — You’re losing families before they age out.

Thankfully, all these issues are fixable (and preventable!).

How to Fix (And Prevent) Ad Funnel Troubles


To drive awareness on a large scale, you can update your Google My Business profile regularly and run a brand awareness campaign on Google Ads.

On a smaller scale, you can drive awareness in your local community by starting a “refer-a-friend” program with your enrolled parents. Personal recommendations carry a ton of weight and are incredibly valuable to your brand.

Show your appreciation by offering a tuition discount to both parties after a certain period (e.g., both parties receive one week of free tuition if the new enrollee remains enrolled for three months or more).


As mentioned earlier, search campaigns (digital ads) can effectively boost consideration by targeting the keywords parents Google when looking for childcare.

You can also invite the community to open houses. This allows local families to see how you’re different from (read: superior to) your competitors. Promotions can also effectively tip the scales in your favor.


Conversions rely on adequately trained staff and a school that looks its best.

Have your staff practice giving tours. Identify the best tour-giver and have them coach the rest of the team. Schedule tours for days and times when they’ll be least disruptive to your kids and staff and when the school will look best — weekends are usually ideal.


Run a great school. It’s easier said than done, but it really is the key to everything.

Build strong relationships with your kids and families. Train your staff well and, if needed, ensure they receive specialized training.

Engage with parents daily. Communicate frequently with updates and pictures. You can accomplish this through social media or your CRM. By galvanizing those relationships with trust and communication, you differentiate your school and become a real partner in raising children.

Also, always remain professional, no matter what. Respond to 100% of complaints and negative reviews. If you need help, we’d be happy to speak with you about our reputation management services.

Your Advertising Funnel: Final Tips

If you’re struggling with your ad funnel and you’re not sure why, do not lower your tuition to improve results. Tuition rates are rarely a reason parents leave a school, and reducing your rates causes more problems than it solves.

From a parent’s perspective, when their four-year-old is happy and they know their child is safe and loved every day, saving $150 a month in tuition is not enough reason to leave.

So, hang in there. Go through your ad funnel, evaluate, adjust, and keep trying. You’ve got this!

Quote Card: How to Know if Your Advertising Funnel Is Working


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