My marketing career began in 2008.
At the time, I was a sales representative selling mostly to salons, spas, and boutiques. My product lines included organic goat’s milk soap in beautiful packaging — very high-end — as well as fashion accessories and gift products.
But this was during the Great Recession, and many boutique owners couldn’t afford to travel to the gift shows where I sold my products. I had to find a way to get wholesale buyers and individual women to find my products online instead.
At the same time, my husband, John, was helping a childcare owner, Paul, build a preschool in the Dallas area. John told Paul I was learning how to get women to find products online. Paul was interested and invited me to lunch.
I love new ideas; they energize me. I started brainstorming right away and, at lunch, told Paul all the ways I thought I could help local women find his school.
He said, “Great! Go do it!”
I said, “I don’t really know how to do it.”
He said, “Go learn!”
Fast forward a few years. My agency, Rose Marketing Solutions, represents about 120 childcare centers, most of which have been with me for eight years or longer.
What Services Does Rose Marketing Solutions Offer?
To put it succinctly, Rose Marketing Solutions fills classrooms.
To do this, we use:
Why so many? Because each service provides the school with a new front door. Obviously, there’s a physical front door at your school, but there are also many digital doors to your childcare center on the internet.
We work to ensure that wherever a parent lands online (whether they’re passively or actively seeking childcare), they find a digital front door, and your school makes a great first impression.
Which Channel Is Most Essential?
In today’s world, when we need something, we go to Google and search. Parents are no exception.
Google Ads are generally what we recommend to start, especially if your childcare center needs to get more parents in the door. We’ve got a great track record of return on ad spend (ROAS) on Google.
But Google Ads aren’t everything. Your business needs to stay top of mind, too.
It’s helpful if the parent has already heard of your school when you appear in their search results. For example, if they’ve already seen your social media posts or they’ve previously visited your website, they’ll have a better chance of recognizing your brand. Keep these channels updated and active.
Another important channel is Apple Maps. Apple Maps is becoming increasingly prevalent, as Yelp feeds information to it. Not many business owners have a good relationship with Yelp, but ignoring it can hurt your Apple Maps listing.
For example, podcast host Sierra Rossing told me a funny story: She once arrived 10 minutes early to an appointment and decided to finish up some emails in the car. When it was time for her appointment, she approached the door, only to realize she was in the wrong place! The information on Apple Maps was incorrect.
She had to get the correct information over the phone and arrived 10 minutes late to her appointment. Needless to say, she was frustrated.
This is just one example of how a bad first impression at a digital front door can turn a happy, excited prospect into a lost opportunity. We want to help childcare owners stay aware of all the digital front doors they have out there — even the ones that are easy to forget.
Facebook and Instagram are also great places to build your brand. The parent audience is getting younger, so you definitely need to be on Instagram, not just Facebook.
Engaging on social media speaks to all the segments of your target audience, which includes:
- Enrolled families: You want to reassure them that they made a great choice.
- Prospective families: Show them that your school has a great family community they’ll want to join.
- Current staff: Show the world how well you treat your staff, and encourage your staff to take pride in their school.
- Prospective staff: You want prospective employees to see that your school is a great workplace.
But although every channel is important, the best way to market your business is by running a great school. When your parents and staff love you, they’ll become brand ambassadors. They’ll want to tell everyone they know about your school.
Marketing for Different Audiences
We like to begin initial meetings with new clients by saying, “Let’s Google your school and see what comes up!”
We look at all the places where the school appears. We ensure all the information, like phone number and address, is correct, and that all the pictures are attractive.
Think of each place you appear digitally as an invitation to a parent to come and visit. Typically, when you invite someone to your home, you take time to prepare. You ensure everything’s ready before the guests arrive.
Sometimes, childcare business owners are so busy running their physical location that they forget to prepare for guests. As a result, their first impressions aren’t as great as they could be.
To risk sounding like broken record, it’s important to stay vigilant and maintain your school’s first impressions. They’re the key to your success.
Share Happy Content to Attract Prospective Families
Whenever we’re asked, “What’s the most important kind of content to share to attract prospective families?” we answer, “It’s happy content.”
Happiness is the emotion you want to constantly project. Your social media should display happy faces, happy children, happy teachers, happy parents, and happy food.
All these “happy” pictures provide parents with peace of mind. That’s what you’re ultimately selling. Your marketing content should demonstrate an environment where safe children can grow friendships and engage with adults meaningfully.
Peace of mind is where my journey began.
I arrived at the first childcare center I ever worked with to find a distraught mother and child at the front desk. I watched as the director, Karen, calmly took the child from his mom. In Karen’s capable arms, he immediately calmed down.
Karen reassured the mother that her child was in good hands. The mother walked out the door, and, not knowing we could see her through the window, took a deep, cleansing breath, squared her shoulders, and walked to her car.
That interaction made such an impression on me. What a difference we can all make — supporting the children who are our future leaders, helping them make healthy, meaningful connections, and letting parents go out to make a difference in the world without concern for the welfare of their children.
Everything comes back to peace of mind for parents. Always remember that’s what you’re selling.
Keywords Matter, Too
To attract new leads online, you have to appear in search results. For that to happen, you must include the right keywords in your content and web copy.
It’s important to know what words and phrases parents are typing into Google’s search box to look for child care. Unfortunately, this is where it’s easy to stumble. We know you’re an early-learning center or an academic preschool, but “daycare” is still the number one search term parents use to look for your business.
Since parents are searching for “daycare,” you must include that word somewhere in your content. Otherwise, you won’t appear in search results.
This doesn’t mean you have to start calling yourself a daycare in all your digital marketing. You can use phrases like “Not your average daycare” or “Not just daycare.” Daycare might be a frequent search term, but your school is more than that — get creative!
Collecting and Organizing Photos
Photos are vital to online engagement. Parents want to see what their children are doing during the day and prospective parents want to know what a day at your school looks like.
Running your school well and snapping pictures all day every day can seem impossible. However, the solution may already be at your fingertips.
Most parent engagement apps, like LineLeader, have photo galleries. When a teacher records a curriculum moment or milestone, there’s probably already a wealth of photos on your website and social media you can use to commemorate the occasion.
Curriculum coordinators and teachers will know the context of the photos and will be able to explain them. Include this information when you post these photos so parents can better understand the depicted activities.
Of course, when children are being photographed, you must consider their legal rights and safety.
Have every parent sign a photo release. Also include a clause or line item in your parent handbook regarding marketing, photo releases, etc., so parents are aware and your school is legally covered to use photos for marketing purposes.
If it’s not safe for certain children to have their photos used online, get creative by taking photos from behind or just of little hands participating in an activity.
Beyond Digital Marketing
I’m a digital marketer, so of course, that’s my area of preference — but there are plenty of ways to market your school offline, as well.
Word-of-mouth marketing is great. It’s free, and parents trust it more than anything else. In fact, it can generate up to five times as many sales as paid ads, according to Business News Daily.
How do you achieve this? By running a great school where people feel loved and honored. As we mentioned earlier, happy parents will become enthusiastic brand ambassadors.
Many of our schools love to participate in neighborhood events. Maybe your school wants to take part in a local carnival by running a face painting booth, for instance. Just being present and boosting your brand awareness locally can be helpful.
When kids have to sit in the waiting room at the doctor’s office, they become a captive audience. Considering this, many of our clients have donated children’s books to pediatricians’ waiting rooms.
Those books include a sticker in that says something like, “This book was donated by [SCHOOL NAME].” It’s a great way to let your target audience know you’re in the area.
PTAs and Local School Districts
Many PTAs sell ads on their websites, which can be a viable option for some centers to consider.
Also, local school districts often sell space on their websites for digital flyers. It’s a good idea to develop relationships with the administrators of local elementary schools so they can refer parents to you.
Referrals and Incentive Programs
This can be a great way to drive referrals. Have your front desk staff remind parents that you value them, and that you want to reward them when they refer people like them.
Maybe when a referred family stays for two or three months, both families can get one free week of care. It’s important that the reward is applied after a period of time rather than at the beginning of enrollment. You can use emails and QR codes to track program results.
Even barring incentives, if parents appreciate you and your school, they’ll refer other parents to you just because they love you. And that’s money in the bank.
A good reputation continues to tell your story.
Don’t ask parents for a review — it often puts them in the wrong mindset. Instead, ask parents to share their experience.
This makes them think of the last thing your childcare center did that they appreciated. For example, a happy event like a preschool graduation or Mother’s Day Tea is a great time to ask parents to share their experiences on Google, Facebook, or Yelp.
Part of our reputation management service is asking parents to share their experiences one by one rather than all at the same time. This creates a slow trickle of reviews. Getting five, 10, or 20 reviews in one day waves a red flag in front of algorithms and can negatively affect your profile.
Some reviews will be challenging, while others will be loving and kind. We recommend responding to all of them.
When a good review comes in, tell the reviewer how thankful you are that they had that experience, and take a moment to share your core values. That way, when the public reads your response, they’ll learn even more about your business.
Challenging reviews require more time. Answering them can escalate the situation, so it’s often best to take things offline and have a private conversation. Of course, if the review violates the conduct codes of the review platform, you can report it and request its removal.
While dealing with unhappy parents is never easy or enjoyable, it’s part of maintaining your reputation. Parents want to see how you react in stressful situations, so keep your cool and stay professional at all times.
Bad reviews can feel personal, especially when the reviewer mentions a specific teacher or director. Do everything you can to defuse the situation and not incite anger. Sometimes, it may be better not to respond at all.
Before responding to a negative review, consult with staff about the situation to get their perspective. Begin your response by saying, “I’m so sorry that was your experience. Can you come in (or call the office) so we can discuss it?”
Basically, people just want to be heard — many reviewers may not have anyone in their life they can vent to. Approaching these moments with compassion can make a big difference.
It’s unfortunate that situations can blow up so quickly online. When you respond, thank the reviewer for informing you about their experience. Recognition is a big part of reaching a resolution.
Invest in Preparation
How should childcare center owners divide their time between digital and traditional marketing channels?
There’s no hard-and-fast answer to this. It depends on how much enrollment you need.
Here’s our advice: Dig the well before you’re thirsty. Marketing is fuel for your school, so it needs to happen before you need enrollment.
It can be tempting to stop marketing your business when you’re at capacity, but what if a family moves, or you decide to start a new program? You’ll start from a much more difficult place than if you’d continued marketing.
So, never forget to show off your school’s culture on social media. You can save time and keep a more uniform look across different platforms by using tools like Canva. You can upload your brand guide, which includes your brand colors, fonts, and logo, and then create and schedule content and posts.
Print advertising has value, but as a digital marketer, I want proof that my marketing dollars are being well spent. We encourage schools to use a QR code, a special offer parents need to bring in or mention, and/or a recorded phone line to facilitate tracking.
Digital marketing has so many benefits. It doesn’t require much time (especially if you hire someone like us to do the work for you), and it produces trackable results you can analyze.
My favorite part is showing owners the path of the money they spend, leading directly to results. “Here are the families who called for tours and filled out forms on your website, and these are the ones who enrolled.”
If an owner is new to marketing, sometimes a seller may approach them to pitch a marketing product. The school owner might like what they hear and try it, but the necessary level of communication may be lacking.
The marketer may not get all the information they need to do their job, or the owner may not pay enough attention to the results. They get frustrated, believe it didn’t work, and give up on marketing for a long time. It becomes a vicious cycle.
Achieving success with marketing is really about remembering what the point of marketing is. Make sure you can measure the outcome of whatever you do — physical marketing, social media marketing, or digital marketing. Then, you can double down on what worked and change what didn’t.
Chuck Gibbs, founder of LineLeader, says, “You can’t manage what you can’t measure!” That’s absolutely true. To manage your business, you must be able to measure your KPIs (key performance indicators).
Before You Start
Before you invest in advertising and marketing, there’s some housekeeping you should attend to. Otherwise, you’ll likely waste a lot of money.
Evaluate Your Response Time
You have to respond quickly to inquiries about your school. Studies show businesses that respond to a lead within an hour are almost seven times more likely to have a meaningful conversation with a decision-maker.
The lesson here is to respond quickly and train your staff to do the same. It’s non-negotiable if you want to support your business.
Examine and Streamline Your Sales Process
If you’re about to put money into marketing, first examine and streamline your sales process. Make sure your phones are answered correctly, tours are going well, and information is being entered into your CRM properly.
How Rose Marketing Solutions Can Help LineLeader Clients
Rashad, our director of digital advertising, works closely with childcare teams to make sure systems connect and integrate properly. For example, the platforms we use for ads connect to LineLeader CRM, so as leads come in, you can track which platform generates the most leads.
Many schools don’t have a designated staff member who ensures the emails in their campaigns are beautiful and match their brand guide. We take that on, so when a prospect drives past the school and then visits the website or social media pages, all the branding matches. Everything needs to look like it comes from the same business.
And, of course, we help owners analyze reports. We look at which parents converted (enrolled), how to improve internal operations, who gives the best tours, and more. That’s a big part of what we handle for clients using LineLeader.
If you use LineLeader now or think it might be a good next step for your school, let us offer a helping hand. Or, if you’re interested in any of our digital marketing or reputation management services, contact us to schedule a discovery call.
We’d love to help you and your business thrive!
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