Keeping occupancy rates high is a concern for nurseries of all sizes. After all, it’s those percentages that keep you turning over enough money to keep providing childcare in your community.
There are all sorts of reasons for falling occupancy rates, whether it’s local problems such as more competition in your area, or broader problems like the increase of 3-5 year olds entering into school-based provision.
Whatever the reason, there’s plenty of solutions to get your occupancy rocketing again. All it takes is a little time, a sprinkling of careful thought and one quick read through this article.
Whether you’re using specialist software or simply Microsoft Excel to manage your data, the first step is to compile accurate occupancy percentages and more specific, session-based figures. Only by understanding the varying occupancy of different sessions can you plan ways to focus specifically on days and times with low attendance.
You need to look beyond simple statistics like ‘numbers on a roll’; they won’t give you a picture that is clear enough to properly forecast your occupancy and start making changes.
Refer your friends
No matter what, a recommendation from a friend or a trusted source will always be more valuable to potential parents than anything else.
Of course, this starts with providing a great service, but consider setting up refer a friend schemes too, where successful referrals receive vouchers or temporary discounts on their rates. It might seem like an unnecessary expense, but weighed against the money generated from a new enrolment, it’s a no-brainer.
Partnerships with local estate agents, housing developments and schools can also be invaluable for passing references onto new parents in the area.
Referrals aren’t the only way you can utilise your existing customers. This comes back to the data we were talking about earlier; if you understand when and where your quiet periods are, you can tap into your existing customer base to fill them up.
Friday afternoons always quiet? Offer discounted rates on a first come first serve basis. Give people increased flexibility about how they choose sessions and you can add loyalty discounts and special packages to increase session usage.
Setting up PR opportunities with local newspapers and magazines is another brilliant way of getting your nursery’s name out there in the community.
Prepare short press releases using templates online and send them out when you have special events or initiatives going on. This way you’re giving the editors everything they need to do a quick write up and they’re much more likely to choose to run the piece.
Choosing to enroll your child at a new nursery involves a huge amount of trust, with visits and open days being absolutely essential to getting parents onboard.
People are far more perceptive than you might think and something as small as some chipped paint, carpets that need a hoover or subtle lingering smells can be the difference between people signing up or looking elsewhere.
Get a friend to come in and look at the nursery with a completely new set of eyes, and do everything you can to look at your nursery objectively. For the cost of one evening and a couple of pots of paints, it’s probably worth it.
Communicating with your staff about parent visits is essential. Good teachers are always the number one concern for parents and it might be a good idea to organise particularly interesting or engaging sessions when you know you have open days coming up.
If you’ve never tried any marketing before, admittedly it can feel a little daunting. But it really needn’t be. You don’t need to spend money on expensive adverts, you just want to make sure that people who have heard about you can find you.
With tools like Wix and SquareSpace, making a professional website is easier than ever before. It might be worth considering paying the extra money to have your own domain name too, as this can make it easier for people to find you in Google Search.
Showing what’s going on day-to-day is crucial for prospective parents to find out what they can expect at the nursery. Set up a facebook page, and show updates every now and then to demonstrate what life is like in the nursery.
Look for your niche
As competition increases and your area becomes home to a whole variety of different programs, your occupancy rates can be affected.
One great way to combat this is to really dig into what other nurseries in the area might be offering and try to identify something that is missing. By finding your own niche, or doing certain things better than anyone else, you set yourself up as the only option.
Whether it’s establishing your nursery as a specialist for a certain age, offering breakfast and after school clubs or focusing on a specific kind of teaching, find a niche that works for your nursery and local area and you’ll see your occupancy rate soaring.
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Want to become an occupancy expert? Click here for our guide on using marketing to improve your occupancy.
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