Every nursery puts providing great childcare to their kids as their number one priority. But if you’re struggling with low occupancy rates, it might be time to make sure that marketing is your number two.
A strong marketing strategy needn’t be a burden. It starts with simple steps to make your nursery more visible to those who want to find it and moves on to finding ways to communicate and build meaningful relationships with parents, whether existing or new.
Robert Booth, Communications Manager at Bright Horizons, one of the biggest nursery chains in the UK, agrees. “Communication is at the heart of all relationships” he tells me, “and the ones that we have with our children, our customers and our colleagues are vital to ensuring a successful marketing strategy“.
We’ve tried to cover everything here, so don’t feel daunted. By picking just one or two things from this list to focus on, you’ll soon start to see some real improvements in your occupancy rate.
Before you start thinking about how to attract new parents, you need to have somewhere to attract them to. It all starts with a website.
If you’re new to this, full service companies can be a good option as they handle everything and add extra functions like analytics and email integration that you’re unlikely to find time for yourself.
Either way make sure you’re able to edit easily. That way you can post events and news, or tweak information in real time without having to wait for someone else to get back to you.
Also consider how prospective parents might move around your website. You’ll want any new visitor to take an action that will lead them to signing up for more.
These are called conversions. A great example of a conversion is to have someone sign up to book a tour, or you could have them sign up to a newsletter if they’re not quite ready to put their child in nursery. More on that later.
Overall, just remember that this website is your shop window. You want it to look friendly, up to date and simple. If people can’t easily find what they’re looking for, they’ll be quick to leave.
Google and beyond
Increasingly, how easily you can be found in Google is crucial to getting new parents to sign up to your nursery. Robert Booth explains that “A significant part of successful marketing is the nursery’s local reputation and existing parent recommendations”.
When somebody’s recommended your nursery, this potential new parent should be able to find you online. In an ideal world you want to be top of the list when people type ‘Nurseries near me’ into Google too.
How? Well, with location based preferences, this kind of local search engine marketing is actually relatively straightforward if you follow a few key steps.
It starts with your domain name. Sometimes you have to pay a little more to have your own domain name, but it’s worth it. It tends to make you easier to find in Google, and we’d also recommend going for a .com or .co.uk URL if you can.
Next up, make sure you’ve entered all your information into Google Business. This makes it easier for people to find you in maps, and leave reviews, as well as helping you in search results. In fact, encouraging parent reviews on Google, and on specialist sites like DayNurseries isn’t a bad idea either.
Get in touch with any websites that list local nurseries and ask to be included, and make sure that any newspapers or magazines that feature your nursery include a link to your website too.
Social media is a great way to open up communications with parents, both existing and new.
At the moment, Facebook is still very much king. It’s where most people will look to find you first, and you can share events, photos, news and offers too. Think of it like another shop window for all the great work that your nursery does.
Their adverts are also a relatively easy and cheap option. What’s more, unlike traditional adverts, you can easily target certain demographics who are more likely to be interested in your nursery.
Instagram and Twitter are the other main platforms worth considering. An advantage they have is that they’re much better for outreach. This means following other relevant companies or institutions and engaging with their posts. This should increase your visibility for people looking at these pages, and is a great way to increase your likes and followers.
It’s not all about digital. There’s still plenty of useful, old school marketing methods that will serve you well.
Banners or Signs outside your nursery or daycare are almost a no-brainer. Cheap and with great visibility, they not only catch the eye of people walking past, but help parents to find you too.
Flyers are still an invaluable resource. Mock up a quick design and get them printed locally. Once you’ve got your flyers, start thinking about the types of places new parents might be going. Think doctor’s surgeries, estate agents, play centres, schools or new housing development offices. All of these and more would be a great place to ask to leave your flyers, and you should see the contacts rolling in.
Those email forms we were talking about earlier? Well this is how you use them!
Monthly or weekly newsletters are a simple and cheap way of keeping parents updated with what’s going on. Share news, event information or even any articles that you’ve found that you think might be interesting.
There are many email newsletter companies out there if you want to make your newsletters professional, but they don’t need to be. The personal touch often goes down much better than something that is overdesigned.
For prospective parents whose children might not be quite old enough yet, newsletters are a great way to keep them engaged and have you at the front of their thoughts when the time comes.
Look beyond prospective parents
As you might have already noticed, new parents aren’t the only people you can target to improve your occupancy rates.
Engaging and communicating with existing parents can be critical to filling up existing spaces. Using the channels we’ve mentioned, you can promote quiet sessions or let them know about recent offers. Something Famly isn’t too bad at doing either.
Remember, these parents are your most valuable tool – they’re the ones referring you to friends and family, which is far more important than anything that you can do yourself.
Next time, we’ll talk more about how you can increase these referrals, and bring in new parents.
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