The world of running a nursery hasn’t got any easier. Increasing investment from abroad. 30 hours. Ofsted…
But increased competition shouldn’t be an issue for your nursery, you should look at it as an opportunity to stand up, be counted and shout from the rooftops. You just need to approach it from a new angle.
So before we get into some ideas for differentiating your nursery from the rest in the area, you need to start with a little bit of snooping around.
What do other nurseries have?
Begin by drawing up a list of the other nurseries in the area, and head to their websites and social media to work out the kind of features they have, and specialities they offer.
In marketing terms, this is finding out their unique selling point. What have they got that no one else does? Maybe they’re doing something better than anyone else?
Think about what would attract you, and look at what their parents are saying about them on Facebook and Google Reviews. Until you know what else is being offered in the local area, it’s difficult to see what you can do to set yourself apart. Once you’ve seen for yourself what the options are for parents out there, you’ll know two things.
First, you’ll have a pretty good idea of what the most successful nurseries are doing right. Look for the nurseries that have online waiting lists and rave reviews as easy indications for the best performers.
Second, and perhaps most importantly, you’ll know what’s missing. And knowing what’s missing is the first step in plugging that gap.
What do parents want?
Now that you have a good understanding of what is missing, it’s also important to understand what parents actually want. There’s no point filling a gap in the market if there was a good reason why no one else had chosen to fill it already. There might be a reason why no else is planning that morris dancing workshop…
One nice trick here to steal from the marketing world is what’s called Social Listening. You can best understand the problems parents have and start thinking about potential solutions by checking in on discussions they’re having with each other on public forums.
Think Mumsnet or local parenting groups on facebook as a starter. Look for anecdotal evidence from your existing parents too, to work out what you’re doing well and what you could improve on.
Now, it’s time to talk ideas.
It might seem like a strange place to start, but surveys show that more than 60% of parents value food quality as a very important factor in choosing their childcare. In fact, encouraging healthy behaviours was found to be more important to parents than Ofsted rating.
Differentiating yourself by offering a focus on healthy food and behaviours can be a great way to go. Consider independent accreditation, as many parents are much more trustworthy when your claims are associated with an external source.
The extra mile: If you have a good outdoor space at your nursery, starting a small vegetable patch can be a great addition to your program. Not only do you encourage healthy behaviours in the children, but it can be a fun resource to help them understand where the stuff on their plate actually comes from.
Not all parents are lucky enough to have the kind of flexible work that allows them to manage their childcare more easily. A great way to appeal to this wide group of parents is to offer them the flexibility they’re missing.
Yes, this flexibility can make staff-to-child ratios and planning availability more difficult, but if you get your child attendance and plans organised, offering a variety of more adaptable sessions times can be relatively simple.
If there is a lack of care outside hours in your area, even starting a breakfast or after-school club is a great start. Not only do they make your offering more valuable to prospective parents, but you can maximise revenue much more easily.
The Extra mile: Some nurseries are even taking this idea to extremes and offering drop and shop schemes over busy periods. Not easy, but a huge selling point to potential parents if you can pull it off.
While we’re talking about the importance of parent expectations, we should mention the importance of how you communicate with the ones who are already signed onto your nursery.
Parents increasingly expect an interactive, immersive understanding of how their child is progressing through the day and if you can set yourself apart in terms of the experience you offer, it can really help you stand out from the crowd.
Sharing photos, keeping them updated on child development and opening up channels for cooperation and collaboration can all be hugely important to demonstrating your focus on keeping the parents engaged and involved.
The Extra mile: If you feel like parent collaboration is already a strong point, why not establish a scheme whereby new parents can get in touch with existing parents to ask them questions about the way your nursery is run. If you know you’ve got happy parents already, make them your ambassadors.
With ever increasing health and safety concerns and endless permission forms needed, many nurseries are choosing to organise fewer trips.
This is a great opportunity to stick your head above the parapet and be known as the nursery in the local area that is always thinking of fun ways to get the kids out of the classroom and into the community, to see and do new things.
Not only are day trips great for exploring, but they often give children strong memories, that can be later developed in exercises back in the classroom.
The Extra mile: We love this story about how one nursery turned what was potentially the most mundane part of the trip, the journey on the tube, into the part that the children liked the most, including it in their day to day play.
The Best Staff
It’s a no brainer that every nursery manager will try and get the best staff they can. Whether it’s impressive qualifications or a natural flair with children of all ages, you’re always on the look out for the best practitioners for your setting.
However, one important thing when it comes to thinking about parents is the extent to which they rely on their instincts when choosing a nursery for their children.
More than 90% see good staff/child relationships as important when choosing a setting, and quality caregivers will always shine, but don’t look past the value of choosing staff who are approachable and naturally friendly to new parents too. They tend to fall back on the gut feeling when it comes to making that final call meaning their experience with the staff could make all the difference.
The Extra mile: The same study suggests that 92% of parents value good access to outdoor space. If you have the opportunity to open up a better outdoor space it’s a real must, especially if you’re in an area where this kind of space in nurseries is at a premium.
Some Added Extras
This is where your research really counts. What is there an appetite for in the local community? It won’t be a deal breaker for everyone, but it might be the one thing that counts in your specific situation.
Some ideas? Interactive learning on tablets? Offering language courses? A specific focus on science? Whatever it is, it won’t be for everyone, but if your research shows that there is a gap and an appetite, a subtle change in the focus of your nursery can really change how you attract new parents.
It might be just the thing you need to stand out from the crowd.
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