I never underestimate the importance of promoting and advertising my day care business in the community…and neither should you.
I know many coordination units or schemes send parent referrals to their educators but I really think if you are relying on this as your main source of advertising then you are doing your own business and sense of worth as an early childhood professional a disservice. If you want to look professional and stand out from the other many child care options these days then you need to act professionally and that means branding yourself and doing a little old fashioned legwork. Yes you will need to spend money on your promotion but you don’t need to go overboard and you can do a lot of it yourself. AND it will pay itself off after those new families begin rolling in !
I thought I would share some of the ways I have promoted my service since beginning and after a year I am now starting to see the benefit of branding myself and standing out a little from the crowd. Word of mouth has begun to spread to and I always think this is the most valuable form of advertising. Parents like to know what other parents have experienced, they want to be reassured and know that others have felt comfortable leaving their children this care environment.
So here are my top tips for getting yourself out there…..just like the centre up the road or the preschool around the corner. You are not a babysitter, you are a qualified early childhood educator, a professional and as such you have the right and the need to compete with those people who usually have the big (or at least some) advertising budgets. Don’t sit there waiting for families to just knock on the door…get yourself out there and visible now!
12 Strategies for Promotion
Seriously, just because your scheme might give you a little sign to stick on your fence doesn’t mean that is saying much about you. Why not come up with a business name you are happy with (I kept it simple and friendly) and then play around with a few clip art pictures or ask an arty friend to draw you up something. It really doesn’t need to be a huge production, just something that helps you to stand out from the other child care services in the area.
I was lucky to have a wonderful and talented friend in Kate from Picklebums
(if you haven’t checked out her blog please do, it is one of those that originally inspired me to begin a blog myself!) design my logo. The brief was pretty much outdoor fun, chickens, kids and trees. Nailed it I thought 😉
If you don’t feel you can do a logo then at least settle on a name and a picture that sums up the individual service that you offer.
Once I had my logo sorted I was ready to create and distribute!
Obviously. Not really much else to say about them. So many places do them cheaply now, you can upload a file online, get them to design you one or go into a shop to pick a style. Whatever you decide to do promotion wise at least get yourself some business cards. While you are there get some fridge magnets too. I put them in all my parent enrolment packs and they weren’t much more than the cards. And whose logo is everyone looking at on their friends fridge when socialising with the kids? Yours!
Put cards in your purse, your pockets and your car. ALWAYS have some on you. My girls wear their FDC yellow hats with my logo (no picture because I know if you read this blog or my facebook page you are probably tired of seeing them in every photo!) to the park and I am often asked for details there by other parents so I just whip out a card.
When going to the park or child orientated places I also take my trusty canvas bag which advertises my business everywhere we go! You never know when an opportunity will present itself, that’s the beauty of having your own business to promote. Can’t be shy when you are poor 😉
Please make sure to have your contact details easy to read, no one wants to squint to see a phone number people. Ok, just get them, that is all.
Ok, these aren’t essential, but goodness they have come in handy! I used the same design I did up for the cards and again they were really cheap. I got mine as part of a package with Vistaprint. That place makes things so easy for small business owners!
I use them on books and folders and anything visible really. The main use though is on the front of parent information packs. They look awfully professional on my nice yellow folders if I do say so myself and what are you? A professional. That’s right, just checking you are hearing me! Anyway, not essential but they do help give your service a quality look.
Parent information & Enrolment Packs
Please take the time to make up one of these for your service. Don’t hand over bits of paper to a busy prospective parent who is wrangling a child. More often than not it will be lost when they get home…or that could just be my own parenting experience talking…in any case, it doesn’t look professional and what are you? That’s right, so look like one. You want to stand out, you want to show that you take pride in your service and put effort into all that you do. In short you want to make a good first impression.
I wrote mine up as a Word document and also have a PDF copy saved so that I can email them out to parents when they call or email and request information. I find it saves you time because I include my philosophy, hours, fee schedule, routine etc and rather than telling my life story to a person enquiring on the phone while I have toddlers demanding attention I can exchange some basics and forward this onto them. If they don’t like the price or information they see then I haven’t wasted my valuable time but I have been professional and courteous. My tip is to be thorough in your information in this book as it will save you a lot of time and angst with parents down the track! I also hand out my scheme’s handbook for parents but my own showcases my unique service.
I include these in a bright yellow folder with all enrolment forms, a business card and fridge magnet. Upon actual enrolment I also give the children a logo hat so that they can also be advertising my service at friends houses and at the park on the weekend!
Photo books are a wonderful tool for promoting your service. They are easy to put together and relatively inexpensive. I made one up with lots of photos of our different activities and indoor and outdoor environment. Happy engaged children’s faces will always promote your service better than anything you can say!
I like to have mine on display in my sign in area to show new parents as they wander through on a visit. The children also love to look at themselves in a book and share with new children! Pictures can be such a valuable tool for your advertising.
Brochures, Pamphlets and Notices
The second thing I did after making up my business cards was to develop a brochure. I just did mine in publisher, if you don’t want to create your own, places like Vistaprint can help you with basic designs etc.
If you do your own try to make them immediately visually appealing….you want people to want to open them up to see more – I prefer pictures over large blocks of text because I know what being a busy parent is like!
I included photos of my indoor and outdoor environment, a few crafty activities and some of my girls to add a welcoming family touch. I also added a little bit about me, my experience, my philosophy and what children can expect when they come to play and learn. This might be your first point of contact with potential clients so make your business stand out from the others…make it bright, make it fun, make it happy, make people want to pick it up.
Don’t forget to add your contact details to the front page so they are easily accessible to readers or when displayed on noticeboards and fridges. I think it is nice to have a little tagline that sums up your service and what you are offering too. Mine is “Inspiring and encouraging children to play, learn, experiment and get messy”
Once you have those beauties all printed up and ready to go get out into your community and do some letterbox drops…I have a few more ideas for you below about where to distribute them (and I mean that in the nicest possible way 😉 ).
Signs and Banners
Not really rocket science here…get one, get two, get them up!
The one on my fence is just a canvas banner that we tied securely. Tied it even more securely after the first storm came through and pulled it off the fence unfortunately. Actually His Patient Self ended up screwing it (or something handyman like) to an old bit of board we had and then screwing that to the fence to give it greater longevity.
It cost less than having a sign made up and I think it does the job well. I get a lot of enquiries from people driving or walking past so never underestimate that potential. It all helps. It also helps when directing new parents to where the house is located..don’t want them getting frustrated and giving up before they even find you!
I just did my design up in Word and then uploaded the file to Vistaprint. No I’m not getting paid to keep mentioning them (although that would be lovely Vistaprint) but I know I will get questions about where I got things printed so best to mention it now!.
I also used this design to get a few car magnet signs made up. They work well too, especially when at the park or shopping centre although sometimes I wish I had taken them off when my twins begin throwing a huge tantrum or do something equally embarrassing that doesn’t look good for a parent let alone a parent and educator. Same for wearing my work shirt with logo. Sometimes you need to pull a jumper over the top if your kids begin to implode on you in public…just a little tip 😉
Social Media & The Web
This is another area well worth focusing on. Get an add on Gumtree if you can. It’s free and I always receive a lot of enquires from there. Make sure you present yourself as a professional and try to stand out from all the other ads a little if possible. If you want to see how I wrote mine up you can check it out here.
You can also advertise in Facebook parenting groups for your area as well as the buy,swap,sell pages. My only caution here though is not to give out to much personal information in the main forum. Ask people to message or email you for further details.
The Care for Kids website is another avenue for advertising and also handy for seeing what other services in your area are charging so you can make sure you aren’t over or under pricing yourself.
I also advertise on the Family Day Care Network Australia site which reaches a wide parent audience
Once you have your basic business card size design you can also use that for placement in print media advertising. Community newsletters and papers as well as local ‘family’ type magazines are often a wonderful source of potential families and I have advertised in both. I find advertising in the local papers a little too expensive for the returns I get but it might work better in your area.
Also try school newsletters (just email or call the front office, most will have a small nominal fee to include your business size ad or some will do it for free as part of a community service to their families.)
Keep an eye out for or ask what media parents in your own circle often read and then advertise there.
This is where your brochures or postcard size advertising material really come in handy. I also do an A4 size noticeboard type poster that has less information than a brochure but works well on community noticeboards and other pinboards or poles or walls or whatever else you can find! Obviously seek permission first…or at least try to…it’s your name going up there and remember that you are a professional!
Some other places to leave brochures or posters in your community might include:
Kids sporting groups
Open Day/Morning Tea
This is another idea that can work really well. Put some notices up around town or in your local newsletters and places listed above inviting people to come to your service for a morning tea and play. Set up a few activities (ideally outdoors I would suggest), a fruit and cracker platter and water. Be prepared with parent information and enrolment packs and to sell yourself!
When advertising think about things that might make you stand out from the crowd a little…what makes your service unique? What is important to families in your area? Do some research and see what other family day care educators are offering in your area. Meals? Nappies? Bedding? Perhaps you offer a dedicated Waldorf, Montessori or Reggio education method or environment. Maybe you have a focus on outdoor play and sustainable practices like I do. Perhaps you offer a little of everything. Look at your market and what does well in your area, think about offering something that separates you and makes you unique.
Often parents are willing to seek out those that match their own values, philosophies and lifestyle.
Above all…DON’T GIVE UP! There will be times you have no vacancies and times you do. You are self employed and you are running a business. Work is never guaranteed but by being consistent and always being prepared to promote yourself you will get there. Don’t rely on others to get the work for you.
Now I know some educators are reading this and saying “But my scheme doesn’t let me advertise – I have to rely on their referrals” I can’t really advise you what to do in this situation except to suggest politely that you look around and find another scheme in your region. You would be surprised how many coordination units will tell you they are the only one in your area when this isn’t actually true. Just saying…be proactive and assertive, don’t just give up.
For those that are always asking me I am currently registered with Multitask and enjoy the support of an experienced and lovely coordinator (CDO) which makes my job a lot easier.
I hope some of these tips help you to promote your new or existing home day care service. If you have other suggestions or something that has worked for you why not share it with everyone in the comments section below. You can post as anonymous if you like!
Good luck, you can do it and do it well. Because what are you? That’s right….A Professional Educator!
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