Effective marketing is an essential tool to help fill current childcare places, continue to attract new customers in the future and ultimately to support a sustainable childcare business. In this this edited extract from Operating a Viable Early Years Provision, we explore how you can let families know about your quality care.
What’s your unique selling point (USP)?
How can you make your setting stand out from the competition?
Let's explore how you can market your provision more effectively.
Check out the competition
Up-to-date market research is valuable in any business, in any sector. It provides an insight into the market, trends and customers. While a good working relationship should be developed with other providers in the area, there will always be an element of competition. This is to be expected and occurs in all sectors.
In order to position the setting competitively in the local market, you should research the other childcare available in your area including:
- services offered
- age ranges catered for
- opening times, including the number of weeks they are open
- fees and any special discounts
- capacity and vacancy rates
- facilities – both indoors and outdoors
- meals and snacks offered
- promotional activities
More broadly, you should also find information about local demographics, including the percentage of young families in the overall population in the area. This can be sought from your local authority.
Understanding the main customer group — parents — should be central in your market research.
Knowing what they are looking for is vital when you are looking to adapt your service to their needs.
What makes your setting stand out?
A unique selling point, or USP, is a factor that differentiates your service or products from competitors. A USP should be used as a promotional tool. It should offer families something that your competitors cannot, do not or will not offer. It should be attractive enough to attract new customers.
Your USP could be:
- lower fees
- improved Ofsted outcome
- flexible hours or sessions
- longer hours to support working parents
- inspiring premises or facilities indoors or outdoors
- niche offerings, such as organic food or Forest School sessions
- innovative practice
- additional activities, such as music or dance classes
- school pick-ups/drop-offs
Identifying a shared understanding with the team and a strong statement to promote a USP is an important starting point.
This then needs to be linked clearly with a marketing strategy so that the wider community is aware of what makes your provision unique.
There should be a focus on developing and continually improving the high quality service. This is the most effective approach to successfully marketing the provision and should underpin a marketing action plan and the basis of your brand.
Building your brand
Creating your brand for your setting is important for ensuring that it is easily recognised. It will present your setting in a professional, distinctive and consistent way. Consideration should be given to this before you develop any promotional resources, such as signage, flyers or posters. A successful brand should reassure families of the quality of your setting and communicate your values clearly.
Having worked on your vision as a team, the personality of your setting will be based on your shared values and beliefs. These in turn will shape the identity of the setting and how these values are communicated to the community. This communication includes the tone of written content and the visual images that accompany it.
Whether it is your prospectus, newsletter, policies or leaflets, values can be communicated consistently through colour, language and layout, as well as imagery. These should be distinctive, relevant, memorable and flexible enough to be used in different formats.
Families should also be consulted as their perception is integral to success.
New Alliance publication Operating a Viable Early Years Provision (Member price £13.65, non-member price £19.50) outlines the various elements of the sustainability jigsaw, from effective leadership and financial management to marketing and developing high quality provision.
Drawing on robust management tools, it focuses on the development of a series of processes to support leaders and managers to take stock of the current position and lays out important planning steps for managers, owners, directors and trustees.
Guidance is also provided on the importance of becoming a values-led organisation, improving planning and decision-making, undertaking a breakeven analysis, a shared vision of high quality for the setting, and much, much more!