Setting up a quality childcare is only part of what’s needed to have a successful program. You also need to let parents know about your business. Since most home-based childcare providers do not have a lot of money to spend on advertising, a little creativity can help you reach parents who are looking for care.
Networking is a strong tool. Make sure that everybody you know knows that you provide childcare. That way, if they hear of a parent looking for care, they can refer that parent to you. Add your business name and current openings to your voicemail or answering machine message. Parents looking for childcare will know instantly whether you have openings for the age(s) they need. Announce current openings to parents who currently have childcare in your care. Parents who are current customers are strong references for parents who are looking for care.
Parents who are current customers can help you find new families. Start a referral program, where current families can get a discounted rate or bonus if they refer a new family to you. For each referral that signs a contract, the referring family could get a free day of childcare, or care for a parents’ night out.
If you don’t already have one, consider creating a website. More and more people are using the internet to find childcare, and a website is a great way to give parents more information about the care you provide. Several companies offer free or low- cost web space, although the websites allowed by these companies will be fairly basic. If you would like a little more polished and complex website, plan on spending several hundred dollars to get it started.
Advertising online can also be an effective and inexpensive way to reach parents. Directory sites like Daycare Providers allow you to reach parents instantly and nationwide. You can manage your own profile, update your openings, and tell parents in-depth information about the care you provide. Many providers also report having success by posting ads on free classifieds websites. Placing an ad in a newspaper is typically expensive, and providers have reported mixed results with these ads resulting in new families signing contracts.
Target your advertising efforts where parents tend to gather. Ask toy stores or children’s boutiques if you can display some brochures by the cashier. Ask your local hospital if you can leave brochures for the parents taking birthing classes. Put your business card in trick-or-treat bags at Halloween. The more you can get your business name out there, the better your chances of reaching parents interested in care.
Use creativity when coming up with inexpensive ways to advertise. However, make sure you consider safety. While a sign in your front yard may be an effective and inexpensive way to advertise that you provide childcare, it also alerts every passerby that there may be several children in the home, a potential safety risk. When creating brochures or a website, don’t use your exact address. Rather use a close intersection – on the corner of Park and Solomon – or a close landmark – behind Southgate Mall. Parents can still get an idea of where you are located, but you can save your actual address to give out in person or over the phone.
With a little creativity, some hard work, and networking, you can build a strong childcare program and help keep your openings full. Keep your marketing efforts constant, so that you don’t need to scramble when you have an opening, but little enough that you have plenty of time to spend with your little ones.
Melissa Newby has worked as a therapist and in marketing, but her most rewarding job has been to raise her son. Frustrations with available childcare resources led her to co-found Daycare Providers with her husband.