In a recent webinar on growing and expanding your childcare center, we were joined by Jackie Tom, RECE, previous childcare director, and now Customer Success Manager at HiMama. Jackie has been an early childhood educator for 20 years and a director for 15 of those years!
She joined us to share new networking strategies that will help you market your childcare center directly in your neighborhood, and how you can use your existing space to help grow enrollment.
Understand your community and their needs
If you’re looking to expand, the first thing to do is research what is missing in your community in regard to childcare. Is there a lack of childcare altogether? Is there a lack of a specific type of childcare? What about infant care or a specific learning philosophy?
If you are a new center looking to increase enrollment and get the word out, you need to get to know people in your community! Visit your local coffee shops, libraries, community center, and especially schools – building a relationship with local schools can be a great way to drive enrollment for younger siblings or a before/after school program!
Integrate yourself into the community in local events such as fairs and festivals and become a vendor. The more people who know that you’re opening your doors, the faster word will spread!!
Know your competitors
Be sure to do your research and see how many other childcare centers are in your area, if you haven’t already! Find out if they offer similar programming, age groups, and learning philosophies. This helps to potentially differentiate your center from the rest and showcase to potential families why you are different.
Also, consider what you have to offer that can set you apart. For example, having something such as webcams in every room, meals and snacks included, or HiMama as a parent communication app can be a huge selling feature!
Use social media to connect with your community
Search Facebook to seek out local family Facebook groups. (Join our Circle Time Facebook group while you’re at it!) This is a great tool to discuss what families are looking for and market enrollment openings for families who may be looking!
Don’t be shy and ensure you create social media accounts on all platforms for your center. Post the learning environment and curriculum so families can see what you have to offer and pique their interest in coming for a tour.
On social media, put faces to the names at your childcare center. Get out of your comfort zone and create posts with short snippets of who you are as a brand and what you have to offer! Adding some personal flare will set you apart and get your community more deeply connected with your passion and purpose.
Utilize your childcare space
You have your space, so be sure to use it to its full potential! For example, parent groups can be your ticket to success! After getting the word out in your community at local events, start utilizing your space further. Host weekly parent group events. This provides parents with a safe space to network with other locals in an age-appropriate environment for their children.
You can also host family yoga events or better yet, children’s birthday parties if you’re able to! This is the secret way of showcasing your center to parents who may not even be actively looking for childcare!
Other ways to be seen
Get your name out there, in any way possible! You can even use good old-fashioned snail mail to send out flyers within a certain radius of your childcare center. Check with your local mailing company as many offer this service!
Leave your business card and fliers at local coffee shops, libraries, schools, and other businesses – anyone who will let you! Better yet, offer an incentive such as a discount if they bring in the flier or business card that they see around town!
Tour, tours, and more tours!
Offer tours of your childcare center as often as you can! Many parents may only be able to attend after work on weekdays or on the weekends. Be prepared to be flexible and conduct tours at the times that best meet your prospective parents’ needs!
You can even host open houses and make them fun for your whole community! Set up activities and offer refreshments. Have a Summer BBQ or Winter Wonderland! This gives you the opportunity to showcase what your childcare philosophy is and educate parents and families as to why you’re different on a more personal level!
Building your high-quality dream team
Understand what kind of director or owner you want to be. Learn the field and continue to further your education with professional development courses!
One of the keys to finding high-quality staff is to find other educators who share a similar mindset to yourself. Take the time to filter through interviews and don’t be shy to ask those tough questions.
You can also discuss growth opportunities with your current team. Educators are always looking for ways to grow and that can be tough to accommodate (No one wants to lose a great educator!) but giving them that opportunity is vital to retaining your team for the long haul.
Additionally, make staff morale a priority. Conduct pulse checks from time to time using anonymous surveys. Make it fun any chance you get through events or games!
Keep up staff morale as much as you can, even through small things such as having an open door policy at certain points throughout the day.”
Appreciate your staff and have them appreciate each other
Small gestures go a long way. For example, you can write a nice note or quote on their pay stub! You can also create a “Shoutout Box” and leave it in the staff room and read them out at your staff meetings.
On that note, ensure you organize staff outings or events if possible – potluck anyone?
Know your staff and highlight your staff’s strength as you show families around your classroom.”
At the end of the day, a happy staff makes for a happy director and happy parents! Having all three of these elements in place will allow your center to grow and expand within your community.