Employ all feasible, reasonable methods ALL YEAR LONG, even when you are full and plan to be. With people calling you year around, you are more likely to be getting calls when you need them (when a vacancy occurs) than with one-time advertising blitzes.
However for the times you are full, you must become a resource person for parents if you want them to remember you and call you back again in the future, to give out your name to other prospective clients who are searching, - if you are full, thank them for calling (& thank the person/s that sent them your way) ... have some names of providers or places you can suggest they call. Offer to put them on a waiting list as well.
Newspapers (though I've never advertised in one), listing with Resource & Referrals , joining a USDA food program, a provider association, the parent/teacher program at your school, leaving a note with the schools and church offices in your area, BUSINESS CARDS (homemade with rubber stamps or stickers are fine!), as well as those you can have made through mail-off catalogs, at office supply stores with business card computer programs, home computer generated - there are some nice papers and graphics to use nowadays; flyers, brochures, posters all help. Go back often to check the supply and condition of anything posted. Keep it fully stocked and replace if starting to look shabby and worn.
On pull-off tab posters, be sure your child care business name is listed with the phone number so parents can readily identify what the number is for.
Don't put address on advertising, just approximate location and phone number. You don't want to invite strangers over for an "open house" when you aren't having one! (And this has happened to some!)
Great retention factor is bright yellow or bright lime green for backgrounds of cards or posters. Pulls the attention, helps keep it in memory. Black for wording. Never use yellow, orange, red for wording. However, primary colors - red, blue, yellow are exceptionally great highlighters. Have some colorful zigzags around your poster or highlight some of the balloons, features of any graphics will red, blue & yellow for more attention.
Anything that goes out the door has your child care business name & number on it. Stamp it on artwork you are sending home. Stamp it on the back of cards the kids make for their parents. On the back of murals and placemats. Attach it to any goodies you distribute on Halloween.
Let every and any business place in your area know of your service with a personal letter and follow up phone call.
Ask to display children's art in local stores during The Week of the Child - add your business name and number, as well as photos and comments from happy parents, to the display!
You can buy a number of items that are imprinted with your advertising: pens, pencils, magnets, calendars, paper holders, and mouse pads. Carefully weigh the price of advertising with these methods against brochures and business cards which may be homemade or computer produced for a significantly lower amount with much more frequently happy results.
Check with pediatricians' and OB/GYN offices and ask if you can leave some cards or brochures in the office. I tried this in a veterinary clinic and got many calls! Also, baby stores, toy stores... check with the management before posting on bulletin boards for size and duration requirements (some want to limit the size, others want them to be removed after a certain period). This way you show concern for the management and their business and you show yourself off as a professional in person (they are more apt to refer prospective to your card if they've met you...).
Check with Chamber of Commerce about providing a list of first names and phone numbers for them to distribute to area newcomers. Check with real estate salespeople and offer some of your pamphlets or cards to them to give out to purchasers with children.
Signs on the car window (magnetic) - keep cards in your purse or glove compartment to follow up on inquiries generated by this type of advertising. They need something to take home with them.
Signs in your house window or yard - make them attractive, bright and easy to read. Not too much information. The words describing the service "Family Child Care" and your phone number are enough for passersby to try to retain! Check first with city ordinances to be sure signs are allowed and that yours meet requirements if there are any.
Bumper stickers, sweatshirts, t-shirts - drive everywhere in a car that announces your commitment to quality care; wear clothing that proudly states who you are and what your business is!
Give some business cards/flyers to the mail carrier, the milk delivery person, the garbage collector ... let them know who you are and that you really appreciate referrals.
Some areas have children's fairs or children's health fairs where displays and activities are held and providers can frequently participate at a nominal charge - or a group of providers from a local area or association. Getting known and passing out those business cards or brochures to back up meeting people personally is an excellent way to advertise.
Network....network....network with providers in your local association and/or providers from your area. Call and chat with a fellow provider. Let him/her know what your openings are and suggest an exchange of referrals. If they get a call from someone they cannot accommodate, ask if they would refer the call on to you and you will, in exchange, refer calls to them.
Press Releases Mean Free Advertising and Community Focus on YOUR Child Care Business ...
heres some tips from other loopers:
*I send out a press release every chance I get. I sent one out when I first opened, and I sent one out when I expanded my daycare from family to group for example. I included all the necessary info and a couple of photos of myself with the kids. I sent it to the business editor or the new or changing business department. They picked a photo and Printed my release. It was about a 4 x 6 inch article all together.
When I began offering preschool and swim lessons, I sent another press release titled "Happi Kamper Child Care offers more than just Babysitting" This one was printed also.
We also create our own news. For this type of release, I sent it to the people editor. For flag day one year we had a flag day parade. I contacted the local paper and they took pictures and ran a small story on the front page!
Last summer during the Olympics we had our own Olympics, complete with parade, events, and medals. Sent a nice press release with photos, (before the bombing) printed that one too!
When I received Accreditation, I sent a release that got printed. I have also sent small releases when my assistants completed college degrees.
After 3 years of receiving my press releases, The local paper sent a reporter and photographer over to do a business profile of my daycare. It resulted in a full page spread on the front of the business section!
I am always looking for new ways to create news. The trick is to plan something during a slow news time. I've sent releases during the presidential elections, forth of July and other holiday seasons, etc, that do not get printed. I also send my releases to all the local papers, even the small ones. Better luck of getting it printed somewhere!
I have had great luck with press releases. I have had 8 releases printed over the 4 years I've been in business. I have each one framed and hanging near my licenses etc. on a wall that I make sure that all interviewing parents see. It makes a good impression on them, and it's an easy way to "blow my own horn". We get so little recognition in this business, that I grab every bit I can!
*An ad written from the perspective of a 2 year old brings great results to a couple providers!
Hi! My mom has openings in her home daycare and I would just love a new friend to play with. We will have lots of fun everyday. Sometimes we finger-paint, and then we play outside on my swing set. I really love my mom and think you will, too. I've heard other moms and dads say my mom is flexible and has very reasonable rates (whatever that is). All I know is that, all the kids love my mom. I hope to see you soon. Here's my mom's number, give her a call.
I used a really cute font and printed it on bright fluorescent paper. Of all the ads I have ever run, this one got the absolute most calls. I mainly use this one as a flyer that I posted in our local post office and supermarkets.
Here are some comments and ideas from some day care lists in response to some questions I asked~~~~~
1. Do you have an R&R that advertises for you? Most R&Rs are funded with state and federal funding to serve the parents and providers. They educate the parents about the different types of child care and help them locate possible sources of care. They assist employers with setting up on-site child care or other child care benefits for their employees. They list providers who have openings and often hold workshops to help improve the availability and quality of the care in their area.
At least call your Resource & Referral agency to find out what benefits they may have. The least it can do is bring you a few more referrals!
*Provider comment: "On the base (military), there is a list compiled of all the providers here, and parents can take one home and start dialing. We also can directly tell our coordinators to, say, refer a full time 2-3 year old or just part-time; whatever we need. We also can call other providers and say if you get a call from a parent looking for such and such care, please can you give them my name and number. This is about the only way of getting kids, but let me tell you the calls keep coming, especially for infants. Very hard to find an opening for them in daycare on the base."
2. Does your local association keep referral lists? Some associations have shied away from this because of past history of liability (or rumors or threats of it....). The difference in liability for an association (or for you personally) is between REFERRAL and RECOMMENDATION. I suggest you not only use the referral and eliminate the word recommendation from your vocabulary as it pertains to giving out other providers names & numbers, but also clarify to parents that what you are doing is giving our a list of names as a "referral" and specifying that it is not a "recommendation". Parenting styles and preferences differ so much from parent to parent. What you consider to be an "A-1 Top Quality" provider may be very different from what the parent encounters or how they see it. The organization I am with suggests callers contact their local R&R and ask for a provider that is a member of our association - but no reference to that member being higher quality than others is given.
*Provider comment: "Our Local Health Dept. Licenses us and they keep a list of all providers for our county to give out to people who call. This is primarily where all of my referrals come from and I also care for the secretary's son so that helps. But she has to be very confidential about what she says and how she recommends, if you get what I mean."
3. Does you local school keep a list of available child care providers? Many elementary schools still keep a list in their office of providers in the area. The lists are quickly outdated. School staff certainly does not have the time to keep these lists up. Offer to keep the list up to date for them by taking home a copy, calling the providers listed at a specific interval, say quarterly, and bringing the school back a new fresh copy of providers. Some schools have eliminated this service because of the liability factor and/or on recommendation from their legal counsel.
4. Do churches in your area allow post to bulletin boards? If it is within your faith circle or if your program is non-denominational or non-religious, consider taking a list in person to several churches in your area besides the one that you attend.
5. Does your chamber of commerce keep a list?
Some chambers will turn you away cold turkey if you are not willing to become a member at a very high price tag. Others will consider allowing your association to join at one price and then someone within your group can take the calls and give out names of providers within the callers' area (this can be time consuming and distracting for a busy provider!). A few chambers can be warmed to the idea of having a current list of providers in their office to pass out to inquiring newcomers to the area.
*One loop member has tried this avenue before. "Are you kidding!! I called them once and asked if we could put a list in the "Welcome" packets and they told me that it was basically for Chamber members to advertise only. Of course, I could join but for $250 a year I wouldn't get that much response.
6/7/8. Do you make and use flyers or brochures?. Do you have and use business cards? Do you make and use flyers or brochures?
Before you print up, or have printed 5,000 cards ... think through what you want these pieces of literature to convey about you and your business!
A)DECIDE ON A BUSINESS NAME... If it's an extension of your name (ie Sandi's Special Child Care or Sandi Dean's Family Child Care) which is a descriptive, you don't usually have to register the business name. However if it is an AKA or DBA (also known as, / or doing business as, which is something that does not contain your name for easy identification) your state may require business name registration... usually a one-time fee and quite reasonable. Varies from state to state. Names like Sunbeams Family Child Care... Dandelion Day Care... etc. are AKA or DBA.
B) DEVELOP A SHORT MOTTO (OR PHRASE).. Mine is the Sunbeams Family Child Care and our motto here, for instance is, "Growing In His Love". Others can be "a home away from home" "an extended family for your little one" "special care for your child" "individualized love and care" "supervised planned activities" ..... write down lots of ideas, ask other providers, think of some of the things you offer ... The motto can be a few words or a complete sentence, but it should be short enough to recall.
C) Develop a logo - a picture, a graphic, an emblem - a single balloon or a bunch of them - (here is it a smiling, winking sun) - a teddy bear - a rainbow - a smiling child's face - a sandbox with toys in it - a multicolored circle. The sky's the limit (although I would recommend NOT using little pics of guns, swords, .....!)
Use your name, motto, and logo on EVERYTHING you publish or have printed: your business cards, your contracts, your pamphlets/brochures, your flyers, your posters....your bills, your receipts, your parent memos ...everything.
Repetition is a key factor in retention. We want everyone to visualize as well as remember our family child care.
*Provider comment; "The name of my business is Panda Bear Child Care Inc. I use a Panda Bear for a logo and it is on my business contracts and cards. I even had my business name printed on pencils and the kids made t-shirts with bear sponges. At the National Zoo the panda bear is my daughter's favorite animal. "
*Another provider uses computer-generated cards now - she used to have them office supply generated. She comments, "These are great to have when you run into parents searching for daycare - so much more professional than a scrap of paper and relatively inexpensive."
*Another looper mentions she has used office computer generation for her business cards.
*A loop member has also noted that MS Word has a brochure making wizard and is thinking about making some flyers/brochures.
*One providers shares that she uses a mid size flyer w/pull offs, pockets for bus. cards also. Her brochures are from the PC w/ graphics in color
9. Where are some places you distribute your advertising?
Wherever people, particularly parents, might go is a good place to distribute your advertising. Keep your materials in good supply and good condition, as mentioned above. Meet the man who fits and sells children their shoes. Introduce yourself to the saleswoman in the children's department in the mall store. I have seen parents pulling off those flyer tabs at the grocery store ... so it isn't an outdated idea to advertise, with permission, to post there. One idea, pull off a few tabs before you put it up to make it look like others parents have been there and considered you already!
*One looper feels OB/GYN and Ped offices have worked well for her.
*The Loop Facilitator sent these marketing ideas to all loop members ... some tips she received from one of the loop members....
-Go to the chamber of commerce and request a community calendar
-Get a booth or just walk around and hand out cards at events
-Sponsor beauty pagent contestants (publicity for a small cost)
-Label your crafts that go home
-Do nice things for neighbors... the one I loved was May Day...they made May baskets and hung them from their neighbor's doors saying something like "Happy May Day from the Creative Connection Kids:
-She made door hangers as well as the flyers and brochures
*Another looper made a sign with her computer, added a photo of all her day care kids taken in the warmth of summer and had her moms write comments they like about day care and sign their names. She hung it up in the local grocery store. Her phone has been ringing off the hook!!!
*A GREAT IDEA FROM the Loop Facilitator: One suggestion I heard is to put flyers on cars at the grocery store ... here is the catch ... do it in the evening on the cars with car seats in them. If the mom is a SAHM (stay-at-home-mother), they are more likely to go to the grocery store during the day. (Called "selective marketing" where you use your time, energy & dollars to center in on true prospective!)
*Another special shared idea is to trace each childs body on heavy paper and cut it out. Have the children paint in feature and clothing. Laminate them and hang them in front of your house.
10. How to acknowledge those friends, neighbors, family members, clients, etc. that send you potential clients? Home baked treats, a big pan of spaghetti, some fresh baked cookies or a loaf of bread are wonderful ways to say thank you to your busy clients for referring a parent who becomes a client your way. A thank you card or note, a flower picked from your garden, a small box of candy ... are all great ways to tell the people that have taken the time to refer potential clients to you that you do appreciate them doing so! The key is not how big or fancy the thank you is for this...it is remembering to say "thank you".
*A loop member laughs, "Send large checks, grovel at their feet - send Mars Bars???!"
*Another looper says families in CCC get a $25 credit. Staff get a paid day off. Only if they enroll. Thank you if they don't.
*Note from a looper reminds us that the appearance of both the exterior/interior of our care places may affect a parent's decision about enrollment:
"Hard to say this but I guess I care enough to. Have you taken a good hard look at what the parents see and hear when they come???? Appearance is important and sometimes we become accustomed to what is there everyday. I have had people come to my Center (paid of course) to look with a critical eye. It has been a tremendous help to us and enrollment."
You only have one chance to make a first impression! But "Appearance and Presentation of Your Home Child Care Business" is another article for another time....
Good luck advertising! Keep your advertising banners flying high and all year long!