One of the biggest hurdles most childcare providers face during the initial years of starting a childcare business is increasing the occupancy rate. It could take a while for all your marketing activities to kick in and get the enrolment rolling. So, how do you expedite the process and fill out the vacant spots?
1. Refer a friend scheme
There can be no better marketing for a childcare provider than a satisfied customer happily spreading the word for you. However, let’s be realistic, no matter how exceptional your services are, you could be leaning towards idealism if you leave it to voluntary word-of-mouth-referrals to get the wheels of your childcare business moving.
Even some of your happiest customers can turn out to be quite complacent when it comes to free referrals because it doesn’t always strike many (unless they run a business themselves) that something as simple as a review or referral can translate into more business and revenue for you. They are happy with your service. They pay for it. And they leave it at that.
This is when a referral scheme can make a difference. Giving your customers an incentive in return for their referral can give them a reason to put in the effort for you. One of the most popular referral schemes used by nurseries is the refer-a-friend scheme where existing parents and the person they refer will both get a discount, once the referred child completes a specific period, say three months at your centre. The Recommend a Friend scheme used by The Old Vicarage Nursery is a good example of how to roll out the scheme effectively.
2. Ad-hoc Discounts
Offering ad-hoc discounts to existing customers is a practical approach to bring in extra revenue by offering vacant spaces to other children at a reduced price. For example, you have a maximum capacity of 24 for one of your pre-school rooms or after school program and you normally have 3 staff members for the room.
Let’s assume you have only 17 children booked in for a Friday and the staff: child ratio for the room requires one staff member for every 8 children, which means, you would still require all the 3 staff members to be present for the room, even if it’s for one additional child. So, why not offer the vacant places for that day at a discounted rate to the parents and make it a win-win for both parties?
Now the trick question is how do you implement this effectively? How do you let other parents know you have a discounted place for the day unless someone calls and enquires for emergency childcare?
You can advertise the offer on your website and social media. But, if you are not sure if these channels will catch the eye of your regular customers within the short time-frame of the campaign, it’s a good idea to make the most of childcare software solution like Cheqdin that you might be using at your centre.You can create a quick campaign - nothing time-consuming like what you would do using most of the marketing tools – and send a blast of email or push notifications to the parents in your database. You can inform them about the offer and encourage them to make the bookings via the app to help you manage the bookings efficiently.
3. Discounted Childcare
Limited period sign-up discounts like half-price discounts, sibling discounts and full-time discounts are also effective ways to attract more enrolments during periods of low occupancy. But make sure you keep the offers simple and uncomplicated and communicate the terms and conditions clearly.
Remember to print out the offer and leave a few fliers at your reception, post it on your notice board and promote the offer using all possible channels such as your website, parent app, social media to make sure you get the message across to both your existing and new customers.
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