In our industry filled with acronyms like DAP and FTE, I created one called BCA. “What do you mean by BCA?” you say. Your BCAs are your Basic Competitive Advantages – those unique features of your early care and education program and services that make you stand apart from your competitors. In general sales terms, these are called USPs, or unique selling propositions. Your BCAs should distinguish you from the other choices your enrollment prospects have available to them.

When I ask directors , “What are your Basic Competitive Advantages?”, many respond with features such as a quality program, a state-of-the-art facility, caring staff, brain-researched curriculum, good parent communication, long-tenured teachers, etc. Yet when I ask, “How do these compare to your competitors?” many cannot tell me other than to smile and say, “We hope they are better.” Hope is not a marketing strategy.

Many child care choices can seem similar when parents see ads, receive mailings, and investigate companies online. Learning what truly differentiates you from those other competitive options – and then how to communicate your BCAs in a manner that is meaningful to your prospects – can mean more enrollment conversions and higher capacity utilization in your center.

There are three steps that will help you use your Basic Competitive Advantages to increase enrollment.

Step One:   Determine your specific BCAs
Step Two:   Define the benefits of your BCAs
Step Three: Articulate your BCAs in benefit statements

Step One:  Determine Your Basic Competitive Advantages

It’s important to get a realistic view of what differentiates you from other child care options your enrollment prospects might investigate and select to visit. There are three ways you can do this. I recommend doing all three.

Make a list of your key features. With your management team and select staff,  first list all the features of your center, curriculum, staff,  philosophy, and service delivery that you feel helps you deliver the kind of quality you profess. Expect their responses to give you the more general assumptions, such as quality program, long hours of operation, convenience, caring staff, etc.

Then take this another step by going through each feature listed and really dig for what makes each of these features truly special or unique to you. For example, if your team tells you one key feature is your quality program, ask, “What about our program makes it high quality?” or “What does our program give children that they may not get elsewhere?” This will help your team focus on what really differentiates you. Perhaps they will say you are the only accredited center within your draw radius, or your lead teachers all have a high level of professional development, or you believe in children learning through play, or your curriculum is nature-based. Note these responses by each originally-stated feature, because you are now getting to the heart of what your actual BCAs are.

Do competitive shops. How can you know what your enrollment prospects are seeing, hearing, and experiencing at other centers if you have not done so yourself? Shop three aspects of each competitor – website, telephone inquiry, and center visit. Website and telephone inquiry can be anonymous. However, I recommend you schedule competitive center visits as a professional colleague versus visiting as a mystery shopper. To do this, you either schedule the visit or just drop in, introducing yourself as the director of your center and location, requesting a brief tour of their center, and inviting them to schedule a time to visit yours.

Shop no fewer than three and no more than five competitive programs in your area. Your goal for these shops is to determine your center’s BCAs. Here is a great technique for doing that, but it requires that you take off your center director hat and approach these shops from the parent’s perspective. Remember, a key strategy for successful enrollment building is to think in the prospect’s perspective. Their perceptions, not yours, influence their buying decisions.  So, are you ready for the technique? For each shop – website, telephone, or center visit – look for three features that center appears to provide as well as you do, from the parent’s perspective. Then note three things each one does not do as well as you do. And last, look for three things each competitive center does better than you currently do, at least from the parent’s perspective.

Be brutally honest. Here’s an example in each category for competitive shops. Same as you… A competitive center may have a website with many of the same features as yours. Not done as well as you… When you call them in the role of a prospective enrollee, you are not asked to schedule a specific time to come in for a center visit, nor are you asked for permission to follow up with you. (You consistently do both on each qualified inquiry call.) Could be perceived as better than you… When you stop by to visit the competitive center, you notice the entry is very clean, welcoming, and has a table with coffee and neatly-arranged materials about the center or of interest to parents. (Your entry could use some sprucing up.) When your shops are complete, review your lists of competitive features and use them to analyze what will be perceived as your BCAs by the enrollment prospects investigating all of you.

Conduct a post-visit survey.  By emailing a carefully crafted, three-to-five question survey to those prospects who have visited your center, you can learn what they noticed to be the primary differences between you and other centers they visited. Which specific centers they visited in addition to yours is not as important as what they perceived about yours. Make sure your survey reaches these enrollment prospects within the first few days after their center visit. Also make it easy to complete and submit. Constant Contact and Survey Monkey offer easy-to-use surveys. Even though it is unlikely all of the surveys will be returned, if you structure the survey questions and attached message well, you will get enough responses to see patterns of what your prospects view as your BCAs.

Take the information you gathered from each of these efforts and compile it. What will emerge are the key features of your center’s program and services that prospects perceive to be your Basic Competitive Advantages.

Merely knowing your BCAs is an important first step. However, it is not enough to assure they will positively impact your conversions and retention.  Taking your knowledge of features two more steps can make a world of difference in the influence these BCAs have on maximizing your enrollment. Here’s where we move to Step Two… Be sure to subscribe to the blog, my Facebook or Twitter to be informed about when Part 2 is released!

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
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