John F Kennedy described the Chinese symbol for crisis as having two brush stokes, one for danger and the other for opportunity. Even though current times are uncertain and even scary for your ECE business, they are ripe with opportunity for ways to build an effective enrollment recovery plan.
Use these strategies and actions now to regain enrollment on the time-to-profit runway you have planned, and to rebuild for business sustainability.
Refocus your Business Model to be more Customer-centric. Though the core business of early care and education will remain the same, there will undoubtedly be changes in how families will choose and use your services.
- Business experts indicate this recovery will not be V-shaped. Employer models will change, the way parents live and work will be different, so your customer families will likely require more flexibility, heightened communication, and absolute clarity in the value-exchange they get for the tuition they spend on ECE.
- Your current families have now become prospects for re-enrollment. You cannot assume they will just come back once you re-open. To fill your centers faster and generate the revenue you need to provide quality, pay staff, and run the school, you must think in the prospect’s perspective in every part of your recovery plan.
Reassess customer needs. To make your services more customer-centric, you need to find out more about what their needs will be as they come out of this crisis. Will the days and times they need care change? What else will they expect in safety and cleanliness? What different kinds of communication and support will they want from you than before the pandemic? What will make them choose to come back to you versus try a competitor? Assess this through brief surveys or personal calls, and use the information for new messaging and actions you can take now to adjust to their needs.
Communicate through multiple venues, beginning now. The more you can do to be a helpful resource and keep them bonded to your school, the better. See my previous blog for ideas. https://juliewassom.com/2020/04/07/covid-19-support-part-i-communicating-with-families-while-the-center-is-closed/
Prepare Now to Rebuild Enrollment Rapidly
Define and market your benefits, not just features. Parents will return or enroll where they feel they get the top value exchange. This means you absolutely must know what I call your Basic Competitive Advantages, and how to speak and write them as benefit statements. To do this, start by shopping nearby competitors beyond price and a peek at their website. Think in the prospect’s perspective as you analyze similarities and differences. Then incorporate unique benefits into your marketing messages everywhere. A good visual way to do this is to create what I call, Documentation of Differences pages, posters, and posts. Put them up in the center, on your website, and on social media.
Update your website. Now is the time to be truly objective and assure your site has the elements needed to be a strong connection for existing families and to generate the highest number of qualified new prospect inquiries. Review your analytics, especially for pages most visited, and where visitors take action. Make sure it has a “Schedule a Visit” button on every page, linked to a complete lead form that drops into your follow up database or CRM. Update the site with multiple recent reviews, a robust staff recruiting section, a resource library, and a current, comprehensive parent portal.
Create re-enrollment incentives – Work now to develop and promote incentives for re-enrollment. For example, could you schedule staggered tuition savings into the first three months after customers return, offer a “Welcome Back Gift”, thank health care professionals and essential workers on the front lines with reduced tuition rates for the first three months, increase sibling discounts through the end of the year, add new perks for returning enrollments, such as diapers or reduced late fees? Many schools will offer re-enrollment incentives, so make sure yours are unique and meaningful to your families.
Sharpen enrollment conversion skills. EVERY inquiry counts as you rebuild, so everyone responsible for converting inquiries into tours and registrations MUST be proficient in conversion skills, including follow up. How can you provide that training now, when centers are closed? Use a virtual training program, like my Enrollment EXCELerator© Video Training Program. Easy-access, user-friendly, password-protected, and affordable. Perfect for right now and beyond.
Treat re-opening almost like a new school launch. In addition to announcements of reopen date, perhaps you host a “Bring-a-Friend Grand Re-opening” event and waive the registration fee for new families who attend, or host a Zoom gathering with teachers and families the week prior to re-opening to reconnect, build anticipation, and answer questions.
Implement enrollment growth incentive programs for managers. Develop programs now to launch once you open. Make them results-driven, time-sensitive, and achievable, with rewards meaningful to directors and other managers.
Watch for my next blog, COVID-19 Support III – Enlisting Staff, Parent, and Community Partners to Help Rebuild Enrollment