The consistent practice of good follow up is one thing that will separate those child care businesses that thrive from those that merely survive in the wake of COVID-19. As you launch your recovery plan for re-opening your centers, what are the essential actions for making follow up work to rebuild enrollment?
Action #1 – Determine WHO are your targets for follow up action. You will get the greatest return on your efforts if you choose multiple groups who can either enroll with you or refer prospects to you.
- Enrolled Families – Now is prime time to reach out to families to welcome them back, gather information about their timing and needs for your services, and to generate loyalty to your center. Even though many parents are anxious to get back to work and to have their children at your school, this pandemic has caused a shift in their needs for transparent communication and center-to-home learning experiences. Exploring those needs can help you refocus your business model and your future family communications, and thus regain and retain their enrollment.
- Prospects – Allow time for follow up with qualified prospects most likely to convert to visits and enrollment. These are the parents who have inquired, but are not yet enrolled. Perhaps now even more anxious than before about issues around safety and cleanliness, new enrollment prospects will respond well to meaningful messages to help them make a good buying decision.
- Wait List Families – These families undoubtedly have lots of worries and questions about availability in your center as you reopen. They need communication initiated by you that goes beyond letting them know where they are on the list and when you anticipate an opening. Reaching out to them can calm their fears and make them feel part of your center’s family even prior to their actual start date.
- Lost Opportunities – This is the perfect time to reach out to check in with lost opportunities who inquired but did not enroll over the past several months before the pandemic closed your school. Why? Three reasons… Their situation may have changed and they are now interested in enrolling. They may be able to refer you to a qualified prospect. They will appreciate you showing that you care.
- Parent Ambassadors – Staying in close touch with your Parent Ambassadors now can help jumpstart conversions and veteran family return.
- Community Partners – Many businesses in your area are not only good referral partners, they are looking for ways to kick start their own businesses as shut down orders lift. When you reach out to them with mutually-beneficial ideas, you are cost-effectively driving enrollment referrals to your center. Click here for more on enlisting partners to help rebuild enrollment post COVID-19.
Action #2 – Schedule WHEN you will follow up. Follow up is most effective when you actually schedule time on your calendar for the task. New prospects should get a message immediately upon inquiry and a drip campaign of multiple messages until they convert or decline contact. I recommend a scheduling system I call “Mail-Mail-Call”, which assures a steady stream of follow up to key targets, such as returning families, prospects and wait list families. These high priority targets should get more frequent follow up from you than those with whom only periodic contact is necessary to achieve your goals. Mix methods of follow up, including email, hard mail (yes, really), texts, and telephone calls. Email me if you’d like more on my Mail-Mail-Call Follow Up System.
Using a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system is a must to maximize efficiency on scheduling follow up. Your CRM is truly your marketing partner with follow up. If you do not currently use a CRM system, I suggest you begin investigating them here.
Action #3 – Build a library of WHAT to include in your follow up contacts. Your prospect follow up will include an initial letter on a branded template in which the director welcomes the prospect to visit the center and indicates her next follow up action. As you continue to follow up, add resources of personal interest to the recipient. If a prospect has indicated they are worried about sanitation and cleanliness, attach a document or link to you updated web page on the measures you are taking since the coronavirus epidemic. Send something of value with each follow up contact. Build a library of articles, videos, center event flyers, links to experts, and “Documentation of Differences” branded one-sheets that you can access easily to personalize your follow up and be meaningful to recipients.
Here’s a tip… Whenever you place a follow up call, especially to prospects, wait list families, and lost opportunities, request permission to stay in touch. Do NOT say, “Would you like to be on our mailing list?” Instead say something like, “We periodically reach out to families like you with information of value. Would you like to continue to receive these messages and calls from us?” When you have their permission, they will welcome your next contact, and you begin to build trust and credibility.
One of my favorite phrases, “The fortune is in the follow up”, is only true if you apply the essential actions necessary to make follow up work to build enrollment. When you do, you can excel at building and retaining enrollment, post COVID-19 and well into the future.