What is most important as you guide your teams on effective ways to regain and retain enrollment when there are limits on group size, questions around the extension of “Hold” tuition levels for families not ready to return yet, and the challenges of implementing new financial and operational models as you re-open?
Though I have provided many action steps in previous COVID-19 Support blogs https://juliewassom.com/child-care-blog/ , one word now comes to mind. Savasana .This is the name of a pose practiced in yoga. It is a restorative pose intended to help create stillness, focus, and release. Releasing what was, readying for what is ahead, and creating the focus it will take to tackle what the future brings.
So what is most important to focus on now?
Policies – What are yours now that are different from before the coronavirus closure? These must be clear, including time-limits, and communicated to everyone involved – staff, families, and marketing partners. If your “Hold Tuition” policy expires in two months, make sure you have lead-time in notifications and contingencies in place. Continual, transparent communication with your teams and your families through multiple venues will help make these your new policies and actions understood and expected in real time.
Strategy – As I have spoken with early childhood professionals about rebuilding enrollment, many say to me, “We hope we can figure out ways to serve families when current rules will not allow us to serve them as before.” “We hope to have most of our families return, compliant with the new mandates.“ “We hope rules relax, so we can be back to full capacity utilization by fall.” As I have said many times, “Hope is not a marketing strategy.” Be careful of clinging to what was, or assuming what will be, because in many ways, it is now out of your control. Instead, strategize using, “If this happen, then this is our plan…”, creating plans that allow you to shift easily. Use flexibility and your team’s creativity to build action plans that can work in different scenarios in your center, always remaining customer-centric in each plan.
Brand Differentiation – Your brand is your story. What about yours instills parent confidence, trust, and the desire to belong? The basic competitive advantages you promoted before COVID-19 may have worked then, but is it enough value now? As you think in the prospect’s perspective more than ever, be sure you are communicating all you are doing differently to be compliant with new regulations, and to have the health, safety, and excellence in early childhood education guiding your initiatives. Create and post “Documentation of Differences” notifications. As you market and communicate your brand, think depth, as well as breadth. What actions can you take – on multiple platforms – to deepen connections with families – not merely to inform them, but to engage them. Remember, dealing with quarantine may have made them REALLY appreciate you and your staff, but it has also made them feel wary and vulnerable. They will continue to need you for information, resources, and a sense of community outside their living rooms. If your brand gives them that in a meaningful way, it will help regain and retain them.
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