How often have you implemented a marketing campaign only to be disappointed in its ability to generate qualified leads for enrollment? Sometimes, when I delve into conversations about this with ECE clients, I ask what their marketing strategy was. They tell me it looked like a good idea, and they “hoped” it would work.

I like to say, “HOPE is not a marketing strategy.”

For the time and resources you put into your marketing efforts, it’s important to get the highest return possible. Here are some key elements of building a successful marketing strategy.

  1. Who is the target audience you are attempting to reach with your campaign? Be more specific than, “parents of young children within our draw radius”. That’s a very broad brush. The more specific you are, the easier it is to create messages that speak to those from whom you want to generate qualified enrollment leads.

  2. What kind of response rate are you looking for? If you are a recently opened school, that will likely be different than if you are an established center in a competitive market. Crunch the numbers before launching a campaign, so you know what goal you need to reach to make it worth it.

  3. Know your Basic Competitive Advantages. Do not guess. Do the web, phone, and on-site shopping it takes to get the same perception your prospects do as to how you compare. Be brutally honest and focus on those competitive differences you have that you know are important to how your families feel about having their children enrolled there. Come up with at least three BCAs you can use in your marketing messaging.

  4. Create messages that speak to your target audience. Keep them short, focused on your differences, and relevant to where they are in the investigation process. Always include a call-to-action that allows them to take the next step, which is to contact you for more information or to schedule a tour. Remember, they cannot take in too much information at one time, and they only really care about what matters most to them in making this decision. You may think it is your program. They may not. Get started by checking your website analytics to learn which pages are visited most often or where web visitors spend the most time.

  5. Determine venues. You will get the best response rate if you use a mix of marketing venues for your consistent messaging. Ask you own customers what venues they used beyond word-of-mouth referral. If it is social media, which platform? Then pick the combination that has the data to show you which are the best mix for you. A center focused on building family communities may use a very different combination of marketing channels from a school focused primarily on kindergarten preparation. Be wary of buying a media package just because it is a good deal. If it does not use the right venues for your audience, you are back to “hoping” it might work. Usually, it won’t. Or at least not as well as you want it to.

  6. Decide on timing of message delivery. Plan to stagger messages amongst venues in a way that will increase reach, but still attain an acceptable frequency of message delivery within the campaign time frame.


To prospective parents, information of value in making this decision is more important than general advertising like they are getting from your competitors.  For example, do a branded post of what I call “Documentation of Differences” on key topics parents want to know about, such as safety. In another message, you could offer a link to  information on what to look for in choosing a quality center, something provided by you or a third-party ECE association in your area.


Put these techniques to use and watch your rate of qualified enrollment inquiries rise. Then never again will you find yourself saying, “We just hoped our marketing idea would work.”