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Voice Mail Marketing Secrets

Your voice mail message is a powerful marketing tool for giving your prospects and customers a lasting first impression. Are you maximizing its ability to be your marketing partner? Here are some tips on doing so for no cost and high impact.

Keep your message brief, professional, and concise. Make sure your voice mail picks up after no more than five rings. Most callers will not wait any longer, nor will they listen to a long drawn-out message.

Include important information your caller needs - your company name, specific center name, and city name. Add your image message or tagline, especially if it communicates a unique message about your services.

Indicate when the caller can expect a return call. Rather than saying, “We will return your call as soon as possible,” use a time frame, such as, within 24 hours. This sets up an expectation, which when fulfilled, gives you valuable credibility.

Refer caller to your website. Most parents now investigate early care and education options online. If your voice mail message refers them to your website, by the time you call them back, they will likely have even more good information about you.

Make your delivery smooth and confident. No er’s, um’s, and weak voice tones. Write out your message dialogue and practice until your delivery makes the strong, confident impression you want your caller to hear. Then record it.

Your voice mail message is a marketing tool right at your fingertips. Apply these secrets for making it an effective partner in marketing a memorable impression of you and your center.

Want more on building enrollment? I just launched my updated version of “Basic Techniques for Securing Enrollment“. So check it out! You’ll be very glad you did!

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com

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Capture More Personal Needs on Website Inquiry Forms

Capture More Personal Needs on Website Inquiry Forms

When you receive an enrollment inquiry submitted from the lead form embedded on your website, it will likely have some basic information about your prospect and their child. Yet most lead forms do not capture the real needs and desires parents seek to satisfy in this investigation stage of their search.

Since the first contact you make with a parent who has inquired about your center is critical to their continued consideration, the more you know what really matters to them, the more you can personalize your first response.

So how can you get parents to include it on the short web form they submit?

Ask for it very specifically.

Most website inquiry forms have a box that says, Comments or Notes or Questions. Though parents may give you some information in this box, this does not really ask your prospect to tell you what’s really important to them. to get that, use a clear, directive statement in that box, such as,

Additional information you would like to share about your child or your family

or

Specific interests, needs, and concerns

Make this small change on your lead form and see if it does not become the key to capturing good information you can use to begin to develop a personal bond with your prospects from your very first contact and throughout the enrollment decision process.

For more on generating inquiries from your center’s website, contact Julie!

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com

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WIIFM? Revised!

WIIFM. We all know that stands for “What’s In It For Me?” Your prospects think about this when they investigate centers for their family’s early care and education decision. Your parents consider it daily as they assess their loyalty to you while simultaneously being tempted by your competitors. Your opinion influencers wonder if their referrals will always be a one-way street, and your community marketing contacts think about it from the time you shake their hands hello.

You also think WIIFM when you try to decide whether or not to make that follow up call to a prospective parent or handle that complaint or make community contacts when other tasks seem more urgent. Let’s take just one of those situations, examine what IS in it for you, and then put a new twist on the acronym.

Follow up to an enrollment inquiry or visit. In this situation, if you follow up in a timely manner, with information of value to the recipient, and continually, here’s just some of what you get:

  • a reason to re-contact your prospect – you’ve previously told them you would follow up, so it’s legitimate – and not pushy – that you do it
  • the words to say when you follow up – “I’m calling you as I said I would, to see what questions you have at this point.”
  • another chance to secure a visit or enrollment
  • an opportunity to build the trust and credibility that is the foundation of a positive relationship
  • a chance to learn additional needs and concerns that you can address
  • a chance to ask for referrals to others whom you might serve
  • a commitment to stay organized (Use those tickler files!)
  • a competitive advantage – only a small percentage of your competitors will follow up more than once or twice

I like to say, “The fortune is in the follow up.” I have pages of testimonials as to its effectiveness in getting you what you want.

But let’s look at the WIIFM acronym another way. Start thinking “What’s In It FROM Me?” If you change your mindset to this being the motivator for your follow up action, it will become easier to do follow up when you’re uncomfortable with it or other tasks call your name.

What are you GIVING with good follow up? These and more:

  • an assurance of credibility, believability, and trust. You’re doing what you said you would do. People buy from you not because of what you say you will do, but because of what they believe you will really do.
  • demonstration that you care. People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.
  • Once care is established, you’re giving your knowledge. When you position yourself as the helpful professional expert, you’re the one they will turn to again and again.
  • another opportunity for your prospect to make a good decision. Helping prospects make a good buying decision is an integral part of your enrollment building responsibilities.
  • the only follow up contact they got from a center that day (or even week). I was recently giving a seminar when one of the directors shared with me that a parent who was spending the day calling nannies got another follow up mailing from her. Because of it and all the previous contacts, she called the center, scheduled a visit, enrolled, and even told the director it was her follow up that made all the difference in her coming in. It also meant she got the enrollment!

Change your thinking and you can change your action and ultimately your enrollment situation. One way to do that is to start thinking “What’s In It FROM Me?”

Best wishes and happy marketing!

For more on this topic, refer to “Basic Techniques for Securing Enrollment” audio program fromThe Enrollment Building Success Library. Call our office for a full synopses of this and other programs in the library.

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com

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Terms of Enrollment

Let’s talk terms.  If prospect perception is a key deciding factor in the enrollment decision – and it is -  then it is important to think about how prospects perceive the words you say.

Say “visit” versus “tour”

You tour an institution such as a museum or another environment where you have no real emotional bond. Since the child care decision is so emotional for most parents, they will feel much more comfortable if you invite them to come for a scheduled visit, give them a walk through the center, and convert that visit into a personal enrollment experience.

Say “guest” versus “parent”

Treat visiting prospects like your special guests. Doesn’t special guest here for a visit sound warmer and more personal that a parent tour? Absolutely! Your prospects will certainly think so.

Think differently about the term “selling”

Selling early care and education services is very different from selling a product or service that the prospect may or may not need and has not inquired about. You are not door-to-door salespeople. Instead, your prospect has inquired about your services. They need and expect your assistance. So selling in this industry is two things:

  1. Helping them make a good buying decision
  2. Getting them to ACT on your recommendation

This is a much softer approach, but one that yields lots of enrollments if you do it well.

Think carefully about how you say what you mean. Your prospect’s perception of those words will impact their enrollment buying decision. Using the most appealing terms will help put that decision in your favor.

For more on this topic, refer to “Basic Techniques for Securing Enrollment” audio program from The Enrollment Building Success Library. Call our office for a full synopses of this and other programs in the library.

Good luck and happy marketing!

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com

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Know Me or No Me – Finding Your Best Prospects for Enrollment

For many of us, there has been a time when the saying, “It’s not what you know, but who you know, that matters,” held some truth. However, in the case of finding the prospects best qualified to buy your early care and education services, what you know is essential to learning who those buyers are and where to best reach them with your marketing messages.

Whether your center is in a densely populated city or in a smaller town, the challenge is still the same. How do you find enrollment prospects and communicate with them in a manner that leads them to inquire? The more you know about your prospects’ service preferences, quality expectations, and buying influencers, the greater your chances of knowing where and how to reach them with messages that cause them to take action to investigate you.  Once they enroll, knowing their level of satisfaction and expectation can help you keep them.

The answers to these three questions can help you target those prospects most qualified to become and remain your customers.

  1. What is it I need to know about them?
  2. Where do I find this information?
  3. How do I use the information once I have it?

What do I need to know?

Market research professionals look at two types of profiles to target specific audiences. One, calleddemographics, indicates factual characteristics of a typical qualified buyer. Demographic characteristics include age, average number of children, income, occupation, geographical location, marital status, level of education, etc. Another profile, called psychographics, addresses lifestyle factors of target audiences. Media preferences, leisure time activities, shopping habits, and a preference for the types of early care and education they might buy are considered psychographics.

For example, a demographic study may show that in a neighborhood near you, the average adult is between 28 and 45, has two children, works at a professional level job, and is married. The psychographics of the same households might indicate they read Parents Magazine, spend a lot of time online, and begin to research infant programs shortly after they become pregnant.

Though demographics can give you a clear cut profile of your target prospects, psychographics can help you learn how to communicate with them. Knowing both can not only help you target your prospects, it can help you refine your marketing efforts to more effectively reach these potential enrollees.

Once you have prospects calling or visiting your center, you need to learn as much about them as they will tell you.  Go beyond the basic profile of name, child’s name and age, and program desired. Ask what they expect from the early care and education their child receives. What concerns do they have about their child’s care or center-based care in general? What are the ways they found out about you? Learn the little things, too. Exactly how is their child’s name spelled? (I was recently introduced to a group of three small children whose names were Tajisha, Alyssa, and Jared. These may be listed in the book of baby names, but they rarely show up on a traditional spelling test!) When is his or her birthday? How was their previous experience with early care and education?

Where do I find this information?

Three sources for target market information are

  • market research firms
  • your own customer base
  • inquiry profiles

Market research firms gather and sell demographic and psychographic information compiled into profiles per the information categories you select. Many of these firms also provide comprehensive mailing services.

Your own customer base will reveal valuable information that profiles the target groups you currently serve. What kind of analyses have you done lately through parent surveys, focus groups of current customers, or record updates? Remember, with each new month your customers have a choice to stay with you or go elsewhere. In a way, they are always “prospects” for your services. You are continuously re-enrolling them informally, not with conversion skills, but with program delivery and customer service. Finding out what satisfies them and what else they expect can help you know them better and deliver to their needs and desires.

Completing inquiry profiles as you talk with prospects on the phone and in your center allows you to both log this information for use in follow-up contacts and to compile it with information gathered on other profiles. Within the compilation, patterns will emerge that will be useful in creating a picture of your typical qualified prospects and where they go to learn about your services. Whether you note inquiring prospect information in a contact management program on your computer or by hand on inquiry cards; this data can be invaluable in understanding your target prospects and in converting them into enrollments.

How do I use the information once I have it?

One of the primary uses for good information about your most qualified prospects and loyal customers is to help you develop meaningful marketing messages. The more you know about what matters to your prospects, the more your marketing messages can speak their language and call them to action.

It will also help you determine avenues for reaching target audiences with your messages. Until you know where they go to get the kind of information they need to research early care and education options and to make buying decisions, your efforts to reach them will only be hit and miss. Would you get more prospects to inquire by placing a series of ads in a local city publication, by having an interactive website, by initiating an active customer referral incentive program, or by sponsoring a community ball team that puts your company name and tagline on programs, t-shirts, and radio announcements? The answer is probably some combination of the above, along with other layered marketing communications efforts. The more information you have on the prospects and customers you want to serve, the more targeted and effective you can make your marketing message and the methods you choose to deliver it.

Think in the prospect’s perspective. In their view, the choices are many. The companies and center managers who understand their primary target prospects, deliver messages that cause them to inquire, provide the quality of service they expect, and continually offer meaningful customer service will capture more enrollments and will keep the lion’s share of their customers’ loyalty. Those who don’t will lose them to the competition. When it comes to finding, converting, and keeping your best prospects, the words that hold the most truth might just be, “Know me, or no me.”

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com

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Positioning Your Child Care Center

In a previous issue of Child Care Information Exchange, in my article, “How to Be Bullish on Marketing Child Care in a Challenging Economy,” I offered this advice on positioning as a way to connect with prospective parents . . .

Positioning is the impression created in the minds of your customers and prospects by the image you communicate. Sometimes that impression has no real base in reality. For instance, a major airline learned in a customer survey that passengers who found the tray tables dirty immediately assumed that the engines were not well maintained. In a feelings-based business like child care, your parents want to feel they can trust you. To enroll or remain as customers, they need to believe that you will do what you say you will.

What can make the difference between how you and one of your competitors are positioned in your prospect’s mind are often not the big things like convenience, staff tenure, or program. Look carefully at the little things around your center. Does it smell good when parents first walk in? Are enrollment or special program banners left hanging for weeks with one corner torn and flapping in the breeze? Is someone always up front to greet parents at regular pick-up and drop-off times?

You, as the director, can distinguish your center, if you position yourself as not only the manager of your school, but as a helpful professional expert. A center in Las Vegas was looking for a unique positioning in its increasingly competitive marketplace. The director decided to run a ‘Child Care Hotline’ column in the monthly newsletter she distributes to parents, prospective enrollees, and local businesses. In each issue she publishes the center’s number, hotline calling hours (when she knows she will be there to take calls), and her response to a question she received the previous month. This technique markets her as a professional expert and available child care resource, and a manager in touch with the market’s need. That’s good positioning! And the benefit to her is that, with almost every hotline call, she has a chance to subtly market the services of her specific center.

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com

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Closing – Getting to Yes

One of the most difficult sales skills for many people to execute is to ASK a closing question to secure a center visit, get a commitment for follow up, and of course, to sell an enrollment. Why is it so tough? For many reasons. The one I’m addressing today is the fear of the prospect saying “NO!”

Carole Hyatt, author of The Women’s Selling Game, says it takes eight “No’s” to get to a “Yes.” (Same applies for you guys.) I believe that if you have really targeted your market and spoken their language in all your marketing efforts, it may not take so long to get to “Yes.” Your prospects will be more interested in your center, more realistic about what they really need and want, and more eager to be educated by someone they can trust (YOU). You might have several , “Maybe’s,” along the way from truly qualified prospects, but that is your opportunity to educate them, to gain their trust, and to have yet another chance to ASK for their commitment – in other words, to close.

My friend and speaking colleague, Mark Victor Hansen – co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul Series – says, “You have to A-S-K to G-E-T!!” He’s right. If you do not ask because you’re uneasy about a negative response, you will not get as many prospects to your school or secure as many enrollments as you could if you asked a closing question. I’ll address closing techniques in a future bi-weekly tip, but today, let’s go over why they might say “No,” in response to your closing question.

People usually object for one of three reasons:

1. They do not have enough information (or time) to make a good buying decision, in their perception.

2. They need further clarification on your services, what it is you want them to do, etc.

3. They are not your customer – information better for you to have sooner than later, so you can gracefully end the enrollment securement process while maintaining a good relationship – you never know where your next referral will come from.

So do not let a few “No’s” get you down. It has much more to do with your prospects and where they are in their search than it does with you, your center, or your services. Keep on building a good relationship and keep on asking when an appropriate opportunity presents itself.

Remember the adage, SWSWSWNT – Some will. Some won’t. So what? Next time!

Best wishes and happy marketing,

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com

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Branding Your Early Child Care and Education Business Without Getting Burned

When I was a young girl growing up on a Midwest farm, branding meant the yearly task of burning our farm’s symbol into the hides of our cattle with a branding iron. Though lots of other farmers had cattle, no other farm had a symbol exactly like ours, and every animal that displayed our brand could be identified as one of our herd.

Branding in the early child care and education marketplace is very similar to branding on the farm. It refers to the specific image your company develops and promotes to make your services unique, recognizable, and memorable in the minds of your prospects and customers.

In The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding, authors Al and Laura Reis, say, “A successful branding program is based on the concept of singularity. It creates in the mind of the prospect the perception that there is no product on the market quite like your product.” In the giant soft drink industry, there is only one “Uncola” – 7-Up.  “You’re in good hands” with only one insurance company – All State.

The more saturated with competitors an industry, or even your individual marketplace becomes, the more important branding becomes.  The more saturated it becomes, the more difficult it can be for prospects to tell the differences between you and other early child care and education providers whom they are considering.  When the competition heats up, the good branding program can help you capture a niche that sets you apart from the rest in the minds of your target audiences.

You want to establish a niche that not only appeals to prospects, but holds their interest enough to make them want to contact you about the services you provide.  Some businesses do this by developing a niche that has more to do with the customer service they provide than with claims about the quality of their programs, products, or services. For instance, in the overcrowded pizza industry, Dominoes pulled away from the pack by developing a unique niche with only two words, “We Deliver.” Pizza Hut and others quickly followed by promoting a similar service, but could not capture the Dominoes brand. Instead, Pizza Hut developed its own niche as the home of deep-dish pizza. Papa Murphy later entered this market and branded themselves as the place to get gourmet take-out pizza ready to cook at home.

Creating Your Business Image

So how do you establish a nichedevelop a brand, and market that unique image of your early care and education business?

The first step in creating your business image is to determine exactly which products and services you offer.  Are you in business to care for children while their parents are away at work, to provide a quality learning environment for preschoolers and young children, to provide employer sponsored child care services, to offer innovative, leading edge forms of education, or a combination?  Is your environment more like a home or a school?  Are you a child care center, preschool, an after school program, an enrichment center, or a day care?  Do children enrolled in your center spend most of their time in educational or free play activities, on DAP, or something else?  Is your philosophy of service delivery built upon education, unstructured activities, guided play, DAP?

Once you can define what you offer, the next step is to determine what sets you apart that is also desirable to your prospects. Start by writing down five things that are unique about you, your early care and educational services, and the way you do business. I call these your BCA’s or Basic Competitive Advantages. Go beyond “quality program” and “caring teachers.” Managers in nearly every center say that, and though important, it is not unique in the prospect’s initial perspective. What do you have or do that is just a bit different, or more focused, or a cut above the norm? Once you have your list, circle the two or three that are the most true for you and will be important to the kinds of customers you want to have.

Using two or three key image phrases, brainstorm combinations of words that briefly define your niche. Doing so will create a unique image message, or tagline, for your early care and education business.

A tagline is a short phrase or motto that conveys your niche clearly and precisely in  seven or fewer words. The tagline message should create an image of you in your prospect’s mind. That image has strong impact on their decision to investigate further and ultimately to enroll. Here are some examples of taglines and image messages for existing early care and education businesses. What niche do they claim to hold? How have they branded themselves?

            Where Lil’ Minds Grow

            Excellence in Educational Child Care

            Care You Can Count On

            For the Love of Children

            Building a Foundation for Success

Once you create your own tagline or image message, try it on some industry colleague; then on friends and a few people who don’t know what you do. Ask them what image your message communicates to them about your business. What does it say you provide? More importantly, what do they think they could get from you if they were your customer?  Does it make them want to learn more about you?  If their response is what you want to hear, you are ready to begin marketing your niche or brand to potential buyers and referral sources.

Marketing Your Niche

How do you get your message out to all your target markets in a manner that leads them to inquire? You use traditional and some non-traditional marketing tactics to drive your brand right into the minds of your prospects and customers. Once there and authentically delivered, it is amazing how powerful it can be. Take Evian, for example. It is just clean water, but it has been niched into such a powerful brand that many people pay more for a liter of Evian than the same amount of milk, Coca-Cola, or beer.

Put your tagline everywhere the name of your company appears. Put it on your letterhead, business cards, signs, premiums, and flyers. Include it in ads, brochures, and on your website. Talk about your niche during inquiry calls, center visits and community marketing activities.

1)  If your niche is the place that best prepares young children to succeed in school, make sure you have a variety of ways you illustrate that brand in your ads and in campaigns, on your brochure, in your center scrapbook, on your website, in your centers themselves.

2)  Write an article about the progressive new Pre-K curriculum in use in your centers. Submit it to local papers and city magazines read by your prospective customers.

3)  Become known as a credible source for information on successful preparation for elementary school. One way to do that is to have presence in the venues where parents come to learn from the experts.  That may mean speaking on this topic at conferences, corporate lunch and learn programs, or for groups such as MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers).  When you do that, always bring and distribute your business card.

4)  Sit on the board of one of your local elementary schools.

5)  At community events that draw parents of young children, have a booth with a banner that includes your name, tag, and web address.  Have activities for children of passersby that illustrate your curriculum.  Give out business cards and take away materials with your center’s name and contact information on it.  Have a map of your center’s location and inquiry cards available so you can book future center visits right there.

If developing and driving a brand or niche is not where your talent lies, seek the help of a professional marketer. As columnist and author, Jeff Gitomer, recommends, “Pay a marketing specialist an hour or two fee and bounce ideas off the person. I’d rather have $200 worth of good advice than a $200 ad that gets no response.”

I once heard another speaker say, “Find your niche and strike it rich!” He was referring to what Reis calls the Law of Singularity. Do not try to be what absolutely every potential enrollment buyer needs. Stake claim to a niche that is authentically yours, develop it into your own brand, then use marketing to drive that brand, so prospective customers and referral sources recognize and remember it when the time comes for them to investigate or refer early care and educational services.

Without a unique niche or brand for your early care and education business, your prospects may tend to view you as just another center in the growing child care industry. Faced with multiple choices, potential customers will gravitate toward those centers whose image they recognize and whose niche appeals most to them. Including a branding program in the marketing plan for your early care and education business can help you be one of those centers. Do it well and you’ll never get burned.

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com

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Your Are What They See

You never get a second chance to make a first impression. Within the first 60 seconds on the telephone and five minutes on a center tour, child care prospects form an impression of you that is often a lasting one.  The image you project communicates messages to your prospects, customers, and the community around your center.  The needs-satisfying information they find in those messages determines to a great extent whether or not your prospects enroll, your customers stay, and the opinion influencers in the community refer you and your child care services.

Let’s consider the prospect who is seeking child care for the first time.  Despite the recommendations in many publications, most working parents do not spend a great deal of time selecting a child care center.  They gather available information from referrals and other resources, make inquiry calls, visit an average number of centers or homes, and make a decision.  Because that decision is so emotionally based, the centers that present the best image leave a positive, decisive impression on the prospect.  It causes what we call in marketing terms positioning.  And only the better players are going to survive say Al Ries and Jack Trout, authors ofPositioning: The Battle For Your Mind (New York: Warner Books, 1981).

Positioning is the impression left by the image of a brand of product or service.  When you think of McDonald’s, what image comes to Mind?  Golden arches, juicy hamburgers, Ronald McDonald, a quick dinner, change in your pocket, convenience, that you deserve a break today?  Your prospects’ perceptions of you are based upon their image of you, and that becomes their reality.  In their minds, this impression positions you amongst your competition according to the benefits they seek in selection child care.  In our industry, the differences that distinguish one child care provider from another- in the prospect’s mind – can be very small.  For example, a parent who experiences a center director bending down to warmly greet a visiting child may form the impression of that center as a loving, caring place for her child to be.  If caring attention to her child is a primary benefit she seeks in her child care selection, that center will be well positioned to secure this enrollment.  It is this positioning that creates a pattern of attitudes that affects a parent’s ultimate choice of child care providers.

Marketing Your Image Throughout Your Center

You can create your center’s market positioning by managing just how you present your center, the materials you distribute, your staff, your program, and yourself.  Imagine yourself in your prospect’s position, remember that they base enrollment decisions on feelings, and think about the following:

  • Telephone personality

Most prospects’ firs interaction with you is on the telephone. Within literally seconds, they will form an initial impression of you, based upon how you handle their calls. If you can offer empathetic assistance while you assess major needs, gather necessary factual information, and ask each prospect to book an appointment to visit your center, you will lead the conversation and create a good first impression.  Remember, most prospects call because they need not only your services but your help in making the child care buying decision.  They need a friendly expert.  What they do not need is a voice on the other end of the line reeling off questions as if it were a recorded message.

Think about what you say when you answer the telephone.  How do you sound?  Since your prospect does not yet have the benefit of face-to-face contact with you, your voice becomes who you are.  What distracting noises around you might be commonplace to you but disturbing to a first-time caller?  Are you smiling?  Put a small mirror on the counter behind your telephone and look into it and smile as you speak.  One center director I know says, “You can hear a smile on the telephone.” A voice with a smile says all the right things about you.  How does yours sound?

Since people tend to remember what they hear first and last, a pleasant conclusion is important in your telephone conversation with prospects.  Repeat the commitment you have secured and conclude with an inviting statement, such as, “miss Terry, the teacher in the three’s room, and will look forward to having you and Sara visit us this Thursday at 10:00. Thank you for calling Apple Day Care.”

Good Telephone Personality Traits

  1. Friendly, informative greeting dialogue
  2. Pleasant voice tone, volume, and rate of speaking
  3. Minimal surrounding noise
  4. Empathetic, helpful, focused conversation
  5. Readily available inquiry card, tuition schedule, etc.
  6. Appointment booking skill
  7. A big smile
  8. Pleasant concluding dialogue
  • Center appearance

When prospects visit your center, they form a first impression within about four minutes.  Consider their first view-the exterior of your building.  Does it look inviting?  Is it in good repair?  Is your sign bright and visible?  Is your van clean and parked in a noticeable spot?  How does your parking area look?  Are weeds under control?  Think about the sights that may have become commonplace to you but not to first-time visitors.  I once visited a center that had a very attractive appearance except for a dead plant hanging just outside the door! Little things count.

Once inside your center, prospects will immediately respond to the environment around the reception area.  Is it clean, warm and inviting?  Is there a parent board?  Do you prominently display special program offerings, your sign out system, notice of upcoming parent events, your center’s newsletter?  A nice welcoming touch is to have coffee and a center scrapbook available to occupy waiting parents and make them feel comfortable.

Beyond the image of the reception area, the atmosphere of the halls and classrooms will impress your prospects. Are bulletin boards current and accurate?  Are there neat, thorough parent communications posted, such as activity calendars and menus?  Are safe, sanitary conditions obviously maintained?  Does it smell good? Is each classroom a child oriented, happy   place? Are equipment and materials visible and organized?  Are learning centers identified?  What is the level of sound from the children’s activities?

Remember, if your prospects are subconsciously reacting to an image of your center’s appearance they perceive as negative, it will be difficult for them to really listen or be positive about what you are telling them as you conduct their tours.

  • Center director

 You, as the center director, are the hub of the wheel that keeps the center rolling.  You and the staff you hire have a direct influence on the personality of your center.  Parents know that and will be affected by your appearance and demeanor.  Before you ever have a chance to smile and say hello, your prospects will notice your appearance.  Do you look professional and well groomed?  Do you greet each prospect and child by name?  A firm handshake with the parent and gentle touch and greeting at eye level with the child will give you instant good rapport.  As you lead your prospects through their center tours, practice good enrollment building sales techniques, particularly communication the benefits of your child care service that meet their needs and asking for the enrollment.

  • Staff

 Prospects view teachers as the people with whom their children will actually spend each day.

Therefore, staff acknowledgement of visiting prospects is crucial.  Train your staff to smile, offer a welcoming comment, involve the child, or briefly visit with the prospect as the situation allows.  Some center directors temporarily sit in for the teacher so visiting parents can have a few minutes to become personally acquainted with their child’s prospective caregiver.  Discussions of staff appearance guidelines are also important.  If your staff members treat the children in a warm, sensitive manner that maintains control and enthusiasm, your parents will be more likely to feel good about enrolling their children in your center.

  • Program

 Signs of a good, high quality program are obvious to you, but are they to your prospects?  They will be impressed with an up-to=date information board in each room, including lesson plans.  A display of recent art projects is always a good sign, as are clearly defined learning centers.  Notice of daily activities and photos of children involved in past programs help project the image you desire and enhance your market position in your prospects’ mind.  An abundance of clean, well organized equipment also sends a good message about your program delivery.

  • Children

Your enrollees are your customers’ customers.  Seeing a center filled with happy, involved children immediately helps appease a prospect’s sense of guilt or anxiety.  Are the children in your center kept clean and active?  Do tears and disruptions receive appropriate attention?  Is discipline handled in a manner that is fair, controlled, and individual?  Is there obvious, caring response to the children’s needs and feelings?  Many times I am told that prospect reaction to the children is a decisive factor in choosing a center.

As you strive to provide, deliver, and maintain n high quality child care services in your market place, ask yourself the questions above.  In the minds of your prospects, what is the position of your center compared to others they might be investigating?  Remember that your prospects’ perception is their reality until you change it.  If that perception is truly the image you desire, you are well positioned to secure and maintain a high level of enrollment in your center.

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com

Image Post

Utilizing Email Signatures Properly

Have you ever thought of the messages you send by email as a marketing opportunity? I do not mean advertising your center or a specific program or center event in the content of an email message. I mean somewhere easy, cost-free, and available for consistent continual delivery of your center’s marketing message.

“Where is that?” you ask.

It is in your email signature. Below your name at the end of your email message, be sure to put the name of your center, contact information and a brief line that communicates a marketing message. It might be your tagline, it might be a short phrase promoting a new curriculum or school vacation program. It might be an open invitation to an upcoming center or company event. You can change it at will.

Your email signature, as this is called, is an often forgotten opportunity to send a marketing message that will be received not only by prospects, but by other target audiences, such as customers, friends and other opinion influencers. It’s the perfect way to make everyone to whom you send an email aware of what you do, and recognize you for that uniqueness or special message. And, after they have received several emails from you with the same signature, that message will be remembered, and they will identify you with it.

Using your email signature to deliver your marketing message will then become one of the ways you layer your marketing communications efforts. If you do it all well, when the time comes for those prospects and referral sources to inquire or refer to an early care and education center with your uniqueness, you will be at the top of their minds.

Take a good look at your email signature and revise it today to make it work for you with every email message you send.

Julie Wassom
“The Speaker Whose Message Means Business”
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
Call me: 303-693-2306
Fax me: 303-617-6422
E-me: julie@juliewassom.com
See me: www.juliewassom.com