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Sharing What Works

More APP-solutely Awesome

In a recent newsletter, I shared three apps directors had told me they are using successfully to communicate with parents. Since then, in my work with center leadership teams all over the world, I have learned of three more. Here’s how their websites describe them. Investigate them and see if they might work for your family communications.

Remini – enables teachers and directors to document and share photos, messages, videos, newsletters and more
Kambyu – helps early childhood educators to make learning visible and strengthen school communities
KidReports- a mobile solution for digital classroom management and parent engagement

 Julie Wassom
The Child Care Marketing Coach
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
303-693-2306
julie@juliewassom.com
www.juliewassom.com

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Five Costly Enrollment Building Mistakes

CD on phone crop (1)Maximizing the enrollment potential in your school is a big responsibility. Filling your school means you not only reach your capacity utilization goals, it generates revenue that can make life easier in many other areas of your job. However, it is easy to make costly mistakes in enrollment building when you have so many other responsibilities demanding your time and talent.

Avoid these five enrollment building mistakes…

1.    Depending solely on word of mouth to generate inquiries.

Though still by far the strongest inquiry generator, word of mouth is just one way discerning parents investigate and consider potential early childhood programs. They also look at your website, your social media, your presence in family engagement in the community, your advertised methods of parent communications, etc. Ask your enrolled families what ways they found you other than word of mouth. It will be unique to your target audience. Then make sure you have a good presence in those marketing venues.

 2.    Having a website that educates but does not generate inquiries.

Use key elements of website marketing to do more than merely educate visitors. To generate inquiries, your site must also make it easy for them to take action to learn more and convert from prospect to inquiry.One key element is to have a “Schedule a Visit” button on every page that links to a brief inquiry form. Visitors compete the form and submit it to your email or CRM as a populated form.

 3.    Waiting more than 24 hours to respond to an inquiry.

Whether your inquiry comes in as a lead form, phone call, or email, it is a mistake to wait very long to respond. Your families expect immediate response. When you do not get right back to them, you will likely inadvertently knock yourself out of the running as a choice for their family. Use a system that triggers you or a team mate to contact prospects within a next-business-day window.

 4.    Telling more than you ask.

It’s natural to be proud of your center and want to tell interested families all about it. However, it’s easy to tell too much. When talking with your enrollment prospects, ask as much as you tell. Ask good open questions to gather their specific needs and wants. Ask closed agreement questions after presenting benefits. Ask for the scheduled visit or enrollment. Ask for permission to follow up until they make a decision. With the right questions at the right times, your prospects will tell you exactly how to enroll them.

 5.    Waiting for parents to follow up.

Big mistake. Those directors who initiate regular follow up with prospective families secure more enrollments that those who wait for interested families to contact them. The key is to first get permission to follow up. Then do so on a periodic basis with information of value that positions you as the knowledgeable, helpful, professional resource your prospects can trust. To learn more about specifics and to see why I always say, “The fortune is in the follow up,” contact me.

 Julie Wassom
The Child Care Marketing Coach
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
303-910-3083
julie@juliewassom.com
www.juliewassom.com

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Sharing What Works

More APP-solutely Awesome

In a recent newsletter, I shared three apps directors had told me they are using successfully to communicate with parents. Since then, in my work with center leadership teams all over the world, I have learned of three more. Here’s how their websites describe them. Investigate them and see if they might work for your family communications.

Remini – enables teachers and directors to document and share photos, messages, videos, newsletters and more
Kambyu – helps early childhood educators to make learning visible and strengthen school communities
KidReports- a mobile solution for digital classroom management and parent engagement

 Julie Wassom
The Child Care Marketing Coach
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
303-693-2306
julie@juliewassom.com
www.juliewassom.com

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Ask Julie???

Website Inquiry Forms

Question – What is important to have on a lead form we put on our website?

Answer – To encourage website visitors to complete and submit your inquiry form, follow these guidelines:

1. Make it easily accessible on your site using well-placed navigational buttons and links.

2. Keep it short. Prospects will not complete forms that ask for too much information. You only need enough to be able to respond and address personal needs or concerns and schedule a center visit.

3. Respond within one business day- the sooner the better – including comments that address parents’ noted questions and personalize this first touch-point.

Here’s the key to capturing more personal needs on your lead form

Julie Wassom
The Child Care Marketing Coach
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
303-693-2306
julie@juliewassom.com
www.juliewassom.com

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How Staff Influences Enrollment Decisions

Your staff has the power to convert prospects into enrollments or to drive them in the waiting arms of your competitors. Parents view your staff as the people with whom their children will be spending time while they are gone. Though the teacher’s first responsibility is to the children, the connection the teacher makes with the parents during a center visit has impact on the their decision to enroll in your center or elsewhere.

Whenever you enter a classroom during a center visit, there are three things you can do to help facilitate that parent-teacher connection.

1.    Introduce the teacher. Even if the teacher is engaged in an activity, you can usually interrupt for a moment just for an introduction. Coach your teachers to smile and acknowledge the parent as they come in. If you will be introducing them formally, help your teachers feel comfortable responding politely and with eye contact. Be sure they make it a point to say hello to the child. Alert the teacher to the visit ahead of time, and the teacher might say something like, “It’s nice to meet you, Mrs. Gonzalez, and is this Amanda?”

2.    Showcase teacher benefits. Briefly tell parents about any teacher strengths, such as tenure, special programs he/she helped develop, CDA work, education, ongoing training, etc. A nice touch is to have a teacher profile somewhere in or just outside each room. Profiles are usually a one-sheet with a photo of the teacher, some educational credentials, and a personal fact, such as family and hobbies. Even if parents have already seen a brief teacher profile on your website, this is a warm, yet professional way to visually showcase your teachers in the center.

3.    Involve the teacher, if possible. It is impressive when a teacher can say something like, “I understand from talking to Ms. Jenny (director) that you want Joshua to have educational experiences as well as playtime while he is here. Let me show you how he will be able to learn valuable skills through play.” During this brief parent – teacher talk time, have prearranged with the teacher for you to take over her role with the children.

Making your teachers an integral part of your center visit presents you as a strong team of friendly professionals. That feeling relayed to a visiting parent can help them make the decision to become your next enrollment.

 

Julie Wassom
The Child Care Marketing Coach
Marketing and Sales Speaker/Consultant/Author
303-693-2306
julie@juliewassom.com
www.juliewassom.com

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Power Pack Your Center Brochure | The Questions You Need To Ask Yourself

child care center brochure can be a valuable marketing tool or an expensive waste of time and resources. When people in your target market need more information about your center’s services, a brochure is an easy way to provide that education while enticing them to learn more. However, to a prospective customer, a powerful brochure can put you in the running while a weak one can eliminate you on the first cut.

First, Ask Yourself . . .

Before you begin to design and develop a brochure for your center, consider your answers to the following questions:

1. Who is your intended audience? To whom will you be giving the brochure? Will it go to anyone who wants information about your center or just your best prospects? Is it also intended for customers, center visitors, and opinion influencers? Which target markets do you want your brochure to appeal to most?

2. What specifically do you want your brochure to communicate? Do you want it to communicate the image of your center, educate people about the unique features and benefits of your child care services, or just list the services you offer including ages of children served, hours of operation, location, etc.? Do you want it to merely peak interest or to help generate inquiries and center visits?

3. How do you intend to use the brochure? Will your brochure be a handout, a mailer, or both? Consider designing it for multiple uses, such as in your center information packet, in media kits, as part of your direct mail program, as a piece included in the information packet you give center visitors, and as a leave-behind on community visits. How long do you want prospects to keep your brochure? For a longer shelf life, you’ll need to omit text that refers to specific dates and numbers.

4. How do you want your brochure to look? Think about size, paper stock, color, photographs, graphic design, ease of mailing, and placement of identifying elements such as your logo and a map to your center.

5. What are your budget parameters? What costs will you incur in design, production, and mailing? How will you evaluate the return on your investment in your brochure?

There are no right or wrong answers. But your answers will dictate just how your brochure should come together.

A good way to get a feel for what you’d like is to gather and review brochures from other child care centers, and even other industries. Make note of what you like in the copy and design elements. Gather ideas to adapt, not to copy. Think in your recipient’s perspective. What will draw their attention, intrigue them, hold their interest enough to read it, or even better, to inquire about your child care services?

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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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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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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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