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By:  Sandy Fleming

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Marketing Your Day Care

 Are you looking for some fresh ideas to market your business? Maybe you are just starting out and looking for clients. Here are suggestions to get you on your way!

Whether you're just beginning your own day care business, searching for new clients to fill your vacancies, or planning to expand, you will need to find effective ways to market your services. There are many avenues to the same destination: making your potential clients aware of your business and convincing them that you have a special value to offer their family, or something that makes you stand out from the competition. This article will cover many ways to tell the world about your business. Some require a financial investment, but many do not. Whatever you choose, keep in mind that the image you present to the community will ultimately add to or detract from your business. How do you look to others? It will help your image to be licensed with your state and local governments, seek all of the official approval that you can find, have clear and organized policy statements, and create an outline of your wonderful program and its benefits.

Perhaps the first step in marketing your program is to design brochures, signs, and business cards and have them printed up. Business cards are especially handy because you can carry them wherever you go and pass them out like candy. Be sure to give some to friends, acquaintances, and service people who come your way...even if they are not seeking childcare personally, the chances are good that they will know or meet someone who is. Many businesses (especially locally-owned ones) maintain a community bulletin board where business cards or signs can be posted free of charge. Check the local grocery store, Laundromat, gas station, pharmacy, hair salon, and so forth. You can also investigate businesses that cater specifically to the group you are trying to reach...parents with young children. Check out local bookstores that hold story hours, resale and consignment shops, toy stores, and so forth.

Your local Community Childcare Resource and Referral Agency is a wonderful resource, as well. This office will keep your business on file with your hours of operation and information about your program, and will give your information out to parents who are interested in what you have to offer. Other local agencies sometimes maintain a list of licensed providers. Check with your county government system, any agencies that work directly with families, such as Cooperative Extension, and the Department of Social Services. Some libraries and schools will also be willing to take your name and card for reference and include you on a community list of providers. Another group to check to see if they maintain referral lists is local churches. Some may even allow you to leave business cards or post signs.

Newspaper ads seem to vary in their effectiveness. They do cost a little money, but some providers have had good luck with them. Another published avenue to consider is to get your local newspaper to print a story ABOUT your day care. Many local papers are very interested in receiving story ideas profiling local citizens. Some even will print a story that you write about yourself. This should not be an advertisement, but rather an informative article about the special things you provide your clients and unique aspects of your program. It is also much easier to get pictures into most newspapers these days than it has ever been. Just be sure that you have parental permission before trying to get children's pictures published. The phone book is also an option that sometimes is overlooked. However, an ad in the Yellow Pages can give your business a feel of permanence and stability.

If your community has a Welcome Wagon, Chamber of Commerce, or similar organization, see if you can be included in the packet they give to new residents. Try leaving your name and business cards with local Realtors to give to their clients. Perhaps you could create and organize a welcome packet for new residents if your community does not already offer one. Networking is always an important part of marketing strategy. Get to know the other providers in your neighborhood or town. If they have an organization, join it! See if you can get on their referral list and create one of your own. Try attending local workshops and classes that will help you improve your skills with children or with managing your business. You'll meet other providers and be able to share and grow at the same time.

Making a name for yourself in the community can stretch your marketing efforts a very long way. Are there places that you can volunteer and show your expertise with children? Consider volunteering for children's organizations, helping with Sunday School or Bible School at your church, or becoming involved with your local PTA or PTO at your neighborhood school. Pass out those business cards! Help organize children's events in your community. You may even want to include your business cards as you pass out Halloween treats! Word of mouth is perhaps your best overall marketing tool. If you are running an outstanding business, it won't take long for clients to beat a path to your door!

***

Sandy Fleming is an educator, author, and workshop facilitator. She resides in southern Michigan with her husband and three daughters. Sandy leads workshops for day care providers and parents in the region, tutors students, volunteers for Girl Scouts and her church, and teaches online classes for adults and children. She loves to make new friends, so please visit her site at http://www.learningnook.com or drop an email to sandy@beanstalk.net

 



 

 

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