There’s no denying that 2020 has been a challenging year for the early-years sector, but as nurseries start planning and preparing their settings for 2021, marketing and raising brand awareness will be a core feature on the agenda over the coming months. So, how can childcare providers ramp up their marketing efforts in the next few months, without it costing the earth? Caitlin Holmes, content and campaign manager at Connect Childcare, shares some advice and top tips…
For small and large nurseries alike, advertising their setting can feel like a mammoth task – and much like writing a book, knowing where to start is often the hardest part. But once you get into a rhythm, the marketing machine quickly becomes a well-oiled operation – with the help of staff and parents.
With any outbound messaging, what’s really important is to capture the ‘soul’ of the nursery – conveying what day-to-day life is like and offering a real-life insight into the culture and support available. After all, that’s what can really help parents to make the decision that the setting is right for their children.
Of course, show-arounds and open days are one of the best, and most widely adopted, ways to do this, as parents can physically come into the nursery and see what it’s like with their own eyes. But with a little flair and creativity, marketing can take many physical and digital guises which are equally as impactful.
With technology forming a huge part of our everyday lives – both personally and professionally – it’s no surprise that having a strong online presence is one of the best ways for settings to get noticed by prospective parents.
As a result, first impressions are rarely face-to-face – with many visitors having looked up a provider long before they make the decision to pay them a visit.
Most importantly, settings don’t need to have a website will all the bells and whistles, which cost thousands of pounds to develop. However, they must ensure that they can be found.
Of course, the brand colours and layout have to represent the nursery’s ethos and personality, but some simple content additions such as parent testimonials or snippets from latest Ofsted reports, can really go a long way towards illustrating both credibility and personality.
Additionally, if a website always has fresh, informative content available – with some relevant keywords – this will help to show that it’s an environment where there’s always something new going on. This is also an important factor when improving a website’s ranking within the search engines.
It’s a great idea for nurseries to have a blog if they don’t already, as this acts as the perfect hub to house all company news and parent updates. And it’s a platform where settings can communicate their voice on industry news and sector events.
As a result, this makes it a fantastic place to link to via social media – informing existing and prospective parents about what’s been happening at the nursery, while at the same time helping to drive traffic to the website and increase the content reach.
Social media is used by billions of people across the globe, so it’s no wonder marketing on these channels is widely embraced by businesses across many sectors. But with so many platforms out there, how can nurseries identify the ones which would really work for them – and to prevent uploading posts feeling like a chore?
Pick one or two channels where parents are usually most active and post content regularly. Facebook is one of the most popular choices for nurseries, as there are over 44 million users in the UK alone, and almost three quarters of online parents (74%) use this channel.
Simply setting up a profile doesn’t mean that parents will automatically land on your page and interact with it though. The more useful and relevant subject matter you create and share – and your followers engage with – the likelier it is that your posts will reach the newsfeeds of not only your existing network, but that of their connections too.
And if settings aren’t sure exactly what to post, a useful exercise is to ask, ‘does this inspire, educate or inform my followers?’ If the answer is ‘yes’, it’s time to go ahead and click ‘post’.
While publishing pictures from the setting – with the appropriate parental consent if they contain children – are always great for giving prospects a real-life view into the nursery, there are other content ideas managers and practitioners can harness too, to help keep it diverse.
Competitions, blogs, videos, GIFs, live streams – perhaps of story time or playing an interactive game – and news articles are all effective ways to vary the pace and keep profiles current.
Involve existing parents
While practitioners and managers sharing content is a vital piece of the marketing puzzle, one area which shouldn’t be overlooked in 2021 is what role parents can play in this too.
Parents influence their fellow parents. And as many trusted recommendations often come by word of mouth, it’s in this sense that parents are a nursery’s biggest – and often most overlooked – marketing tool.
It could be as simple as drafting a spotlight Q&A, which features five quick-fire questions that glean their thoughts on the nursery – their favourite element, plus how they’d describe the setting and the staff, for instance. Or it could be in the form of a client-led testimonial.
Either way, it’s this first-person insight which can be a really powerful and influential form of digital comms.
It’s an easy read, which helps to build trust and credibility in the setting and is content that can be shared across all relevant social media channels. Graphics can also be created to complement a specific blog series.
Finally, with busy days flying by in the blink of an eye, it can sometimes feel tricky to dedicate an extra minute to anything other than the task in hand, which is why a pre-made marketing strategy works wonders for time-poor schedules.
Sharing nursery news is important, but it can quickly feel demotivating and burdensome for staff if no direction is paved at the start. But being realistic is key here too.
Therefore, it’s best to not overcomplicate a marketing plan, because, ironically, this can switch a target audience. And as we look ahead to the New Year, as long as nurseries are keeping the messaging frequent and parent conversations flowing, then their marketing strategy can be a success.
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