Do you know what month of the year has the highest number of Google searches for the terms ‘daycare’ and ‘childcare’? Though logic may tell you it’s late summer before the start of school (August), the greatest number of childcare searches actually takes place in January. Parents are looking online for the centers that can serve their needs. The highest number of switches in enrollment occurs at the end of December and beginning of January, much higher than the traditional back-to-school season.

You may know this fact and still not be capitalizing on it. Now, in mid-November, is the perfect time for you to take action and boost your enrollment by 5, 10, 20, or even more, families by the Holidays-Christmas-New Years-mid-January season.

First, I suggest that you take a look at how many inquiries about new enrollment you had in the past, then set a goal to beat that by 10, 15, or even 50%, and share that goal with your staff. Be clear on your goal and then look at the basics of your Holiday Season marketing plan: When, what, who and how.

When? Timing is very important. You want your campaign to hit around December 1st and last until the middle of January. A two-prong campaign, with two phases or timing of deadlines, will be ideal and encourage early action and enrollment sooner rather than later. A two-month deadline is really too long for people to feel that they need to take action. The first phase might target the gift-giving aspect of this season (Dec 20 deadline) while the second might be aimed at something to start the New Year off right (Jan 15 deadline). And that’s where the ‘what’ comes in…

What? Offers are super-important–give something of real value to the parents so they take action and enroll by your deadline. Offers are typically a discount or a gift/premium, the two types of values you can use to entice people to enroll. Discounts might include one month of free tuition, or 50% off up to a $400 value. Gifts and premiums can vary widely, and I have seen some pretty aggressive offers for family enrollment during this winter period, for example:

* Shopping vouchers or gift cards, such as Enroll by Dec 20 for a $1000 shopping spree at Toys-R-Us!
* Family vacations, such as $1500 Disney Vacation voucher for your family of 4 when you enroll by Jan 15!

Think of the fun, the buzz and excitement, generated by such irresistible offers! Do you want 20, 30, or 40 new enrollments? If that’s what you are looking for, you have to go big to create that possibility! Remember that each new child that you enroll will generate $8-10K per year. You can afford to give a $1000 incentive. Just imagine your ROI when you get 30 or 40 new families by extending this offer!

Who? To whom do you send this offer? This is really important! Send this offer to anyone in your database, anyone who has toured your facility in the past one or even two years. Send it to your full house list! Get the buzz out there and ask recipients to forward the offer to colleagues, friends, loved ones, neighbors, existing clients, alumni, and the wider community.

The same thing goes for your referral program. Send the same or a similar offer to parents who refer (for instance) two new families. Be sure your existing families can get in on the fun and excitement too, and not feel the least bit slighted, while you benefit from their referrals. Think of a gift you can give to alumni who refer. Share the benefits and reap the rewards!

How? How do you get the word out and everyone buzzing about your incentive offers and the deadlines? As many ways as you can communicate your offers to the wider community and to your own list, it’s important that you do them. This means a multi-media campaign using most or all of these methods:

* Email blasts
* Direct mail
* Signage
* Banners
* Press Release (tie it in with a ‘clothes for kids’ campaign, for instance)
* Hold message on your telephone
* Holiday party (stand up and remind attendees)
* Newsletter
* Flyers (on doors, bulletin boards, in cubbies)
* Holiday community events (where you might have a booth or display)
* Word of mouth (your staff, for instance!)

The final step in the campaign is follow-up. Send and post reminders right before the deadlines–multiple reminders via signs, flyers, emails, etc. You’ll be surprised how many people will follow through on the very last day before the deadline and sign up for your program.

If you don’t have these results, and all you hear are “crickets”, then something isn’t quite right. It may be that your offer isn’t big enough, you aren’t getting it out there effectively, or your community reputation or program quality is not as great as you would like it to be. If this happens, don’t give up…tweak your offer and test it again using more or different types of media.

So, the time is now to prepare your campaign. Take action by “thinking bigger” and implementing this plan to get a massive boost in enrollment during this critical peak season. I predict that when you follow this plan of action, you will get huge results. Write me at kris@childcare-marketing.com and let me know!

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