After conducting ourannual analysis of ChildcareCRM users across more than 4,000 childcare centers, our findings show that the number of opportunities and conversion rates for childcare centers have returned to pre-pandemic levels. As you begin planning for 2022, it’s a good time to invest in marketing to build your waitlists, grow enrollment, and improve retention. We’ve listed some best practices below.
COVID-19 and Its Impact on Childcare Providers
Each year, ChildcareCRM analyzes aggregate data from our users across more than 4,000 childcare centers to identify trends and best practices. This year we looked at trends before and during COVID-19 along with three factors that affect enrollment.
Average number of opportunities: Are opportunities increasing or decreasing across childcare centers? This tells us whether parents are looking for care and interested in childcare services.
Conversion rates: After key milestones, like completing a tour, how many families are becoming waitlisted or registered? This tells us if parents are actively engaged and registering.
‘Tours Completed’ in 24 hours: We’ve found that the faster parents can complete tours, the higher the conversion rate. This tells us if childcare centers can quickly move parents through tours and towards enrollment.
Overall, we found that the number of monthly opportunities has increased over 2020 and returned to pre-pandemic levels. We also saw higher conversion rates from ‘tour completed’ to ‘waitlisted’ or ‘registered’ compared to 2020. Other than 2020, this conversion rate has been on the rise, moving from 59% in 2016 to 76% in 2021. Lastly, we found that the number of ‘tours completed’ in 24hours has increased over 2020. Together this data tells us it’s a good time to invest in your childcare marketing as parents are looking for care, are engaged, and are converting at a higher rate.
There are a variety of reasons why a family may be placed on your waitlist. If a child has not yetbeen born, if they are moving into the area within the next few weeks or months, or maybeyou’ve reached capacity at your center for the current enrollment period. Several best practices can help you build your waitlist and retain these families until the point of enrollment with nurture emails and consistent communication.
A) Collect Relevant Data
It’s important to keep your waitlist up to date with relevant contact and family informationso that you can keep parents engaged with your center until their start date. Aside from basiccontact information (name, address, email, phone,) record data about their child, his or herage, any special needs, their requested care schedule, and any other important information. Thiswill help you later when spaces open up and you need to prioritize your list.
B) Be Transparent with Families
Ensure parents on your waitlist are informed by being upfront about your policies. Consider addressing the following questions upfront:
Waitlist Fees: Are their costs either to apply, register, or join the waitlist?
Enrollment Periods: Can families apply and/or enroll at any time of year or are there designated enrollment and start dates?
Waitlist Order: Where is each family on your list?
Communication: What is the best point of contact for families to reach you?
Enrollment Offers: Is there discounted pricing for siblings? Do you offer special pricing at various times throughout the year? Can parents defer/postpone for a few months or even a year?
C) Touchbase Often
It’s essential that you stay top of mind with waitlisted families as they could still be looking for carefrom other providers. Send nurture emails at regular intervals to maintain their interest and keepthem excited about enrolling at your center. Start with 2-3 emails in their first week on your waitlist. This ensures that they feel in touch with you and don’t feel forgotten after registration. Then, you can begin to make the emails less frequent. From 2-3 times in the first week, you send 1-2 in the second week. By the third week, you can move to one a week. Ideally, the longest you would wait between each email is 10 to 14 days.
These emails should be personalized to help establish a connection and deepen brand loyalty.Include the parent’s name either at the beginning of the emailor within the body text. Additionally, only age-appropriate content should be shared with thefamily. For example,refrain from sending an email with a link to an article about potty training to afamily with a newborn. Instead, share that email with a parent whose child is aged 18-24 months.
Not only will regular communications help you retain families on your waitlist, but it will also help you to gauge their level of interest so that you can determine who may need to be removed from your waitlist in order to open up a spot for another potential family.
You should begin integrating childcare listing directories through free or paid placements that allow parents to discover your program and inquire for care in one place. With ChildcareCRM’s integrations to best-in-class listing directories, like Winnie and Kinside, any leads you receive are automatically entered into your CRM where you can begin automating follow-up communications and sending links to digital tour calendars.
Another important aspect of optimizing your web presence is to focus on capturing interested families directly from your website witha short, web-based form that collects important family details and contact information.
Beyond utilizing your own web pages for lead capture, create targeted landing pages with forms. Whether you’re advertising a summer camp or potty-training program, create seamless landing pages focused on your specific enrollment goal so prospective families can inquire for care or request a tour quickly by filling out the form and clicking submit. Not to mention, this will increase your contact rate and lead to capture success!
Next, don’t forget to follow up consistently and clearly with inquiring parents. Guiding families through the journey to enrollment is made simpler with automated emails and texts that let parents know what their next steps are on their way to registration.
3) Improve Retention for Your Childcare Company
Once a family has enrolled for care, there is a standard probationary period when they may still be looking at other childcare options and are likely to churn or disenroll.
You and your staff should focus on new families at your center and check-in promptly after the first 30, 60, and 90 days to ensure they’re still satisfied with the program and facility. Follow-up with personalized communications and workflow automations so you can easily schedule emails and nurture newly enrolled families while they get settled into your center.
Automating a new parent survey email or hosting a parent-only event at the center are both excellent ways to engage new families and increase loyalty. Improve childcare retention in unprecedented times by offering virtual options for parent events, engagement, scheduling a tour, and contacting the center.
Automation helps to save staff time so you can focus on what matters most – your enrolled families. Streamline the entire enrollment journey from start to finish byfirst, optimizing your web presence and giving parents easy ways to inquire online.Utilize web forms, landing pages, and childcare listing directories to build your waitlist in 2022. Then, utilize automated communications to follow-up with every family- faster.
Hope Dasher is a marketing professional with years of SEO content writing and social media strategy experience. With a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Dallas in Psychology and Child Development and an emphasis in language, she has extensive knowledge in the childcare system, effective marketing strategies, and copywriting. Hope serves as a copywriter for ChildcareCRM’s marketing team.