“Everywhere I look, I’ve got competitors, from the large chains to independent organizations. What can I do to beat the competition and get more students enrolled?”
When is the last time you took a good hard look at your local child care marketplace and did an analysis of your key competitors? Most often in my conversations with clients, I find that these are not happening on a consistent basis. Sometimes it’s that they’ve never completed one or that it’s been a couple of years since they last updated their data. In order to have the competitive edge, competitor analysis should be done on a consistent basis across your organization.
It's so easy in our industry to get caught up in the day to day operations of our centers and miss what is happening in our markets. While you’re busy managing the staff, the budget, programming and parents, another child care organization who has really taken the time to focus on their own marketing efforts has been able to successfully pull prospective families away from you.
I suggest taking a critical eye to your competitors at least twice a year. Four competitors, at a minimum, but the more, the better! To me, it makes sense to look at anyone who you share your marketplace with.
So what information should you be looking for in a comprehensive competitor analysis? Well, for one, you can’t start this process until you can answer who your top competitors are. Once you’ve done that it’s important to get the following questions answered:
What is their current pricing structure?
What might they be selling as their unique benefits?
What is compelling about their curb appeal or facility?
What extra service or benefit might they be offering to parents?
After you have collected this information, it’s important that you take a look at what is really making you unique or different from each competitor. As I’ve mentioned in the past, what used to be “unique” no longer is. Most centers offer ‘state of the art playground,’ ‘security features’ and ‘accredited curriculum.’ Dive deeper than that. In what ways are your unique benefits going to offer families the most value? The most important way to have the edge over your competition is being able to effectively communicate what makes you different to prospective families.
Consistent and clear competitive analysis can change the way you do business. I have seen clients put these into place and almost immediately make improvements to their sales process.
So what’s the next step? Start doing your competitive analysis:
- Log your top competitors in your Child Care CRM database. You can find this important feature at the location level in Marketing>Competitor Analysis
- The industry standard on getting a hold of this information is through secret shopper phone calls or tours. Although, depending on your relationship with competitors in your community, the information is offered voluntarily. It is mutually beneficial for both you and your competitor to have data on each other. That approach might work, as well. In my experience, even if I had a great relationship with neighboring directors, I was able to get a much fuller picture of what they were up to if I sent in a secret shopper.
- Within a child screen, enable the Prior Care information, you can do this by updating your preferences, if it is not enabled already. Begin ASKING this information of parents who inquire – Where are you coming from? Why are you making a change? If you could bring anything with you from your current center, what would it be? Are you considering any other centers in the neighborhood? Remember that if you’ve already started the conversation by asking permission to ask questions, parents will readily provide you with these answers.
- When moving someone to Lost Opportunity, it is also in your best interest to use your Lost Opportunity survey email or conduct a follow up call to get the information on why your prospect ultimately chose another option and where they might have gone. I do understand that this is much tougher to get your hands on, as people are less likely to volunteer this information after they have moved on, which is why I highly suggest asking while they are still inquiring where else they are considering. When you move a prospect to Lost Opportunity, the Child Care CRM system will prompt you to specify Lost Opportunity Reason and To Whom.
- Run your Win/Loss report. If you can weekly, but at least monthly, get a good handle on WHY you are losing prospective families and to which centers. Find this comprehensive report in Reports>Marketing>Win/Loss. Become familiar with the different views on this report. You can run it by specific date ranges, lead sources, inquiry types and more. These are powerful options that really let you get a handle on when, where and why you are losing potential enrollments.
As we all plan for the most successful year in our business yet, I’d love to see our organizations move from casual or non-existent analysis to a consistent, comprehensive analysis of your marketplace. Competitive analysisis one of the best practices of marketing in any industry, child care included. If you want to be the school on the block with the most successful, fully enrolled program, it’s important to get these done at least twice a year to stay ahead of the competition.