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You should always be marketing and advertising your business, even when you're full. You take information about every perspective family and you keep a waiting list for tougher times. Start with your most recent families when a slot opens, but there are times you may have to go back months or even years making families aware you have a slot. (Contact several families and let them know you will be interviewing anyone interested and make a decision based on the best fit for your program. So far, I haven't had to turn a family away, so if I just have one or two slots open, I would only interview the 1-2 best candidates and then set up with others if those didn't work out. I prefer not having to tell too many they aren't a good fit.)
Marketing/Advertising that has worked for me, both in center and home care:
*Active professional business Facebook page - post at least a few times a week either what's going on within your child care or articles, sayings, or information about child development or other things you offer in your program or that you believe is important in the field. Join other Facebook pages around these things so you can easily share from them. For instance, I strongly believe in being play-based and I have a more natural playground, so I've joined other Facebook pages revolving around these ideas and articles, pictures, or sayings come through all the time that I will share on my Facebook page. I also joined several local city pages and mom groups and share local events that come through related to children or families.
*Professional Website - I have prior experience with building webpages, but I think most people will find Wix as a fairly easy option for building a website. It is important to me to put everything about my business on my page to help weed out families that aren't really interested and may not be a good fit before they even contact me. However, I have found that more parents contact me because I have put myself out there and they don't even have to contact me to know all about me. I have spent the extra money to purchase my domain, but it's not required. This is a yearly expense for taxes though.
*Professional Logo - This was not something I could do myself, but I had an idea of what I wanted. I found someone who did logos, sent pictures of my ideas, such as the picture of my home, the kind of children I wanted, and the dove to represent that I would have a Christian environment. I also sent the pictures of some things I had planned to do on my playground, like the playhouse and stepping stones and of course the art and blocks, so I could have extra art to use for the website. Make sure the logo represents what you really want and who you are because it's easier to have it right and not have to correct it later. I used MatildaLaneStudio. There are packages ready to purchase or they can do custom orders.
*Ads/Flyers - Make them all look the same. Make sure the colors you use and the logo all match. A prospective parent should be able to look at it and immediately know who it is for. They shouldn't have to read it to know it's your business! Make it short and sweet! Let your Facebook and Website tell your whole story. I prefer to use the LiveCollage app for small ads to share on Facebook pages and to boost on my page. Join local groups such as mom group, local city or community pages, and yard sale/garage sale pages. Post as often as allowed. Make sure to know when you can advertise. For instance, a mom group I'm on allows advertising small businesses each Wednesday. A city page allows on the 15th of each month. Set reminders to be sure you are doing this each month that you need to fill slots.
*Goody bags/baskets - Put together simple, inexpensive goody bags/baskets for 10-20 local businesses. Choose businesses that deal with children such as the advocacy program, WIC, subsidy program, ECI (therapies for special needs), pediatricians, dentists, etc. Also choose ones that deal with families such as doctors, veterinarians, workforce solutions, etc. You could also include businesses that have a lot of employees such as hospitals, grocery stores, and other large businesses. Make sure to put at least 5-6 business cards. I've also included magnetic business cards and pens with my logo. I purchased cheap bowls/baskets from Dollar Tree or Walmart and a cheap package of napkins (originally planned to use tissue paper, but couldn't find it when I made the very first one and the napkin was so much easier). I go into the business, and say something like, "Thank you for what you do for the children (families) in our community!" I make sure I'm chipper and smiling, and dressed nice of course, to sell myself. Usually they are surprised and almost always say, "Thank you!". Occasionally they will stop me and ask who I am and about my home. As for larger businesses, I remind them how important it is for their employees have reliable child care and ask if they can put a card (or flyer) in their new employee packets or if it can be posted in the break room. I take a personal day any month that doesn't have a holiday and I use these days for appointments and advertising. I made the Halloween basket first and it simply just has Halloween candy in it. I can't find pictures, but I also participated in a local trunk-or-treat. I printed small labels with my logo & info and put them on larger pieces of candy. I made sure each child got a large piece and a few small pieces. Then before Christmas I took out stuff for hot chocolate (cocoa packets, peppermints, candy kisses, marshmallows) & of course, business cards. (The Easter one is just an idea I found that I thought would be cute.)
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