‘Your first impression might be the only impression.’
Think about how many times you stopped by to check a random product just because you liked its packaging. Doesn’t matter how good or bad the product is, they got the first thing done right, ‘your attention’. If the company is lucky enough, they might even be able to make their first sale just through its packaging.
Now think about people that visit your centre or come across your marketing campaigns. What impression are you giving them? Is your first move better than your competitors?
I understand it’s a tough job. You are not sure how are they going to come across your brand for the first time and to make it even worse you have no idea what will they look at. However, take it for granted and surely you are going to lose them.
I have compiled a list of things that will help you make ‘that first impression’ right:
- The outward appearance of your centre:
Does it look neat, tidy and full of life? Does it make people wonder what it looks like from inside?
Yes, your billboard is there and it surely gets noticed, but there is a lot more to it. How creative can you get on utilising the space outside can really help getting that ‘attention’ you seek. Be aware of Council by-laws!
Remember, those walls can either isolate you from the rest of the world, or it may create curiosity and entice people to enter your ‘Childcare World’.
- Centre Interiors:
You should be happy if you get people visiting your centre. There is something you have done right till here. Congrats, continue doing what you are doing only if your centre is consistent with the image that got them to your door in first place.
Whether it’s your outdoor play area, reception, rooms, kitchen or toilet, make sure it is clean, tidy and has all the health & safeguarding policies in place and implemented.
The environment should be friendly and welcoming for the kids. There should be enough resources to help them learn without getting bored. It would be nice to decorate some of the walls with their work.
Parents do not sign up your centre just because you have got a beautiful building. It surely matters but your staff matters more. Make sure your staff are friendly and have excellent customer service skills.
They should look presentable, professional and wear a big smile.
- Curriculum & Delivery:
No matter how exceptional your customer service skills are, you’ll be mostly judged for your curriculum programme and its implementation. Remember mere babysitting could be done at home too and at a much cheaper rate. We have a world-class early childhood curriculum in New Zealand. Now is the chance for you to explain to parents how to interpret and implement the curriculum at your place and what their child will gain from this.
You are responsible for the development of every child that is enrolled in your centre. It is your duty and the very purpose of your centre’s existence. Parents love to share their child’s progress with friends, family and colleagues. This is the easiest way to get the ‘word of mouth’ work in your favour.
You should not only have a plan in place for its implementation, but also for communicating it to parents on regular basis in a manner they understand. Sometimes, parents just don’t have enough time to discuss these matters in detail during the daily pick-ups. Factor that in and plan a way to send something home on regular basis. This will give parents an opportunity to witness what an awesome job your centre does and an important opportunity for parents to be involved, if even from a distance.
- Quality of Collateral:
The print quality of your brochures, admission forms etc. should be consistent with the flyers you have been sending out. If you don’t care about your centre’s image, no one else will.
- Centre’s website:
Run the same check on your ‘virtual’ Centre setting now. Your website should be as neat and tidy as your Centre. The domain should be short and easy to remember. Keep it simple and user-friendly. Make sure you update it on regular basis. Do not ‘stuff’ the homepage like a restaurant’s menu.
- Social Media:
Make sure you are maintaining your social media pages regularly and keeping your audience engaged. Consistency is the key again. Inactive profiles do more harm to your Centre’s image. If you do not wish to continue, apologise to the audience and deactivate your account.
You may share tips on parenting, news on upcoming events at your Centre, or even deals and offers that you think parents might be interested in. Keep it light and engaging for your audience.
A personal admission – I hate Facebook! Do I have a Facebook page? Yes I do. Make it about your target market/parents, not about you!
The way you interact and treat people over the phone and e-mail is equally important. Maintain professionalism and treat the phone calls/e-mails with utmost importance. This could be the first step in building new relationships.