But, you already know all of that, right?
If your child care business is suffering and you have a lot of daycare openings, it might not be because your child care center or home daycare is subpar. There are other, more subtle, reasons why you’re not getting as many enrollments as you should, and they have nothing to do with early childhood education.
Here are a few reasons why you have daycare openings:
1. Are your tuition rates too high?
When deciding what will be the tuition for your child care or preschool program, you need to consider the following:
- Location: are you located in a low-income area or a wealthier neighborhood? Are you near a residential area or a huge office park with high demand for child care? What is the average weekly income for families in your community? If the average income for a working family is $500/week, then charging $300/week is not the best option. The bottom line is that you should consider if your rates are affordable for the parents who live nearby.
- Quality of early education: do you have a top rating with your State’s child care rating system? Do you have raving reviews from existing families on child care websites like CareLuLu? What is your curriculum? Have you won any early education awards? Are your teachers degreed? What kind of experience do they have? These things should all be factored in when deciding what to charge.
- Child care facilities: are they shabby and outdated or do you have brand new flooring and paint? Did you recently install a huge playground, a smart board, and online video cameras? If so, these are all considered “premium” for many parents. If your facilities are older, you might consider a lower tuition.
- Teacher to child ratios: parents love it when their infant or toddler gets more individual attention from their child care provider or preschool teacher. Lower ratios will thus warrant a higher child care tuition. If you don’t have as many teachers and caregivers and have higher ratios, then you might not be able to charge as much.
- Extracurricular activities: if you offer special activities and enrichment programs like sports, cooking classes, music, or STEM, parents will be typically be willing to pay more. Here’s the good news: there are ways for child care programs to have extracurricular activities for free!
2. Are you marketing your child care program?
More often than not, child care and preschool programs are simply not marketing themselves enough. No matter where you are or what your daycare center looks like, you can fill openings if you advertise and build a brand. New to child care marketing? Here is a crash course:
- This one may sound obvious but it’s the most important one: make sure that you are marketing your daycare somehow. Start now. Do not rely on parent recommendations or word of mouth.
- Create a free profile on CareLuLu, where parents search for child care and preschool. This will establish your online presence and help you look more professional.
- If you can afford it, create a website. If you can’t afford it, go back to the previous bullet point! If you already have a website, then make sure it’s updated, user friendly and attractive. Your child care website is critical because it is the first impression that many parents will have of your facility.
- Ask parents to review your program on CareLuLu.com, your website or on social media profiles. Parent reviews are very important for your child care business. You can also create a referral program where referring parents get a deal if they help you to enroll new children.
3. What is your location?
The fact is that your location may not be a high demand area for a daycare center or preschool. Areas that are great for child care programs are:
- Near office parks, schools, or hospitals
- Residential areas with lots of families
- Areas that are safe (no busy roads or traffic, low crime, etc.)
If you are running a program that is in the middle of nowhere, or in a high crime area, then you are probably not going to get a lot of enrollments. In addition, if your center is not near workplaces, then you are not as convenient to most working parents. Convenience is key as busy working parents want to save as much time as possible during their morning and evening commute.
If you’re operating a family child care program out of your home, there’s not much you can do. If you have a center though, consider moving to a better location. It shouldn’t be too far (so your existing families can remain enrolled) but closer to a residential area or near offices.
4. How are you communicating and following-up with prospective parents?
If you aren’t sure how to appropriately follow up on parent inquiries, click here. The general rule is that you should always answer the phone cheerfully and maintain an upbeat demeanor when speaking with parents. The keyword here is ALWAYS. I know it’s hard, but you never know which parent is really interested in your child care program. If you happen to be having a rough day and don’t answer appropriately when they call, you might lose $10,000 to $50,000 (this is the average customer lifetime value of a family for a daycare or preschool, e.g. how much they will spend with you over the entire time their child is enrolled.) You also need to be sure to give great tours. Here are things to do when parents visit your child care center.
The conclusion of all this is that in general, parents will pay a lot of money (or as much as they can reasonably afford) to enroll their child in a high quality child care or preschool program. However, if you are charging an arm and a leg and your child care program and facilities aren’t top notch, then you may need to reconsider your rates. Besides child care quality, you need to think about location and child care marketing. Last but definitely not least, consider how you follow-up on parent inquiries over the phone, and if your tours are as effective as they could be.
If you work through all of these things, you’ll find the underlying cause of your child care openings!