After conducting our annual analysis of ChildcareCRM users across more than 4,000 childcare centres, our findings show that the number of opportunities and conversion rates for childcare centres 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 enrolment, and improve retention. We’ve listed some best practices below.
COVID-19 and Its Impact on Childcare Providers
Each year, ChildcareCRM analyses aggregate data from our users across more than 4,000 childcare centres to identify trends and best practices. This year we looked at trends before and during COVID-19 along with three factors that affect enrolment.
Average number of opportunities: Are opportunities increasing or decreasing across childcare centres? 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 centres can quickly move parents through tours and towards enrolment.
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 24 hours 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.
1) Best Practices for Building Waitlists
There are a variety of reasons why a family may be placed on your waitlist. If a child has not yet been born, if they are moving into the area within the next few weeks or months, or maybe you’ve reached capacity at your centre for the current enrolment period. Several best practices can help you build your waitlist and retain these families until the point of enrolment.
A) Collect Relevant Data
It’s important to keep your waitlist up to date with relevant contact and family information so that you can keep parents engaged with your centre until their start date. Aside from basic contact information (name, address, email, phone,) record data about their child, his or her age, any special needs, their requested care schedule, and any other important information. This will help you later when spaces open up and you need to prioritise 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?
Enrolment Periods: Can families apply and/or enrol at any time of year or are there designated enrolment 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?
Enrolment Offers: Is there discounted pricing for siblings? Do you offer special pricing at various times throughout the year? Can parents change their start date 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 care from other providers. Send nurture emails at regular intervals to maintain their interest and keep them excited about enrolling at your centre. 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 enrolment. 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 personalised to help establish a connection and deepen brand loyalty. Include the parent’s name either at the beginning of the email or within the body text. Additionally, only age-appropriate content should be shared with the family. For example, refrain from sending an email with a link to an article about potty training to a family 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.
2) Best Practices for Growing Enrollment
Nowadays, we all are looking for convenience. Offering convenient, easy ways for parents to enquire online is the first step to growing your enrolment. In fact, ChildcareCRM found that 51% of its users’ new leads came from online sources in the past year.
You should begin integrating childcare listing directories through free or paid placements that allow parents to discover your program and enquire for care in one place. With ChildcareCRM’s integrations to best-in-class listing directories, like Toddle and CareforKids, 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 optimising your web presence is to focus on capturing interested families directly from your website with a short, web-based form that collects important family details and contact information.
Beyond utilising 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 enrolment goal so prospective families can enquire 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 enquiring parents. Guiding families through the journey to enrolment 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 disenrol.
You and your staff should focus on new families at your centre 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 personalised communications and workflow automations so you can easily schedule emails and nurture newly enrolled families while they get settled into your centre.
Automating a new parent survey email or hosting a parent-only event at the centre 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 centre.
Automation helps to save staff time so you can focus on what matters most – your enrolled families. Streamline the entire enrolment journey from start to finish by first, optimising your web presence and giving parents easy ways to inquire online. Utilise web forms, landing pages, and childcare listing directories to build your waitlist in 2022. Then, utilise automated communications to follow-up with every family- faster.
Download our 2022 Building Blocks for Success report for an in-depth look at childcare business best practices in the new year.