Marketing - promotional materials
When you're looking for more families to use your childminding service, it's important to ensure that you have a range of marketing materials.
Leaflets and posters
Leaflets, flyers, posters and cards can be an effective and simple way of reaching parents in your area. You can put them up on community noticeboards or simply pop them through doors.
If you're struggling for ideas of places to advertise, start with the places you regularly go to. Do you attend toddler groups or the local library? Are there any child- and family-friendly coffee shops near you? Focus on places you know that parents of young children go to. Think about children's centres, sports centres, GP surgeries and libraries.
If you are offering after-school care, ask the local schools if they offer advertising in their newsletters or if you can put up a flyer on their noticeboard. Consider holding a stall at school fairs and fêtes where parents can meet you.
Make sure your literature is clear and concise, with all the relevant contact information. Don't forget that if you are offering funded hours, this should be highlighted on all your publicity material – many parents of 2, 3 and 4 year olds will be very interested in using their entitlement. If you're unsure about whether, or how, to offer the free entitlement, read more about the funding in England here.
It is a good idea to make sure your setting is listed on your local authority’s childcare portal, often called the Family Information Service (FIS). The FIS is a popular place for parents to look when they’re thinking about childcare options in their area. In Wales the Dewis website is used by the majority of Local Authorities as a database and marketing platform for childcare providers.
There are also a number of national childcare search websites, many of which charge a subscription fee, so it’s worth factoring these costs into your business plan if you choose to use them.
Your own website
Having your own website is a great way to show what your setting offers in more detail. Creating your own doesn't need to be daunting. Hosting sites such as Webs, Vistaprint and Wix allow you to create an impressive-looking website with no specialist knowledge. You can simply input text and photos into pre-formatted pages, and be ready to go within just a few hours.
Think as well about setting up a blog on your website. This can be a great way of demonstrating your expertise and passion about an area of early years practice.
Social media is having an increasing role in all our lives – and it can help you to promote your service to your customers. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram and many other channels enable you to promote what you do and build relationships with your followers.
It's likely that you already have one or more social media accounts for yourself. If you're planning to use social media for your business, it's good practice to set up dedicated accounts. This will help you maintain a work-life balance, and maintain separation between your own personal social media accounts and those of your business.
Social media can help build brand loyalty, drive traffic to your website or blog, promote your services and link with others. But being active on social media takes time. You will need to monitor all channels regularly and respond to queries – and deal with any negative comments quickly. Social media can take over – so do watch out for that!
As an early years practitioner you also need to be aware of some social media potential pitfalls:
- You must observe client confidentiality at all times – commenting about a parent or child on social media is not advisable
- Make sure you abide by copyright, equality and diversity legislation in your social media activity
- And make sure you have permissions in place so you are not sharing photos or other information about the children in your care without their parent's permission.
Keep up-to-date with and get inspiration from PACEY's social media channels.
Things to consider
The key to marketing your services is to anticipate the key points in the year when you need to promote your setting so that you keep ahead of the game. Many childminders find that September is their busiest month, marking the transition into school for most children, so thinking about a boost to your advertising and promotional activity in the run up to the summer period can be a good idea.
When you're advertising your business, it's also worth spending some time thinking carefully about how much information you want to share about where you live. Childminders work from their own homes, and it's important to balance the need to advertise your business to attract more clients, and to maintain the security of your home.
Many childminders choose to share only part of their address and postcode - for example, "I live just off the High Road, close to the village school and on the 38 bus route."
Be mindful of the information that you share online and in vacancy matching services. Consider scheduling a privacy review every year to look at the information you're sharing. This becomes especially important if you are caring for vulnerable children.