- Family and Parenting
Operating Tips On Caring For Kids - Part 9
However, a successful marketing plan does not start or stop with merely knowing what the customer wants. All plans should include the components below:
Know your program. Evaluate your center's strengths and areas needing improvement. Correct, repair or modify the necessary areas and plan on marketing the strengths. Consider expanding your program's evaluation beyond what families you currently serve. Seek input from all agencies that supply funds, which support your program or the families enrolled in the program.
Know your customers. This is extends far beyond the families currently enrolled in your program. It also includes potential customers. Identify census trends for your area to determine potential growth, overall age of the population, and the areas of diversity within your community. Utilize other sources of information within your community to broaden your knowledge. Information and referral agencies frequently maintain information on population trends and projected needs within your community.
Know your competitors. Do the research necessary to determine what other programs offer and charge for those services. If it is not feasible to match what they offer, decide what you can offer that would be perceived as having equal or greater value. Remember that customer perception will determine the overall value of anything offered by your program.
Know the threats to your business. Evaluate projected increases in costs such as staff benefits, changes in licensing regulations, and overhead costs (utilities, rent, insurance, food). Then look at decreases in your funding sources including losses or changes in state and federal funding and the economic changes or projected downturns for your community.
Know the marketing opportunities that are already available in your area. Join the Chamber of Commerce and list your program with information and referral services. Take full advantage of membership opportunities in professional associations.
Know what "word-of-mouth" has to say about your center. It takes more money and more effort to undo negative word-of-mouth advertising that it takes to maintain satisfied customers.
Know what your customers really want. It would be dangerous to assume that they simply want care for their child. They may be buying your educational program, your center's reputations, the prestige of location or name, or the enrichment activities offered at your center.
So, after you know everything necessary to develop a plan, what's the next step? Review your research to determine if your center can compete or if you need to make some changes. Remember the "word-of-mouth" and that initial phone call that potential customers may make to your center? Take this opportunity to evaluate how your program sells itself over the phone. Do you have a consistent, professional way of answering the phone and has that method been communicated to your staff? Background noises, children screaming and unhappy, teachers yelling angrily at the children all create a negative image of your program.
How about your facility and its exterior? When a potential customer drives by your building, they are making a decision based on what they see outside. If your grounds and building exterior are not in good repair or are unattractive, that potential customer may never stop the car.