Marketing a nursery is more than advertising and promotion. Marketing covers other activities, including the development of the nursery, market research and what prices should be charged. Whether your nursery is at the planning stage or is an existing business, you will still have to think about marketing. Joanne Taylor talks us through.
Setting up a nursery, hoping that places will fill quickly, is a very risky business, as the levels of investment required are high. Marketing means finding out what the customers’ requirements are because if your provision doesn’t satisfy the needs of parents and their children, this will have a negative effect on occupancy. To do this accurately, you need to undertake market research.
This involves identifying your customers and satisfying their needs. To be successful, you must also think about the future, eg is there a new housing development likely to be built nearby? Talk to your local planning officer or regional development agency to find out further information.
Your market research should ask these basic but fundamental questions:
- Who is likely to use my nursery?
- What would they be willing to pay?
- What is the competition like?
- Is my location the most feasible site?
- What features of my nursery do people like / dislike?
Your marketing plan
After market research the next step is to create a marketing plan, which should include:
- your objectives – define what you want to do
- competition – other options available for parents in your local area
- timetable of activities
- pricing – compile pricing structure
- place – what is different about your nursery compared with the competition?
There are a wide variety of methods of promotional activity, which will increase visibility and build awareness of your business:
1. Brochure and prospectus – Creates the image and perception of your nursery. It also works in your absence. Make it as informative as possible but do not over complicate. It should include:
- your aims and philosophy
- the make up of your nursery, including details of premises, staff, etc
- your relationship with parents
- pictures of your staff and children – make sure you only do this
- with parents’ written permission
- your quality standards
- your links with other organisations
- your policies and procedures
- testimonials from satisfied parents.
2. Leaflets –These are useful for targeting specific areas, eg hospitals, schools, local employers, inserts into local newspapers, schools and doctors’ surgeries.
3. Word of mouth – This is the most effective means of promotion. You could organise nursery open days and interlink with your local authority to feature in their events. Prepare a newsletter with your latest information and good news stories.
4. Networking – This is a very useful means of communication and an important method of passing on information about your nursery. Get involved in all your neighbourhood activities.
5. Press – Find out the phone number for the newsdesk of your local newspaper. Call the newsdesk when you hold an event, receive a good Ofsted report, extend your facilities or have any other newsworthy activity to report. Tell them about the event and ask if they would like to send a photographer along.
6. Website – Create a website for your nursery using all the information from your brochures and leaflets. Ensure it is bright, cheerful, informative and interesting.
Joanne Taylor, marketing manager, National Day Nurseries Association
Presenting your information
Whether you are preparing a leaflet giving a broad picture of your setting and your work, a brochure to introduce your setting to anyone showing an interest or a prospectus with details of all that you offer, there are a number of questions you need to ask yourself if you are to make the maximum use of this marketing tool.
Who will be reading it?
- Should it be simply an introduction to the nursery?
- Should it be a detailed description of all that we do?
Do we need to have it translated into other languages?
- Which ones?
- Who will do it?
Will we have the pages bound, or in a folder?
- Folders of loose pages can be updated more easily and more cheaply, but pages may get lost.
- You can send out updated information to your existing parents, and they can easily exchange them for the out-of-date material in their copy of the brochure if the pages are loose.
How much will it cost?
This should be part of your marketing budget. Shop around and get plenty of quotes. Consider the benefits of a more expensive, but professionally designed and printed brochure compared with a cheaper home-made version.