A guide to marketing your out of school group | Oxfordshire County Council

A guide to marketing your out of school group

Promoting your setting raises its profile and is essential to sustaining services in the long term.

You will need to gather information to understand your market.

Where do your existing customers come from?

  • Are they spread across your whole market area or do you need to consider different marketing for different parts of your area?
  • Could the area you market to be wider? Are there gaps in provision that you could cover?
  • Who are your partners? If you are on a school site are you able to market through the school and to the same catchment area? Do you have a toddler group in the local area?

Market research

How many childcare places are there locally, are there any gaps in the market? e.g. holiday childcare. Oxfordshire County Council has data on the childcare market and this can be accessed via the council’s childcare web pages Oxfordshire Childcare Sufficiency Assessment.

Carry out your market research, including competitor activity. The main elements you typically need to understand and quantify are:

  • customer profile and mix
  • product mix
  • demographic issues and trends
  • average prices and values, and customer perceptions in these areas
  • your competitors
    • What they provide, own building, special services
    • What they charge
    • Their strengths and weaknesses
    • customer service perceptions, priorities and needs

Talking to parents / potential users

Gather information from parents who currently use your service. This can be achieved by using a survey and/or talking to parents individually. Questions you may wish to ask include:

  • Why did they choose you?
  • What do they like/dislike about the provision?
  • Do the current opening times suit their needs?
  • How did they find out about you? – this will help identify where your marketing is effective

Gather information from prospective parents.  Ask to attend a local toddler group to promote your pre-school. Gather information using a survey or face to face contact. Questions you may wish to ask include:

  • When choosing childcare for your child what things will be important to you?
  • What time of day/year will you need childcare?

Encouraging and giving your customers the opportunity to provide feedback on a regular basis will keep the organisation informed of any potential issues or gaps in service which may need to be investigated. Complaints and feedback are gold-dust, use them wisely.

Dealing appropriately with customer complaints is crucial because they are a service provider's barometer.  When customers feel dissatisfied, they will tell at least a couple of their friends or relations. However, if you have a scheme which encourages, not discourages, customers to complain, you can capture these complaints in order to:

  • Put at ease and give explanation or reassurance to the person complaining.
  • Reduce the chances of them complaining to someone else.
  • Monitor exactly how many dissatisfied customers you have and what the causes are, and that's even more important if you're failing to deliver your mission statement or service offer.
  • Take appropriate corrective action to prevent a recurrence.

Product

In order to effectively market your setting you need to establish exactly what it is that you are offering parents and children. You can use any information gathered from surveys etc. to ensure this is meeting families’ needs. A useful idea is also to look at your setting from a parent’s perspective. Think about:

  • the facilities you offer
  • quality of the staff in your setting
  • philosophy of the setting
  • opening times
  • location
  • flexibility

Unique selling point

Once you have established your place in the market, decide what it is you offer that makes you stand out - your unique selling point. This can be anything, for example:

  • You may be situated on a school site, thus making collecting/dropping off times easier for parents with older children
  • You may offer longer opening hours or be more flexible than your competitors
  • You may have a high adult to child ratio
  • Some settings offer additional services, for example a cookery club or dedicated music session. These activities can be held on a day when occupancy rates are low and are a good way to attract additional children to your setting

Parents also like reassurance so, if applicable, it can be worth saying that you are Ofsted registered, or hold public liability insurance.

Pricing

When considering pricing you need to ensure that the fees charged for your range of services will maintain your long term sustainability and enable delivery in line with your business plan. For information on average fees charged in Oxfordshire please contact the Oxfordshire Family Information Service. Don’t be tempted just to undercut your competitors, especially by a large margin, as sometimes low fees are associated with poor service. Key questions to ask are 'Do you provide value for money?' and 'How do you demonstrate that to parents / prospective parents?'

Advertising

When looking at advertising it is a useful starting point if you already know how your present parents heard about you and if this was a true reflection of how they ‘see’ the service. This may save you a lot of time and money. Read more advertising ideas (pdf format, 22Kb).
 
Well designed and implemented surveys always produce a positive effect for the organization. People - whether employees or customers - think better of the organization for being asked and consulted, especially if they see you've listened and done your best to react positively to the feedback you've been given.

Action plan

Write an action plan to produce and implement a clear marketing strategy. It may be useful to use the following headings: 

  • Goal
  • Objectives
  • Action
  • Cost
  • Responsibility
  • Time line

Further guidance

Business Success for Childcare Training Workbooks:

Last reviewed
19 September 2017
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