If you can’t name 10 reasons that childminders are better than nurseries, then you shouldn’t be surprised when you lose business to them. Parents are overwhelmed with choice when it comes to care for their children and one of the choices they have to make is whether to send their child to a nursery or a childminder. You could probably write your own list of the benefits of childminders, but could parents write this list? Could YOUR parents write this list about YOU? Or have they forgotten why they chose you to look after their child?
The purpose of this article is two-fold. Firstly, to make sure that you have a clear idea in your own mind about why you are better than the nursery down the road. Secondly, to make sure that you are successfully communicating this information to parents, both to attract new business and to retain the business you have.
Part 1: Here are a list of general reasons why childminders are better than nurseries. Which of the following apply to you? Can you add to this list?
- Real-life experiences like trips to the shops, gardening, visiting the library, taking an outing to the park, cooking their lunch.
- Flexible opening hours
- Helping older children with homework after school.
- Trips to soft play, music club, classes and clubs
- A consistent key person – a secure attachment figure who doesn’t change day to day – a chance for a child to build a long lasting close relationship over a period of time
- Care for siblings alongside each other
- Mixed age ranges of children all playing together can have enormous benefits for all children
- Smaller groups and more individual attention
- A home environment offers flexibility of activities as well as simply the comfort of being in a home rather than a nursery
- More frequent outings due to smaller number of children to coordinate
- Opportunities to do Forest Childcare daytrips – many childminders can make the commitment to weekly outdoor outings more easily than a nursery can
- Quiet spaces to relax – nurseries are noisy and busy
Part 2: What is unique about YOUR childminding business? Why should parents choose you?
The second step is to add to the list in Step 1 with the benefits of your own childminding setting. What is different about your business that would make parents want to choose your setting over your local nursery or the childminder down the street? Are you cheaper? Do you provide better meals? Do you speak two languages at home? Do you provide better outings? Do you have a sharp focus on STEM activities? Do you have lots of experience? Are you rated outstanding? Are your prices competitive? Do you offer funded places?
If you are new to childminding, this exercise will help you to think about how to write your directory listings, website entries and any other marketing materials you plan to produce like a brochure, Facebook page or a website. If you have been childminding for a while, do this exercise anyway. It will help you to stand back a little from your business and think about how you make parents aware of the good things you do so that they don’t start looking elsewhere for that ‘next best thing’.
Not sure what makes your setting or you different? Ask a friend to help you. Sometimes it can be really hard to stand back from yourself far enough to describe yourself well. I once heard that if you register on an online dating site that you should ask someone else to write your profile because it is very hard to describe yourself well. Other people are often better at recognising your good points than you are.
Part 3: How do you promote your unique selling points to get “new” business?
One of the first places a new parent may hear about you is your online council directory or other directory listing site. These sites are increasingly the gateway through which new parents will find you. Making you and your business stand out from a list of identical-sounding entries for childminders is tough. Your top three unique selling points need to stand out in the first two lines.
Don’t just rely on directory listings to get business. Can you put up flyers at your library or school, or music club or soft play gym? Can you make a website or Facebook page? Whatever methods you use make sure that you focus on what makes you and your setting unique and that this information is clear to parents at a two second glance.
Part 4: How do you promote your unique selling points to retain parents’ business over time?
First a parent has to decide to place their baby with you. Then, when their child is old enough for nursery (and qualifies for free hours) they need to make the decision again (how shall I split my time between a nursery and my childminder)? When their child starts school, the parent has to make the decision for a third time (shall I keep my child with my childminder, or sign him up for after school club?) In each instance, the parents will be doing a direct comparison between you and your competition.
You need to have a strategy for how you plan to KEEP their business. So promoting your unique selling points needs to continue long after you have signed the contract and should be a continual task on your priorities.
The golden rules for dealing with parents are to:
- Never let them forget why they chose you in the first place
- Always assume they are looking for the ‘next best thing’
- Don’t let them take you for granted
- Treat them as if they are customers who must continue to choose you over the competition
Look closely at your own setting. Which of these methods do you use to promote yourself to parents on an ongoing basis, reminding parents that you are ‘much more than just a babysitter’ and a better choice than switching to a nursery?
- Engaging conversations at collection time about the things you did with their child that day and what the child is learning at your setting
- Daily diaries and daily care sheets
- Photos up in your setting were parents will see them
- Thank you card board
- Facebook group or page (private) on which you post activities the children do
- Whatsapp images
- Learning Journeys showing parents the educational fun you are having
- Regular art projects sent home and special projects like Christmas cards
- Weekly plans posted so parents know what activities you are doing
- Inviting parents to join your activities so they can ‘see you in action’ with the kids
- Big, bright colourful eye-catching displays mixing photos, artwork and great learning involving all the children
- Sending home suggestions for how parents can support learning at home
It is a truth in any business that it is always easier to retain the business you have than to get new business. In other words, it should always be easier to keep families once you have them, than to go through the process of advertising and finding new families.
Top tip for helping parents to KEEP CHOOSING you: Get at least one nice photo of yourself WITH the child and send that photo home!
My NEW Communication with Parents Pack includes tools to help you to write your unique selling points to get new business, to manage the all-important first parent visit and to help you to think about how parents want to FEEL when they choose a childminder. The pack includes information for new childminders setting up and for experienced childminders hoping to achieve outstanding
- Supporting learning at home
- Attracting new parents to your setting – improving your marketing skills to get new parents to contact you, your unique selling points, WOW factors, managing the ‘first visit’
- Audit your setting to improve what you do
- Sharing challenging information about their child’s learning and development with parents in a tactful way
- Parent and child questionnaires
- Letter templates for challenging situations – late payment, late collection, unhealthy lunches, terminating your contract with a family
- Transition programme
Use the tools in my new pack to examine what is working well and what needs to be improved in terms of how you communicate with parents.
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About Kay Woods and Kids To Go
Kay Woods has been writing and selling childminding resources through her company Kids To Go since 2008. Her products include the Ultimate Childminding Checklist, the Learning Journey Plus for planning, observation and assessment and best practice resources promoting diversity, safety and childminding in the great outdoors (Forest Childcare). She is the author of the Start Learning book set published by Tarquin and she writes the free quarterly Childminding Best Practice Newsletter.
Lots of places offer help to childminders. I provide solutions.