Part of our Summer Series: Jewish Early Childhood Marketing Tips
Shariee Calderone & Susan Remick Topek
While Tip #2 encouraged you to take a closer look at your website and update the information that it contains about you and your program, Tip #5 is really about taking the time to understand WHAT MAKES YOU STAND OUT FROM EVERYONE ELSE? Early childhood centers often look and sound very similar to perspective parents unless you make the effort to differentiate yourself from other programs in your community. According to Kris Murray, highlighting your differences should be one of the main goals of your marketing message.
To do that you’ll need to know what other schools in your community offer and assess the differences that exist in areas such as hours, transportation, meals, staff experience, flexible scheduling method and philosophy! Face it, if every school sounds alike, and there are no discernible differences, then parents may ultimately choose based on location and cost alone.
By following three simple steps you can better showcase the unique qualities of your school (during conversations with parents, in printed materials, electronic communications, community advertisements and on your website):
- First determine WHAT your special differences are.
Make a list of your key qualities and special features. Ask parents what they see as the notable differences of your school. After all they chose you.
- Then DEFINE the benefits of these differences.
What will children and families get from your school‘s features? – not just what you offer, but what it will mean to them? In other words, what will be the impact of extended hours, a particular philosophy, or your communications policy?
- ARTICULATE program benefits in more effective ways.
Julie Wassom suggests:
- Starting sentences with “Because”, then adding the special feature of your school. “Because we offer extended hours, you experience less stress and have more options to choose from.”
- Using impact phrases such as “From us, you and /or your child will…” then adding the feature and finishing the sentence with the benefit. “Here at TBS your child will have access to the messy materials area two times each day so they can begin and return to important projects.”
- Starting with a unique feature and then add the word “So…” and conclude with the outcome. “We have a state of the art sensory and occupational therapy room so your child can receive all they care they need in one location.”
It’s also important to stress that we are all colleagues, and although sometimes we feel that we are competing, in the end – we want families and children to be a good fit in our schools – happy and comfortable. We also want directors to respect one another and recognize their unique strengths, as well as the strengths of the schools in their community. It is interesting to me that many directors are hesitant to share what is different and special about their schools with colleagues. If it is on your web-site it should be a source of pride and certainly cannot and should not be a secret. The Jewish Education Project’s In-site-ful Journeys initiative is based on the idea that inspiration and the exchange of ideas comes when directors and educators communicate and share experiences with each other. Visiting each other’s schools is an excellent way to see the features of the school you are visiting and to see how your school is unique.
See below for a unique perspective on this from Noah Mencow Hichenberg, Director of the Saul and Carole Zabar Nursery School at the JCC in Manhattan.
“We teach because we believe in the possibility of a better future. This belief requires us to partner and share with other educators; we believe that our commitment is not solely to “our” school but to the broader education community. At the JCC, our doors are always open to other educators and professionals in the field. Through dialogue with our peers, we all have the potential to grow and strengthen the environments we are helping to raise children within.
This year, for the first time, our school invited directors from many Manhattan nursery schools to come for an Open House. 20 directors spent the morning learning about our educational philosophy and school structure, along with schmoozing and touring the classrooms. We discussed elements that are unique to our school and elements that all schools have in common. We held this event not because we think that our teachers or program is “better” then the field but because we want to share what we do and learn about what others do. I have been so inspired as I have toured other nursery schools to improve our own practice, and hope that we can provide that inspiration for others as well.
We see other nursery schools not as competition but as partners. By sharing, collaborating, and inspiring each other, we are better equipped to give our children the tools to make the future a better place. And that is what we are really here to do.”
*We gratefully acknowledge the permission we’ve received by Matt Harrell, CEO & Co-founder of MemberHub, to reference Childcare Marketing Tips: 10 Mus-Do Marketing Tips to Grow the Enrollment of Your Early Childhood Program (July 2012). The e-book was coauthored by Matt Harrell and Kris Murray, President and Founder of Child Care Marketing Solutions.