Even the best quality programs can find themselves with unexpected openings – families move, your best referral source graduates, schedules change… The irony is that tons of families would love to send their child to your site if they only knew about you! So how do you get your amazing program in front of them?!?!
I’m not a child care provider but I’ve helped thousands of parents all over the Portland area connect to centers and in-homes that they love, and here’s what I’ve noticed when it comes to how families are looking for child care:
· They get most of their information through internet searches and social media
· They are mostly making decisions on price, hours, and proximity to home
· Most have no idea what signifies quality
· They are heavily influenced by referrals and recommendations
Given that, here’s how you can get the word out about yourself and your openings:
· If you’re in the Portland Metro area, tell me about your openings [Email LINK so I can share them at my classes for parents and with my clients. Wherever you are in Oregon, you can sign up on PDX Waitlist (Portland area) or KidApply (everywhere else) and get in front of families actively looking for care - in Portland approx. 200 families per month apply for child care through our site. It’s free for providers and the tour scheduling feature is free for families too.
· If you don’t have a website, you need to get one immediately. This doesn’t have to be fancy – you can just use your Facebook or Yelp profile as your site, or in Portland both Paper Pinecone and Growing Upwards ALREADY create a profile for area providers that you can customize for FREE. They have a paid feature where you can post current openings as well.
· Use social media to highlight what makes your program great. Not only do you have internet catnip – pictures of happy, smiling kids (with media releases) – you can use the captions to inform families what good early education looks like. Tell us why you put that particular toy on that particular shelf, or how today’s walk to the park became a science/math investigation by collecting and categorizing the falling leaves. You all are kid-experts and we families have so much to learn from you – teach us what quality is!!
· Cultivate current and alumni family ambassadors who can highlight your program. I guarantee you ALREADY have families who love what you do. Ask them to give you a shout-out or post about you in thei in-person or online groups they’re part of. You can also join groups specific to families in your area (or working parents) on Facebook and
Nextdoor – often you can promote your own business if it’s in response to someone’s question, and sometimes you can even post it yourself once a month.
· Have your ambassadors write reviews on your own site AND highlight these reviews in some of your social media posts. It’s not bragging, it’s just getting the word out about the incredible work you do everyday.
Learn about running ads on Google, Facebook, and Instagram – it often doesn’t take a ton of money although there is some art to targeting them correctly. There are a ton of Youtube videos on this – check one out and give yourself a smaller budget to test.
· Network with other providers! In my city there are child cares with 2+ year waitlists who get calls from sad parents all the time. They are looking for places to refer those families to, so reach out, set up coffee or a time to visit each other’s sites and see if that can help bring in some referrals!
Don’t stop there – pediatricians, doulas, childbirth educators…they all get questions regularly from anxious parents wondering where to send their brand new babies, so find out who the go-to resources are in your area for young families and set up some coffee dates!
Ren Johns is a mom of two, high school math teacher, and child care search pro. You can find out more about what she does at pdxwaitlist.com, kidapply.com, following her on Facebook or Instagram @pdxwaitlist, or by emailing her at email@example.com.