ACSI — Vol 17.3
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Early Education
Sara Jo Dillard

Whether your early education program is located in a small town or a large city, there is likely an abundance of businesses providing preschool and child care services in close proximity. With a wealth of competition, Christian early education programs must be diligent to market themselves appropriately to the families in the community.

Many businesses tend to work only on their marketing and recruiting plan when business is slow. It seems natural to focus on marketing when your program needs to increase enrollment; however, when classes are full there is a tendency to put marketing on the back burner. Most marketing experts say this is the wrong way to think of marketing. Only promoting your program when new enrollment is needed will result in an eventual slowdown in business, generating a vicious cycle that prevents your business from growing effectively.

The best way to grow your program is to step back and develop a marketing plan with a purposeful routine that makes sense for your program and that is based on your resources and constraints. Developing a thorough plan begins with branding your program according to your mission and vision. Parents looking for a spiritual component to their child’s education will be attracted to your Christian distinctive.

There are many ways to go about growing and marketing your early education program. Here are a few important steps that should be a part of your plan:

1. Build Your Target Audience
Your target audience is defined by your mission and vision. Review your foundational statements. Does your program reflect your philosophy? Does your entire staff know, understand, and believe in the mission and vision of your program? How well can they articulate the mission and vision?

2. Provide Exceptional Customer Service
There are tremendous benefits from providing great customer service! It is imperative that the director and teachers build a positive, personal connection with the parents and quickly gain their trust (Fisher 2012). As Christians, we must be loving, kind, honest, and helpful in partnering with our parents. Provide opportunities for parents to be involved in their child’s education. Parents want to see what is happening in the classroom and want to be a part of the school community.

3. Build a Team Concept Among the Staff
As the administrator builds a unified team, it will be evident among the parents and community. When one teacher or classroom succeeds, the entire program succeeds. Celebrate these successes with all the staff. When the staff and teachers work together and they are unified, it makes a profound difference in enrollment and marketing (Newberry 2013).

4. Tell Your Story
Stories that communicate your successes in the lives of the teachers, parents, and the children will create a positive and vibrant atmosphere in your community. Stories should be told via your website, in newsletters, on social media, and in everyday conversations. As parents and staff share these stories, word-of-mouth advertisement will become the norm and bring more families to your program (Newberry 2013). Word of mouth is your number one method of advertisement and recruitment.

5. Build a Strong Marketing Plan
Use multipurpose marketing tools to develop your brand message. This allows your parents and the community to not only hear a consistent message of who you are but also to know why you exist. Research the best options for using technology and hire an expert to help you navigate the plethora of choices available in today’s market.

As you can see, there are several important steps to consider as you launch an in-depth marketing plan. As Mark Twain once said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—‘tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning” (Bainton 1890, 87–88). This is the reason you need to carefully craft, and then stick to, your brand message and marketing plan. Words describe and define who you are. Build all your communication efforts around your marketing plan. A strong, sustained marketing plan will help grow and sustain your enrollment, allowing you to provide a faith-based learning program for the families in your community for years to come.