Let’s face it. Promotions and marketing are the last thing anyone wants to think of when they decide to open a business. They’re too busy trying to turn dreams into reality, whether they’re seeking funding or developing a product. But if you’re in the business of providing childcare services, promotions and marketing are likely an afterthought. After all, you’re in the business of caring, nurturing, and ensuring children are safe, healthy and happy.

But marketing for your business is vital. It may seem like a no-brainer: you’re certified, you provide a service parents are in dire need of, and deep down, you’re more qualified than anyone else to fulfill that need.
And over 2.2 million Americans feel the exact same way you do.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the childcare industry is one of the fastest growing segments in the country. And with dual income families representing 66 percent of the nation’s population, the need to promote your childcare business has never been greater.
But don’t assume that promotions and marketing means expensive advertising and PR campaigns. Your daycare services still might be a unique and specialized idea, even if you had the budget for a massive campaign. Promotions can be launched at a grassroots level, ensuring parents that you’re not some faceless chain operating thousands of locations nationwide, but simply one person with one purpose: caring directly for children.

Because isn’t that what it’s all about?

1. Review Your Neighborhood

You’ll probably find you have a stronger chance of finding interested parents in your immediate neighborhood as opposed to several towns for the sake of convenience. Take note of where they might gather, shop and socialize. Sites that compile statistics on trends in neighborhood population, such as City Data, can be an invaluable guide in your research.

2. Review Your Competition

Remember—just because there are large daycare facilities nearby, doesn’t necessarily mean parents will be flocking to them. Actually, it’s frequently the opposite. Many parents prefer to leave their children with smaller daycare services, because they prefer the more personal and specialized care small childcare providers can offer.
That doesn’t mean you won’t have competitors, however (we hate to use that term)! What are they offering that’s unique? What sets them apart? Review sites, such as Angie’s List and even Yelp! can be particularly helpful.
But don’t forget that the higher the population of working parents in a neighborhood, the greater the chance that many providers will be either fully booked or have existing waiting lists. Sometimes heavy competition can be a good thing.

3. Announce Your Presence By Networking

If you’re a parent yourself, mother’s support groups and even playgroups are a natural first stop to announce your childcare business. The latter in particular, since you’ve already established rapport and trust with another parent.

But don’t come on too strong. You don’t want to look like you’re selling a business. Bring it up in as casual a manner as you might describe a TV show or the weather. The key isn’t to pressure your friends or network members. Suggest, don’t alienate. Chances are, if they already have a trusted child care service, they know of someone who will be in the market shortly. Parents are like birds. They tend to flock together.

4. Not All Marketing Is Online…

Especially when it comes to personal services. Believe it or not, many parents will be more apt to review a printed flyer, brochure or business card for your childcare service than they might be to review online offerings. There’s a certain reassurance in physical media, and reassurance is exactly what parents are looking for.
Most grocery stores have a billboard present next to the customer service department where businesses can post flyers and notices. Many family friendly restaurants will also let you leave calling cards and brochures near the waiting area if you ask, as will your local YMCA and public libraries. Avoid sticking flyers on car windshields, however. Few people pay attention to them, and there’s no sense in spending good money on a professionally produced brochure to have it crumpled up in a parking lot.

5. …But Don’t Discount Online Media

Especially considering it’s a cheap (OK… free) way to promote your childcare services. Social media in particular is a great place to connect with parents. Facebook has numerous groups available for local families, and there’s doubtless one in your town already (check with the moderator prior to promoting your service, however). In addition, there are numerous online social networks, such as Daycare.com, which are specifically geared towards parents and can be incredibly useful in promotion.

6. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Referrals

Many childcare providers seem unaware that the best promotion is right in front of their eyes. If you’ve established a particularly good rapport with a parent, encourage them to spread the word if they haven’t. After all, many parents have hectic schedules and can frequently forget they have a co-worker or relative nearby who’s in need of a qualified childcare provider.

7. Offer Service You Can’t Find Anywhere Else

This could mean opening an hour early and staying late. It could mean offering a sliding scale cost. It could mean having your neighbor who performs balloon tricks stop by once a week for entertainment. There’s a whole host of unique ideas to distinguish your daycare service from other providers, whether it’s offering weekly field trips or helping your kids create personalized cards for mommy and daddy. And ultimately?

Just like your kids, you’re only limited by your imagination.